#WrestleBudapest: Aliyev, Muszukajev to clash for European gold

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (March 28) -- Tokyo Olympic silver medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE) marked his return to the mat by reaching the final of the European Championships in Budapest. In that process, he set an exciting final against fellow Tokyo Olympian Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN).

The Azerbaijan star led four wrestlers from his country into the final, making it the most successful nation on the first day of the competition.


Aliyev wrestled Maxim SACULTAN (MDA) in the semifinal, and after giving up the initial takedown, he came back to secure a comfortable 12-2 win. He used a big five-point suplex to end the bout.

In his two Monday bouts, Aliyev looked rusty due to the seventh-month break after the Tokyo Games. But if the three-time European champion wants to win his fourth gold, he will have to step up against a familiar foe in Muszukajev in Tuesday night's final.

Iszmail MUSZAKAJEVIszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) made it to his first-ever European Championships final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The two met in the final of the 2020 Individual World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia, in which the Hungarian wrestler stunned the three-time world champion to win the gold.

Muszukajev began with a 10-0 technical superiority win which included a double-leg throw that earned him five points. In the semifinal, he wrestled Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL) and managed to close off that bout with a suplex to win, 11-0.

He led 1-0 at the break, ironically for a point for inactivity. In the second period, he began with a double leg and got two laces, grabbing the 7-0 lead before the big four-point move.

The rematch Tuesday can be another thriller as the two looked in control of their game. Aliyev's defense will be put to test once again against the sneaky attacks of the Hungarian world bronze medalist from 2019.

Aliabbas RZAZADEAliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) throws Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO) for four points. (Photo: UWW / Bayrem Ben Mrad)

At 57kg, U23 world champion Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) stunned Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO) in the semifinal by finishing the bout in just two minutes. The 10-0 win marked his entry to his first-ever European Championships final.

He will face Vladimir EGOROV (MKD) in the gold-medal bout, in what will be a historic match. North Macedonia has never had a wrestler reach the final of a European Championships since 1999, but Egorov did that by beating Manvel KHNDZRTSYAN (ARM), 10-0. He got an arm trap to finish it quickly.

The two other Azerbaijan wrestlers who reached the final were Ashraf ASHIROV (AZE) and Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE). They will wrestle for gold at 79kg and 97kg, respectively.

Ashirov faced Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO) in the semifinal, and after a couple of hiccups, managed to secure a spot in the final. Gamkrelidze scored a takedown and then scored two more via gut-wrench. Ashirov answered with a single leg takedown and cut the lead to 4-2.

In the second period, Ashirov body locked the Georgian for four points to take the lead 6-4. The two traded step-outs and Gamkrelidze scored a takedown to make it 7-7 with Ashirov leading on criteria.

Gamkrelidze tried two desperate attempts in the final 17 seconds and gave up six points on those. He lost the semifinal, 13-7.

Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE)Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) became the first-ever wrestler from Greece to enter a European final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Ashirov will face U23 European champion Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE), as he beat Muhammet AKDENIZ (TUR) 15-10 in the other semifinal. The Greek wrestler took a 2-0 lead before Akdeniz managed to score two but also gave up two in the scramble.

The second period began with another scramble with Akdeniz scoring via crotch-lift but he lost control gave up two before an exposure add two more for Kougioumtsidis. A reversal gave Akdeniz one point.

A four-point throw at this point gave a comfortable 12-5 lead to Kougioumtsidis, and in the end, he won 15-10 to become the first wrestler from his country to reach the final in 19 years.

In the first 97kg semifinal, Magomedov scored two takedowns in the first period to lead 4-0 at the break against Zbigniew BARANOWSKI (POL), but the Polish wrestler managed to start the second period with a takedown before Magomedov scored for himself.

Baranowski managed another takedown in the final five seconds but it was too little too late, as Magomedov reached the final with a 6-4 win.

Earlier in the day, the Azerbaijan junior world silver medalist handed a beating to World bronze medalist Elizbar ODIKADZE (GEO), 14-7.

