World Championships: Mirzazadeh finally topples giant Kayaalp; Makhmudov repeats
Friday, September 22, 2023 - 21:48 By Ken Marantz
BELGRADE, Serbia (September 22) -- After losses to Riza KAYAALP (TUR) in each of the past two years, Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) finally found a way to topple the giant. The way to do it was laterally.
Mirzazadeh scored two stepouts for a dramatic 2-2 victory on last-point criteria late in the Greco-Roman 130kg final over five-time champion Kayaalp at the World Championships on Friday night, avenging losses to the Turkish great in last year's final and at the Tokyo Olympics.
"Right after last year's World Championships where I won the silver medal, after about two weeks, I started training to achieve this gold medal," Mirzazadeh said. "I’m happy that I got the answer for my efforts and was able to win this gold medal."
Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) also needed last-point criteria to successfully defend his 77kg crown, holding off a fierce challenge from Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) in a 1-1 nail-biter.
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan claimed the golds in the two non-Olympic weight classes up for grabs, with Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) repeating at 55kg in a rematch of the 2022 final and Olympic bronze medalist Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) regaining the title at 82kg.
The tournament is also serving as the first qualifier for the 2024 Paris Olympics, with all of the medalists in the Olympic weights as well as winners of special fifth-place playoffs secured quotas for their countries. Interestingly, all 10 places on the first night of the Greco finals went to different countries.
Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) celebrates after winning the 130kg final in Belgrade. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
The 25-year-old Mirzazadeh's victory over Kayaalp marked the pinnacle of a journey that started when he first burst onto the senior international scene by winning the gold medal at the 2020 Asian Championships. A year later, he was appearing in his first Olympics, where he lost 7-3 in Tokyo to Kayaalp in the bronze-medal match.
Three months later, he was in Belgrade, where he won the gold at the World U23 Championships. Mirzazadeh and Kayaalp would cross paths for the second time when he returned to Belgrade for last year's worlds, where Kayaalp came away with a 1-1 win for his fifth world title.
Mirzazadeh came into Belgrade this year having won a second Asian title in April and a victory at the Bishkek Ranking Series event in June under his belt.
"I’ll try my best to improve day by day to become better and be able to shine for my country in the next competitions, and be a message of happiness for my people and be able to win a gold medal," Mirzazadeh said. "And also I hope to be able to win a gold medal in the upcoming Olympics."
In Friday's final, Kayaalp received the first of two passivity points, but Mirzazadeh slipped out of the big Turk's grasp in par terre. Only through his remarkable dexterity did Kayaalp avoid giving up a reversal or worse, leaving the score 1-0 as the first period ended.
In the second period, Kayaalp missed a chance to score when the Mirzazadeh lost his balance after a mighty shove but showed some nimbleness himself by scrambling to avoid a stepout. Kayaalp then got a second passivity point to go up 2-0.
Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) scoring the winning stepout against Riza KAYAALP (TUR). (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Over the past decade or more, at such a point a victory by Kayaalp was almost a done deal. But Mirzazadeh was not ready to concede, and when he scored a stepout with 1:13 left, the cheers from the large Iranian contingent in the crowd started growing louder.
A key point in the match came at :54, when Kayaalp was called for passivity. Mirzazadeh opted to remain standing, feeling that he had a better chance of scoring from his feet. It was the right strategy.
Securing an underhook, he drove Kayaalp toward the edge and, as the two spun completely around once, forced him over the edge with :06.2 on the clock. Kayaalp flopped to the mat in disbelief, and could only stand in shock in the middle as time ran out.
"I know that my family always worked hard for me and I’m always grateful to them," Mirzazadeh said. "For one year, they told me about this, that you should go to the final and beat Riza Kayaalp. 'It's time to do that, you must do that.' And I’m happy that I was able to make them happy."
With the silver he received on Friday, the 33-year-old Kayaalp now has a total of 10 world medals to go along with his silver and two bronzes from the Olympics.
Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) defeated Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) in the 77kg final. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Makhmudov, the silver medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, became along with Zholoman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) the first Greco-Roman world champions in Kyrgyzstan history when they struck gold together last year in Belgrade.
He needed all of his extraordinary power to stave off Suleymanov in the 77kg final and relegate the Azeri to a second silver medal in three years.
"I don’t know what to say now, it’s difficult to describe it with words," Makhmudov said. "I know one thing for sure, I am very glad. I would like to express my gratitude to all the people who supported me, and to all the Kyrgyz people who prayed for me."
Suleymanov got the first passivity point in the first period, but could not budge Makhmudov in par terre. The same occurred when the situation was reversed in the second period, which put Makhmudov ahead on criteria.
Suleymanov had one solid chance for a winning score, and he came oh so close to getting it. Put on top in par terre with just over a minute to go, he actually lifted Makhmudov off the mat, but couldn't get the inertia to launch a throw. Makhmudov then held on for the win.
