Ukraine women snag trio of Pellicone golds

By Eric Olanowski

ROME, Italy (June 23) -- Ukraine women shined at Matteo Pellicone by winning three of four gold-medal matches contested on Thursday, while Azerbaijan closed out the Greco-Roman side of the Ranking Series event with the team title.

The trio of Ukraine winners were Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR), Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) and Alla BELINSKA (UKR).

In Greco-Roman, Azerbaijan had six finalists – including four wrestlers who ascended to the top of the podium – and won the Greco-Roman team title 46 points ahead of second-place Hungary (102 points).

Of the three Ukraine women who summitted the Ranking Series podium Thursday, Belinska, without question, made the biggest splash.

In just her second competition down at 68kg since the 2018 World Championships, Belinska snapped world champion Irina RINGACI's (MDA) 20-match win streak that dated back to August 2021.

Since the 2021 U20 World Championships, Ringaci has been victorious in 20 consecutive matches. Her run spanned the U20 and Senior World Championships, U23 and Senior European Championships, Dan Kolov and the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event.

But Belinska wasn't worried about Ringaci's resume or her win streak. Instead, she had one thing on her mind: flip the script from their March matchup where Ringaci pinned Belinska after leading, 12-0.

In the short-lived 68kg finals in Rome, Belinska snapped the continental champion into a front headlock and caught Ringaci's head near her knee. Then, the 2022 European bronze medalist locked up a cradle, remained composed and was methodical in working to the fall. She remained patient and took her time, using nearly 90 seconds to inch Ringaci's shoulders to the mat for the pin.

With her win on Thursday, Belinska added a third Ranking Series gold to her resume. She also won golds at the '21 Poland Open and '18 Yasar Dogu.

Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) dominated Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR), 11-1, in the 57kg gold-medal match. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Hrushyna and Koliadenko also dominated their final opponents on Thursday, helping Ukraine (95 points) carry the 55-point lead over Brazil (40 points) into Friday, the final day of women's wrestling action.

In the first period of the 57kg finals, Hrushyna snapped Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR) down to the mat and worked on a front headlock for nearly 40 seconds before getting to the corner and picking up her first takedown. After a minute of scoreless action, Hrushyna went back to her front headlock and picked up a second go-behind takedown.

With less than a minute to go in the first frame, Hrushyna brought Kamaloglu down to all fours with two-on-one. Then, as the reigning European champ's Turkish opponent tried building back up to her feet, Hrushyna used an underhook throw-by to put four points on the board, increasing her lead to 8-0.

There was some confusion at the end of the scoring sequences, as Hrushyna's corner thought there should have been another set of two awarded. The refs came together and white-paddled the two in question, keeping Hrushyna's lead to 8-0.

In the second period, Hrushyna and Kamaloglu traded step-outs, before the Ukraine wrestler stopped a swing single attempt to her left leg and spun behind for the 11-1 win.

In an all-Ukrainian battle at 62kg, Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Koliadenko cruised to a one-sided 6-0 win over Ilona PROKOPEVNIUK (UKR).

While on the shot clock in the first period, Koliadenko shot an open double leg, transitioned into a pair of leg laces and jumped out to the 6-0 lead.

In the second period, Koliadenko switched to a more defensive wrestling style and was never really in danger of surrendering points. Instead, she stayed poised, controlled Prokopevniuk's head with a left-side collar tie and halted the European bronze medalist's high-level attacks.

Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) eased his way to a 4-0 win over Amin KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) in the 77kg finals. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Meanwhile, Hungary, Lithuania and Moldova each had a wrestler win Greco-Roman gold on Thursday. Still, Azerbaijan ended up winning the team title after pushing six wrestlers into the finals.

Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) breezed past Amin KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) in the 77kg finals and defended his Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series titles from '20 and '21. He was the second Hungarian Greco-Roman champion of the week, joining David LOSONCZI (HUN), who won 87kg last night.

Levai controlled the bout against Kaviyaninejad from whistle to whistle and was never threatened by the former U20 world champ. He earned an inactivity point in each period and scored two points from a correct lift.

More importantly, Levai likely punched his ticket to World Championships after beating fellow Hungarian and reigning European champion Robert FRITSCH (HUN), 8-1, in their semifinal meeting.

Mihail BRADU (MDA) celebrates beating Rasoul GARMSIRI (IRI), 2-1, in the 82kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

At 82kg, Mihail BRADU (MDA) used a first-period takedown to edge Rasoul GARMSIRI (IRI), 2-1.

Bradu worked on a front-head pinch when Garmsiri bailed out and conceded the first two points of the match. That lone takedown proved to be the key factor in the match.

In the second period, Bradu was dinged with inactivity when Garmsiri went for a reverse lift and transitioned into somewhat of an unorthodox gut wrench, picking up what seemed to be two exposure. The Moldovan challenged the call, saying his Iranian opponent committed a leg foul. Bradu won the challenge and led, 2-1, with under a minute to go in the match. He held on to the one-point win and grabbed gold at a Ranking Series event for the first time in his career.