Vladislav BAITSAEVVladislav BAITSAEV (HUN), red, reached the final of the European Championships at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Hungary had its second finalist in Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN). He comfortably made it past Erik THIELE (GER) in the second semifinal, 8-1. He also made it to the semifinal after beating a World medalist in Magomedgadji NUROV (MKD), 6-4.

The only wrestler who managed to stop Azerbaijan from making it a perfect evening was Zurabi IAKOBASHVILI (GEO) who won a thrilling semifinal at 70kg against U23 European champion Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE).

Bayramov and Iakobashvili left it all on the mat as the latter led 3-0 at the break. But Bayramov came back strong in the second period with a takedown to cut the lead to 3-2. A passivity call against the Georgian made it 3-3 giving Bayramov the lead on criteria.

Iakobashvili had 50 seconds to score a point for the win, and with seven seconds remaining he did that with a step-out to win 4-3.

He will now take on Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) in the final. The bronze medalist from the European Championships last year wrestled Nicolai GRAHMEZ (MDA) in the semifinal and beat him 6-2.

His superior defense frustrated Grahmez and Andreasyan managed to take a 4-0 lead at the break. But the two exchanged two points each in the second period but it was not enough for Grahmez to reach his first continental final.

Tuesday's medal bouts, along with the second-day semifinals of the remaining five weights; 61kg, 74kg, 86kg, 92kg and 125kg begin at 16:45 (local time).



FS Semifinals

GOLD: Vladimir EGOROV (MKD) vs Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE)

SF 1: Vladimir EGOROV (MKD) df Manvel KHNDZRTSYAN (ARM), 10-0
SF 2: Aliabbas RZAZADE (AZE) df Beka BUJIASHVILI (GEO), 10-0


SF 1: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) df Maxim SACULTAN (MDA), 12-2
SF 2: Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) df Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL), 11-0


SF 1: Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) df Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-3
SF 2: Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) df Nicolai GRAHMEZ (MDA), 6-2


SF 1: Ashraf ASHIROV (AZE) df Vladimeri GAMKRELIDZE (GEO), 13-7
SF 2: Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) df Muhammet AKDENIZ (TUR), 15-10

GOLD: Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN) vs Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE)

SF 1: Vladislav BAITSAEV (HUN) df Erik THIELE (GER), 8-1
SF 2: Magomedkhan MAGOMEDOV (AZE) df Zbigniew BARANOWSKI (POL), 6-4


Losonczi annihilates 87kg field to book Belgrade spot

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (July 16) -- By Ranking Series standards, the celebrations by David LOSONCZI (HUN) after winning the 87kg final was a little overboard.

Winning a gold medal at home deserved a celebration and Losonczi did not sober down. He backflipped after making a mockery of Semen NOVIKOV (BUL) in the final.

Losonczi would later explain that by winning the gold medal at the Budapest Ranking Series on Sunday, he confirmed his spot on the Hungary team for the World Championships in the 87kg weight class.

He was one of the two Hungary wrestlers to confirm the spot with Tamas LEVAI (HUN) also booking a spot by winning the 97kg gold medal at home.

Out of the seven Greco-Roman weight classes in action on Sunday in Budapest, five were Olympic weights. Apart from 87kg and 97kg, wrestlers at 67kg, 77kg and 130kg categories were also in action.

Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) won the 67kg gold medal and compatriot Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) won the gold medal at 77kg. Iran's Amir GHASEMI (IRI) won the gold medal at 130kg.

Losonczi's win was one of the highlights of the tournament as he scored 41 points in five bouts while not giving up a single point. He won four of his five bouts, including the final, via technical superiority.

Wrestling Novikov in the final, Losonczi scored a takedown 30 seconds into the bout. A stepout made it 3-0 and a failed front headlock-to-throw attempt from Novikov added two more points to his score.

With a 5-0 lead, Losonczi remained relentless and continued his attacks. Novikov seemed to be figuring out what was going on in the bout when Losonczi scored another stepout to lead 6-0 in a minute and 33 seconds.

The referee called Novikov for inactivity and Losonczi got a point and par terre advantage. All he had to do to win the match was turn Novikov for two points. Losonczi got a roll from par terre with ease and jumped around celebrating the win.