"The final match was not very interesting, but it was tense," Makhmudov said. "As it is said, the champion shouldn’t be judged. Most important is that the hand was raised. I wrestled clean, and I am glad."
To make the final, Makhmudov had to survive an inspired comeback from unheralded Nao KUSAKA (JPN) in the semifinals on Thursday.
"The match against the Japanese wrestler was very interesting," Makhmudov said. "He later won the bronze medal. He is a very worthy opponent.
"I can’t say that I was in my best shape. It was only around 30-40 percent. An athlete can not always be in top physical shape. For now, I have to work hard for the Olympics in order to get into my best shape."
Makhmudov has a little turnaround time before preparing for his next challenge, the Asian Games in China in two weeks. But he is already considering the preparations for Paris.
"In order to win the Olympic gold, I must think about it all the time, when I wake up in the morning, and when I go to bed," he said. "There isn’t much time left, only 10 months.
"Hopefully, if don’t have any injuries or problems, I will do my best to prepare for the Olympics. I was one step away from the Olympic gold [in 2021]. I really want to win the Olympic gold medal for my people."
Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) became a three-time world champion for Azerbaijan. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
At 55kg, Azizli got the best of Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) for the second year in a row, chalking up a 13-4 technical fall in a match that got off to an explosive start and was over in less than a minute.
In a blink-and-you-missed-it moment, Tsurtsumia, the 2019 world champion, caught Azizil with a 4-point arm throw. But the Azeri rolled through the move to get 2 of his own and landed in the top position. From there, Azizli hit a pair of lift-and-throws, and a 2-point fleeing penalty against Tsurtsumia put Azizli up 10-4.
Because of the caution, the match resumed with Azizli on top in par terre, and it ended after 49 seconds with another 2-point penalty against Tsurtsumia after his arm got caught between the two bodies and touched the leg. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point.
For Azizli, a seven-time European medalist, the victory gave him a third world title and fifth world medal overall. He first won the gold in 2018.
Huseynov followed a short time later by edging Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) 2-1 in the 82kg final, with a reversal from the bottom of par terre in the first period proving the difference.
The 35-year-old Huseynov regained the world gold he won two years ago in Oslo. He also has a silver medal from 2019.
Oscar PINO (CUB) won the bronze medal at 130kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Pino opens Olympic door for Lopez
In the bronze-medal matches, Oscar PINO (CUB) got an exposure that was upgraded after a challenge by his opponent and came away with a 5-1 victory over Romas FRIDRIKAS (LTU) at 130kg for which compatriot Mijain LOPEZ (CUB) will likely be the beneficiary.
Pino was given two points for his effort from par terre, but when the Lithuanian challenged whether there was exposure or not, it backfired and the call was changed to four. Fridrikas gained a stepout point in the second period but could otherwise not budge the burly Cuban.
For Pino, it was his fourth world medal. But it also earned Cuba the Olympic quota, and it appears likely that Pino will yield the spot to the legendary Lopez so that he can make a run at an unprecedented fifth Olympic gold.
Six-time African champion Abdellatif MOHAMED (EGY) picked up his first global medal when he survived a late surge by Lingzhe MENG (CHN) and notched a 3-2 victory for the other 130kg bronze.
Mohamed had two passivity points and a stepout for a 3-0 lead when Meng put the pressure on, scoring two stepouts in the final minute. And he was pressing for another when time ran out.
Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) tries to pin Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) on his way to win the 77kg bronze medal. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) will leave Belgrade with a bronze medal for the second straight year, with the added bonus of a Paris quota, after rallying with a 4-point throw to defeat Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) 9-7 in a thriller at 77kg.
Amoyan, the world champion in 2021, was leading 3-2 in the second period when Zhadrayev got a stepout, a failed challenge point and a passivity point to go ahead 5-3. But when he attempted a roll from par terre, Amoyan stepped over and stuffed it for 2.
Amoyan wasn't finished there. Ending up on top, he flung the Kazakh for 4 to put the match out of reach. Zhadrayev, a four-time Asian medalist still looking for his first world medal, got a late stepout and fleeing penalty point.
Nao KUSAKA (JPN) won his first bout against Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) at 77kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Kusaka, a world U23 bronze medalist, capped an impressive performance in his senior debut by notching an 8-0 technical fall over former world silver medalist Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) for the other 77kg bronze and Paris ticket.
Put in par terre in the first period, Kusaka responded with a somewhat unorthodox reverse headlock for 2, then later got a fourth point when the Uzbeki side unsuccessfully challenged a 4-point move that was judged a trip.
In the second period, Kusaka let fly with a lightning-quick arm throw for 4 that ended the match at 3:20, making him the heaviest Greco-Roman world medalist in Japanese history.
There had never been a Japanese on the podium over 68kg.
"It's my specialty," Kusaka said of his winning throw. "On the biggest stage, I wanted to use my top move."