The final Greco-Roman gold went to top-ranked Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU). In the 72kg finals, the Lithuanian earned an injury default victory as Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE) could not compete in the gold-medal bout.

Yelena MAKOYED (USA) hip tossed Anastasiya ALPYEYEVA (UKR) during the 76kg finals. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Makoyed's dream run

In her debut senior-level competition, Yelena MAKOYED (USA) shocked the wrestling world en route to winning the 76kg gold medal. 

Makoyed picked up confidence-building wins over European champion Epp MAE (EST), world bronze medalist Martina KUENZ (AUT) and European bronze medalist Catalina AXENTE (ROU) before throttling U23 world champ Anastasiya ALPYEYEVA (UKR) in the finals. 

In the gold-medal match, Makoyed capitalized on a swing single and led by two points. Then, after the action was blown dead and the wrestlers came up to their feet, the American worked with an underhook when she timed a hip tossed perfectly and tacked on another two points. Her third takedown came with a low-level double, sitting Alpyeyeva to her butt, gaining a 6-0 lead at the end of the first period.

In the second, Makoyed only needed 35 seconds to score four points off a beautiful go-behind to a gut wrench with double boots in, giving her the 10-0 win and first Ranking Series gold. 


Women's Wrestling

GOLD - Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) df. Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR), 11-1

BRONZE - Patrycja GIL (POL) df. Tamara DOLLAK (HUN), via fall
BRONZE - Giullia RODRIGUES (BRA) df. Erika BOGNAR (HUN), via fall


BRONZE - Lais NUNES (BRA)  df. Ana GODINEZ (CAN), 8-6

GOLD - Alla BELINSKA (UKR) df. Irina RINGACI (MDA), via fall 

BRONZE - Wiktoria CHOLUJ (POL) df. Noemi SZABADOS (HUN), 4-2
BRONZE - Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR) df. Grabriela PEDRO (BRA), 11-0

GOLD - Yelena MAKOYED (USA) df. Anastasiya ALPYEYEVA (UKR), 10-0

BRONZE - Martina KUENZ (AUT) df. Catalina AXENTE (ROU), 5-2


GOLD - Kristupas SLEIVA (LTU) df. Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE), via inj. def.

BRONZE - Valentin PETIC (MDA) df. Haavard JOERGENSEN (NOR), 3-1 
BRONZE - Selcuk CAN (TUR) df. Matias LIPASTI (FIN), 9-0


BRONZE Robert  FRITSCH (HUN) df.Joilson DE BRITO (BRA), 9-0

GOLD - Mihail BRADU (MDA)  df. Rasoul GARMSIRI (IRI), 2-1

BRONZE - Exauce MUKUBU (NOR) df. Oldrich VARGA (CZE), 2-1 


Rzazade leads Azerbaijan's dominant performance

By Vinay Siwach

ROME, Italy (June 25) -- Among all the stars that Azerbaijan brought to Rome, Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) was one of the least experienced wrestlers. Before wrestling at this year's European Championships in March, he had only two other championships in a span of five years.

But by the end of the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event on Saturday, Rzazade might be the one of the three wrestlers that have confirmed their spot on the Azerbaijan national team for the World Championships. He did so by winning the 57kg gold medal in Rome.

Overall, Azerbaijan won four gold medals out of the eight contested on Saturday. Turkey, Puerto Rico, Slovakia and Ukraine had one champion each on the final day of the tournament.

Rzazade, one of the most attacking wrestlers on the circuit, switched to solid defense in the final against world bronze medalist Horst LEHR (GER) to claim a 5-3 win.

He opened the scoring with a stepout before Lehr was warned for fleeing during the second stepout which gave Rzazade a 3-0 lead. Lehr put that behind and scored a takedown just before the break to reduce the lead to 3-2.

Lehr, who won the U23 European Championships in March, tried the duck-under quite a few times but Rzazade was solid with his underhook to keep him away. In desperation, Lehr attempted a big double-leg attack but Rzazade threw him off for another takedown. A late stepout did not matter much as the U23 world champion won 5-3.

During the day, he had a wild 17-8 quarterfinal win over Roberti DINGASHVILI (GEO). 21 points were scored in the first period of the bout as both kept going at each other. Rzazade, however, had a four which made the difference. In the second period, he scored an exposure and takedown to win 17-8.

In the semifinal, Kamil KERYMOV (UKR) tried to stop him but his challenge was thwarted by Rzazade who finished the bout 10-0.

While he won the gold, Rzazade's tendency to give up points will be a point of worry for the Azerbaijan coaching staff.

Rzazade won the U23 world title and silver at the senior European Championships in a span of four months. But over the three tournaments (including the Matteo Pellicone), Rzazade gave up 48 points while scoring 105. While he won the title in Belgrade by a point, he lost the European final by the same margin.

The final against Lehr, however, had him sitting tight in defense, a change from his earlier finals. 

The three other gold medalists for Azerbaijan were Joshgun AZIMOV (AZE) at 70kg, Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE) at 86kg and Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) at 92kg.

