#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


WATCH: 10 Greco-Roman Finals from European Championships

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (April 7) -- The European Championships saw 10 Greco-Roman champions being crowned. One of them, Riza KAYAALP (TUR), won his 11th European title and is now two away from breaking the all-time record 12.

Azerbaijan won the team title over Turkey while Georgia finished third in the title race. Azerbaijan had all ten wrestlers in medal bouts with eight coming home with at least a medal. Only two wrestlers failed to win a medal in Budapest.

Watch all the 10 gold medal bouts from the European Championships.

55kg GOLD - Eldaniz Azizli (AZE) vs Nugzari Tsurtsumia (GEO)

Azizli wrestled his rival and world champion from 2019 Nugzari Tsurtsumia (GEO). Prior to this meeting, the two had wrestled each other four times with Azizli enjoying a perfect 4-0 record over Tsurtsumia. He extended that record to 5-0 when he won 8-2 in the 55kg final.

Azizli got the point for his opponent's passivity and a roll gave him a 3-1 lead. Tsurtsumia tried exposing with a head pinch but in turn, ended up giving two points. In the same action, Azizli scored two more and led 7-1 with two minutes remaining before closing out the bout 8-2.


60kg GOLD - Kerem Kamal (TUR) vs Edmond Nazaryan (BUL)

Kerem KAMAL (TUR) was third time lucky in the final as he won the gold after previously losing two finals in 2020 and 2021. But in his third final in three years, he defeated former European champ Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) 5-0 to win at 60kg.


63kg GOLD - Leri Abuladze (GEO) vs Taleh Mammadov (AZE)

Georgia did have a gold medalist Saturday as U23 World champion Leri Abuladze (GEO) added a European title to his resume. He wrestled Taleh Mammadov (AZE) in the 63kg final and controlled it well. His one scoring action in par terre in the second period was enough to give him a 3-1 win over Mammadov, his first in two meetings.


67kg GOLD - Murat Firat (TUR) vs Krisztian Vancza (HUN)

Murat FIRAT (TUR) denied Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) a gold medal at home. In the close final, Firat used an exposure close to the zone to win 3-1. Vancza had his chance to take the lead when Firat was called passive but he did not manage to score any points from par terre in the second period.


72kg GOLD - Robert Attila Fritsch (HUN) vs Shmagi Bolkvadze (GEO)

Robert FRITSCH (HUN) upset Rio bronze medalist Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO), 3-2, at the 72kg final. In one of the closest bouts of the tournament, Bolkvadze led 1-0 at the break for a passivity point. But Fritsch bounced back with a gut wrench from par terre to lead 3-1. A reversal point for Bolkvadze but his lead to 3-2 but he managed to hang on for the win.


77kg GOLD - Malkhas Amoyan (ARM) vs Yunus Emre Basar (TUR)

Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) won the 77kg European title. The world champion at 72kg was making his debut at 77kg and wrestled Yunus Basar (TUR) in the final. He was called passive and gave up a gut wrench to trail 3-0 at the break. But he got the same action using a chest wrap in the second period to lead 3-3 on criteria.

Turkey challenged the call asking for a leg foul but the judges found no negative wrestling which gave another point to Amoyan, extending his lead 4-3 with two minutes remaining.

The silver medalist from Warsaw European Championships was again called passive but this time Basar could not get any exposure from par terre as Amoyan let out a loud scream to celebrate his maiden gold at the continental championships.


82kg GOLD - Rafig Huseynov (AZE) vs Gela Bolkvadze (GEO)

In a historic feat, Rafiq HUSEYNOV (AZE) became the first-ever Azerbaijan wrestler to win three European titles. Wrestling Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the 82kg final, Huseynov gave up a point for passivity but defended the par terre position. Georgia asked for a challenge for Huseynov's fleeing but lost it. Huseynov got the second point from Bolkvadze's passivity and kept the 2-1 lead to win the gold.


87kg GOLD - Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) vs Nicu OJOG (ROU)

Bisultanov won the gold for Denmark at the European championship, outscoring his opponents 35-0 over two days and with his crowd-pleasing style became a fan favorite in Budapest. Wrestling Nicu Ojog (ROU) in the 87kg final, Bisultanov took only one minute and 13 seconds to finish the bout 8-0. In his four bouts, he did not wrestle the full six minutes in any, spending just over 13 minutes on the mat.


97kg GOLD - Kiril MILOV (BUL) vs Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN)

Kiril MILOV (BUL) upgraded from his silver in 2019. With fond memories of Budapest, he changed the color of his medal with an error-less performance in the final against Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN), 4-1. Milov got the match-deciding gut wrench in the second period to defeat the former U23 world champion Savolainen who won the title in Budapest three years ago.


130kg GOLD - Riza KAYAALP (TUR) vs Danila SOTNIKOV (ITA)

Riza Kayaalp (TUR) is on a mission to break Alexander Karelin (RWF) record of 12 European gold medals. He took another step closer to that by winning his 11th gold in Budapest. The four-time world champion defeated Danila Sotnikov (ITA), 4-0 in the 130kg final using a head-pinch exposure when the Italian was trying to push him out.