Kusaka showed he had the potential to make his mark in Belgrade when he finished second at the Grand Prix of Germany in August, where he lost in the final to Victor NEMES (SRB), who fell in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
The 22-year-old Kusaka, an alumnus of wrestling power Nippon Sports Science University, put on quite a show in Belgrade, beating three-time world medalist Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) in the first round and giving Makhmudov a run for his money in the semifinals.
Now he is setting his sights even higher. By winning a medal in Belgrade, Kusaka automatically fills the Olympic spot himself in accordance with criteria established by the Japanese federation.
"The real competition starts from now," Kusaka said. "You don't get anything just for being in the Olympics, in the end, you have to win a medal. Well, a medal, I want to win the gold."
At 55kg, Asian champion Poya DAD MARZ (IRI) added a senior bronze to the world U23 gold he won last year, getting two gut wrenches in par terre in the first period and holding on to defeat Marlan MUKASHEV (KAZ) 6-3.
Dad Marz looked well on his way to victory when he held out on the bottom of par terre in the second period. But Mukashev suddenly came to life and scored a takedown with 25 seconds, then lifted Dad Marz into the air for what could have been a winning throw. But he never got one off, and a challenge that had no chance added the final point.
Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB) came away with a world bronze for the second straight year, defeating Artiom DELEANU (MDA) 6-1 in the other third-place match at 55kg.
Ortikboev, a two-time Asian medalist, used an arm drag for a takedown, then added an exposure and gut wrench to put Deleanu into a six-point hole. Deleanu managed a stepout off a whizzer counter in the second period, but nothing more.
Aues GONIBOV (AIN) will take home a bronze in his senior world debut, and it only took defeating the reigning world and European champion. The 2019 world junior (U20) silver medalist defeated Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) 6-3 at 82kg.
Gonibov opened with a stepout, then, put on top in par terre, received a 2-point penalty while trying to execute a throw. He followed that with a 2-point throw to go up 6-0. In the second period, Akbudak had his chance in par terre, but could only manage one roll from a reverse body lock.
Akbudak will leave Belgrade empty-handed after winning a silver in 2021 and the gold last year.
European silver medalist Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR) also became a bronze medalist for the second straight year when he came out on top of Mihail BRADU (MDA) in an 82kg match limited to passivity points.
Bradu received a point in the first period and Filchakov in the second, and when neither could generate any technical points, it gave the Ukrainian the win.
Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) won the Olympic playoff at 77kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling)
Uzbekistan, China gain Paris places
In the Olympic weights, Vardanyan and Meng gave Uzbekistan and China, respectively, a Paris berth by coming back to the mat and winning fifth-place playoffs.
Vardanyan exected two gut wrenches from par terre in the first period, then held on for a 5-4 victory over Zhadrayev at 77kg.
For Meng, getting the second passivity point gave him a 1-1 victory on last-point criteria over Fridrakas at 130kg.
Day 7 Results
55kg (20 entries)
GOLD: Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) df. Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) by TF, 13-4, :49
BRONZE: Poya DAD MARZ (IRI) df. Marlan MUKASHEV (KAZ), 6-3
BRONZE: Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB) df. Artiom DELEANU (MDA), 6-1
60kg (40 entries)
GOLD: Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) vs. Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ)
Semifinal: Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) df. Gevorg GHARIBYAN (ARM), 5-1
Semifinal: Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) df. Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI), 4-3
72kg (24 entries)
GOLD: Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) vs. Robert FRITSCH (HUN)
Semifinal: Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA) df. Selcuk CAN (TUR), 4-0
Semifinal: Robert FRITSCH (HUN) df. Shingo HARADA (JPN), 3-1
77kg (45 entries)
GOLD: Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) df. Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE), 1-1
BRONZE: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) df. Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ), 9-7
BRONZE: Nao KUSAKA (JPN) df. Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) by TF, 8-0, 3:20
5th-Place Playoff: Aram VARDANYAN (UZB) df. Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ), 5-4
82kg (24 entries)
GOLD: Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI), 2-1
BRONZE: Yaroslav FILCHAKOV (UKR) df. Mihail BRADU (MDA), 1-1
BRONZE: Aues GONIBOV (AIN) df. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR), 6-3
97kg (37 entries)
GOLD: Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) vs Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB)
Semifinal: Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) df. Mindaugas VENCKAITIS (LTU) by TF, 9-0, 2:02
Semifinal: Gabriel ROSILLO (CUB) df. Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI), 3-0
130kg (30 entries)
GOLD: Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) df. Riza KAYAALP (TUR), 2-2
BRONZE: Abdellatif MOHAMED (EGY) df. Lingzhe MENG (CHN), 3-2
BRONZE: Oscar PINO (CUB) df. Romas FRIDRIKAS (LTU), 5-1
5th-Place Playoff: Lingzhe MENG (CHN) df. Romas FRIDRIKAS (LTU), 1-1