#WrestleBudapest: Aliyev, Muszukajev to clash for European gold
Monday, March 28, 2022 - 17:25 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 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 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) 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 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).
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
GOLD: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) vs Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN)
SF 1: Haji ALIYEV (AZE) df Maxim SACULTAN (MDA), 12-2
SF 2: Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) df Krzysztof BIENKOWSKI (POL), 11-0
GOLD: Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) vs Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM)
SF 1: Zurabi IAKOBISHVILI (GEO) df Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE), 4-3
SF 2: Arman ANDREASYAN (ARM) df Nicolai GRAHMEZ (MDA), 6-2
GOLD: Ashraf ASHIROV (AZE) vs Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE)
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