In his earlier bouts, Losonczi had beaten Sanghyeok PARK (KOR) and Bachir SID AZARA (ALG) 9-0, Fei PENG (CHN), 8-0, in the quarterfinal, and Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) 6-0 in the semifinal.

Levai too broke out in a small dance after he defeated Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) to win the gold medal at 97kg.

The 24-year-old won the U23 World Championships in 2021 at 77kg and has been jumping weight classes since. He won bronze medals at the 2022 World and European Championships at 82kg and debuted at 97kg at the 2023 Zagreb Open.

At the European Championships in Zagreb in April, Levai competed at 97kg and finished seventh. However, gold in Budapest has made him a dark horse at this weight class.

In front of his home crowd, Levai defeated Mathias BAK (DEN) 5-0 in his opening bout and won 4-1 against Lasha TVILDIANI (GEO) to move into the quarterfinals in which he defeated Seyeol LEE (KOR) 8-0. Daniel GASTL (AUT) was the next to fall as Levai won the semifinal 7-1.

Kakhelashvili got the first par terre advantage but he failed to score any points from there. Just before the break, Kakhelashvili was penalized for blocking Levai's face with open hands. Levai went into the break leading 2-1.

The lead extended to 3-1 when Kakhelashvili was called passive but Levai failed to inflict further damage.

However, the gold was enough for Levai to book a spot for the World Championships where he will hope to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

At 67kg, Jafarov was at his absolute best and won the gold medal, putting behind his 20th-place finish at the Zagreb Open in February.

The bronze medalist from the 2022 World Championships, defeated Din KOSHKAR (KAZ) 12-3 before a 3-1 win over Mihai MIHUT (ROU) helped him reach the semifinal against Hansu RYU (KOR).

A reverse lift for four after par terre and solid defense, when he was put in par terre, helped him beat Ryu 5-1 and book his place in the final against Joni KHETSURIANI (GEO).

Jafarov had no trouble in beating Khetsuriani 6-1 in the final to win the gold medal.

“I prepared a lot for this tournament because the World Championships is approaching and we need to prepare for it,” Jafarov said. “This tournament is perfect to prepare for the World Championships which will offer the Paris Olympics quotas.”

While he was satisfied with his performance, Jafarov thought he could have added more attacks during his bouts.

“I would have liked to attack more in this tournament but I was a little tired here. But I'll be better at the World Championships,” he said.

The former U20 and U23 world champion was wearing a new “buzzcut” and had a heavily strapped neck and shoulder. He, however, said that there was nothing to worry about. 

“No injuries,” he said. “This is my new [hair] style. I have a new haircut because I was outside Baku so I thought I can change a little.”



BRONZE: Hansu RYU (KOR) df. Mihai MIHUT (ROU), 4-1
BRONZE: Lei LI (CHN) df. Alejandro SANCHO (USA), 1-1

GOLD: Danial SOHRABI (IRI) df. Ulvi GANIZADE (AZE), via inj. def. 

BRONZE: Otar ABULADZE (GEO) df. Levente LEVAI (HUN), 8-3
BRONZE: Selcuk CAN (TUR) df. Daniyar KALENOV (KAZ), 6-1

GOLD: Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) df. Kamal BEY (USA), 4-1

BRONZE: Mohammad NAGHOUSI (IRI) df. Zoltan LEVAI (HUN), 1-1

GOLD: Erik SZILVASSY (HUN) df. Mihail BRADU (MDA), 3-1

BRONZE: Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) df. Spencer WOODS (USA), via fall
BRONZE: Kristoffer BERG (SWE) df. Peter DOEMOEK (HUN), 7-1

GOLD: David LOSONCZI (HUN) df. Semen NOVIKOV (BUL), 9-0


GOLD: Tamas LEVAI (HUN) df. Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), 3-1

BRONZE: Daniel GASTL (AUT) df. Mathias BAK (DEN), 6-1


BRONZE: Aliakbar YOUSOFI (IRI) df. Dariusz VITEK (HUN), 3-0