In an all-Azerbaijan final at 70kg, Azimov wrestled youngster Murad EVLOEV (AZE) and came home with the gold with a 6-1 win. While Evloev did try to get on a scoring opportunity, Azimov used his experience and strength to outscore his opponent.

Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE) was also wrestling at 70kg but gave a walkover to Azimov in the semifinals. But that walkover was well-deserved as Azimov had defeated European champion Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) in the quarterfinals.

Azimov scored two takedowns before giving up a point for passivity and a late takedown. But with only 15 seconds left in the bout, Azimov was happy to defend the lead.

Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE)Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE) clinched the 86kg gold medal with ease in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

At 86kg, world bronze medalist Abakarov made another big statement by winning the gold. Up against Tarzan MAISURADZE (GEO) in the final, Abakarov scraped through for a 3-2 win.

After getting a point for Maisuradze's passivity, he scored a takedown to lead 3-2 at the break. In the second period, Abakarov was warned for passivity and a late stepout but Maisuradze could not score a takedown.

In his semifinal, Abakarov faced former world silver medalist and his close friend Boris MAKOEV (SVK). The Slovakian had Abakarov on the ropes initially, leading the bout 3-3. But Abakarov made the score 5-3 at the break before moving into a defensive mode in the second period.

Another world bronze medalist, Nurmagomedov won the 92kg gold after Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) injury defaulted in the final.

Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK)Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) defeated Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) in the 74kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Azerbaijan could have won a fifth gold had Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE) defeated Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK). But he failed to break the defense of the European champion in the 74kg final.

Salkazanov won his second straight Ranking Series gold medal as he defeated Bayramov 4-0 in the final in Rome. A takedown, a point for Bayramov's passivity and stepout were the point-scoring actions in the bout.

Bayramov may have lost the gold but he managed to beat Dzabhail GADZHIEV (AZE) in the semifinal, 5-3, which may have sealed his spot for the World Championships.

Sebastian RIVERA (PUR)Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) won his nation's first-ever Ranking Series gold in Rome. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Puerto Rico's first gold

In a historic moment, Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) won his country's first-ever Ranking Series gold medal in an epic 65kg final.

Rivera, who won a silver at the Pan-American Championships in May, produced a stellar performance throughout the day which included wins over former U17 world champion Hamza ALACA (TUR) and Shamil OMAROV (ITA) in the quarterfinal and semifinal, respectively.

Up against former U23 European champion Erik ARUSHANIAN (UKR) in the final, Rivera was on the backfoot after being thrown for four. Arushanian then scored a takedown to make it 6-0. But the bout turned on its head when Rivera managed to put eight points on the board, gut-wrenching his opponent.

With the lead secured, Rivera did slow down a little but never missed an opportunity to score. He managed to confirm another takedown and gut to lead 12-7. In the end, he secured the gold with a score of 14-7.

He had staged a similar comeback against Omarov in the semifinal. Trailing 4-0, he scored two takedowns in the second period to lead 4-4 on criteria. The wrestlers were brought to the center with only five seconds left. While Rivera did give up a takedown, the time had expired, a confirmation only after Rivera challenged the referee's call.

At 61kg, Recep TOPAL (TUR) had to resort to a body lock lift for four to win 6-4 against Andrii DZHELEP (UKR) in the final in which he trailed 4-2 for a significant time.

While Arushanian and Dzhelep failed to win the gold, Ukraine did have a champion in Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR) who defeated Iakub SHIKHDZHAMALOV (ROU) 7-2 in the 79kg with much ease to win the gold medal. He also stunned European champion Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) 10-0 in the quarterfinal at 79kg.


GOLD: Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) df. Horst LEHR (GER), 5-3 

BRONZE: Saban KIZILTAS (TUR) df Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO), via injury default

GOLD: Recep TOPAL (TUR) df. Andrii DZHELEP (UKR), 6-4

BRONZE: Ahmet TAS (TUR) df. Adam BIBOULATOV (FRA), 9-3

GOLD: Sebastian RIVERA (PUR) df. Erik ARUSHANIAN (UKR), 14-9

BRONZE: Shamil OMAROV (ITA) df. Hamza ALACA (TUR), via injury (4-0)

GOLD: Joshgun AZIMOV (AZE) df. Murad EVLOEV (AZE), 6-1

BRONZE: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) df. Servet COSKUN (TUR), 4-3
BRONZE: Cuneyt BUDAK (TUR) df. Pavel GRAUR (MDA), 4-0

GOLD: Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) df. Turan BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-0

BRONZE: Khadzhimurad GADZHIYEV (AZE) df. Fazli ERYILMAZ (TUR), via injury default
BRONZE: Mitchell FINESILVER (ISR) df. Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE), 6-4


BRONZE: Akhsarbek GULAEV (SVK) df. Muhammed AKDENİZ (TUR), 11-0

GOLD: Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE) df. Tarzan MAISURADZE (GEO), 3-2

BRONZE: Zaur BERADZE (GEO) df. Mukhammed ALIIEV (UKR), via injury default
BRONZE: Boris MAKOEV (SVK) df. Ivars SAMUSONOKS (LAT), via injury default

GOLD: Osman NURMAGOMEDOV (AZE) df. Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO), via injury default