#WrestleIstanbul: Nichita Makes Golden Return; Mohammadian Shines

By Vinay Siwach

ISTANBUL, Turkey (February 26) -- Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) is back to her old ways. She was once a trailblazer for Moldova, but a disappointing Olympics set her back.

At the Tokyo Games, Nichita began with a bang. She pinned Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) in the first bout but then lost the next bout. A back injury during her quarterfinal against Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) meant she couldn't wrestle at the senior World Championships in Oslo.

"After the Olympics, I injured my back," Nichita said. "I couldn't train for four months, but now everything is fine."

Nichita marked her return to the mat with a gold medal at 59kg at the Yasar Dogu, Vehbi Emre & Hamit Kaplan Ranking Series event in Istanbul, Turkey. In her run to the top of the podium, she didn't concede a single point.

She began the day with a fall against Alyona KOLESNIK (AZE), then secured another fall against Elif YANIK (TUR) in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, she came out on top of Kateryna ZHYDACHEVSKA (ROU), 10-0.

The final was a similar story. She defeated Zhargalma TSYREMPILOVA TCYRENOVA (RWF), 10-0, in the first period. 

"I am so happy I could win the gold medal at this tournament. It was mentally tough, but it was satisfying to win," Nachita said. 

Nichita, the 23-year-old, hopes she can continue wrestling how she began the year in Istanbul. With the U23 and senior European Championships scheduled inside a month, Nichita is eyeing more top-of-the-podium finishes.

"This tournament means a lot to me since it's the first tournament of the year, and I hope to continue the same way for the rest of the year," she said.

Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL)Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) pinned Milana DADASHEVA (RWF) in the 53kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) also put aside the disappointment of a medalless finish at the World Championships in Oslo and took home gold in Istanbul.

Wrestling at 53kg, Bat Ochir moved past former U23 Worlds silver medalist Pooja GEHLOT (IND), 11-1, followed by another technical superiority win over Aktenge KEUNIMJAEVA (UZB).

It was all but over for the Mongolian in the semifinals as Dominique PARRISH (USA) took an 8-0 lead inside the opening two minutes. But in typical Mongolian style, Bat Ochir threw the American for four and scored the fall, punching her ticket to the final.

"I think our team trains very hard," Bat Ochir said. "We are very confident to pin our opponents."

The final against Milana DADASHEVA (RWF) tested her again. After two initial takedowns and a 4-0 lead, Bat Ochir surrendered two points but managed to pick up two exposures. She led 8-2 after the first 90 seconds.

The second period saw an exchange of three exposure, but Bat Ochir was not having any of it. She only needed 20 seconds in the closing period to secure the fall over Dadasheva.

"I was confident of the pin here as well," she said. "I had a good connection with the coach and understood his instructions. I think my psychological training also helped me to be calm and get the pin."

At 50kg, Amilia VUC (ROU) snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by pinning Polina LUKINA (RWF) despite being thrown twice for four-pointers.

Lukina, a junior European champion, got going with some outrageous trips and was on the verge of victory, but Vuc got a hold of her neck and pinned her younger opponent.

RWF challenged the call asking for a foul-play from Vuc but they lost the challenge, giving the Romanian a clear victory.

The two-time Olympian was surprised to be down 8-0 but never lost sight of her golden hopes. 

"The start was not very good. But I am happy that I did not lose hope and got the touche," Vuc said. "When it was 8-0 for her, I did not understand that because she is not the strongest wrestler, but she knew my techniques. I did my best from there.

"I'm very happy to start the year with gold, and in a month's time, I will prepare for European Championships."

Jacarra WinchesterEven a suplex from Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) was not enough to win against Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA). (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The USA grabbed two gold medals on Saturday as former world champion Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) won at 55kg, and Oslo bronze medalist Forrest MOLINARI (USA) ascended to the top at 65kg.

Winchester's win was special, as she wrestled her opponents for the first time in her career. The semifinal against Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) stood out as she pinned the Asian champion after building a considerable lead.

"Vinesh was awesome," Winchester said. "I always wanted to wrestle her. My teammates have wrestled her but I have never and I wanted her to be on the same side [of the bracket], and that's what I got. I celebrated at the end [after the win]."

In the final, she led 3-0 when Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) pulled off a grand suplex. The refs offered four points which gave Krawczyk the lead. But Winchester wanted to wrestle till the last second and that paid off as she turned the Polish wrestler for four points with just seven seconds remaining and won, 7-4.

"This is the first time at Ranking Series event for me," she said. "I was laughing when she got the four because I wanted that competition, and I loved it. Whenever I am down, I just wrestle for full six minutes. It's my last match of the day. So either I can go home sad or give it my all."

Molinari faced a familiar foe in the 65kg final in Mallory VELTE (USA). The two had been wrestling each other since high school, but in 13 attempts, Molinari could not beat Velte.

But in Istanbul, it was a completely different game as Molinari dominated a slow-paced final. Despite giving up a takedown, she scored three of her own to win, 7-4. This was her second Ranking Series gold, the first also coming in Istanbul three years ago.

She also had a big quarterfinal against Emma BRUNTIL (USA). The two had met in the Ivan Yargiun Grand Prix final last month, which the latter won. But Molinari pinned Bruntil to avenge that loss.

The final gold medal for women's freestyle went to Oslo world silver medalist Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), as she beat '19 world bronze medalist Anna SCHELL (GER), 8-2. It mainly was the counters from Bakbergenova that Schell could not stop and conceded the bout.

MohammadianMohammad MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) holds off a shot from Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RWF) in the 97kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Mohammadian Returns

Two men's freestyle gold medals were awarded on Saturday.

Tokyo Olympian and two-time Ranking Series gold medalist Mohammad MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) returned to competition for the first time since losing at the Tokyo Olympics.

He won the gold medal at 97kg, beating Alikhan ZHABRAILOV (RWF), while Rio Olympic champion and home favorite Taha AKGUL (TUR) claimed the 125kg gold without much trouble.

The 97kg final began with Zhabrailov getting a verbal warning for inactivity. Mohammadian saw this as an opportunity and blasted a double-leg, scoring the match's first two points. He then got a single leg attack for two more points and led 4-0 at the break.

The second period was much slower for Mohammadian, as he was put on the activity clock. He gave up the point, and with 15 seconds remaining, Zhabrailov scored a takedown and cut the lead to 4-3. But his final shot was blocked by the Iranian wrestler, who won his third Ranking Series gold.

At 125kg, Akgul gut-wrenched Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) for a 10-0 win in front of vocal home fans.

The remaining eight freestyle weights will be in action Sunday, the final day of the first Ranking Series of the year.

Taha AKGULTaha AKGUL (TUR) won the 125kg gold in Istanbul. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

WW Results

GOLD: Emilia VUC (ROU) df Polina LUKINA (RWF), via fall

BRONZE: DOLGORJAV Otgonjargal (MGL) df Amy FEARNSIDE (USA), via fall
BRONZE: Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) df Jasmina IMMAEVA (UZB), via fall

GOLD: Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) df Milana DADASHEVA (RWF), via fall

BRONZE: Dominique PARRISH (USA) df Pooja GEHLOT (IND), via fall
BRONZE: Iulia LEORDA (MDA) df Zhuldyz ESHIMOVA (KAZ), 5-0

GOLD: Jacarra WINCHESTER (USA) df Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL), 7-4

BRONZE: Aleksandra SKIRENKO (RWF) df Altyn SHAGAYEVA (KAZ), via fall
BRONZE: Ekaterina ISAKOVA (RWF) df Vinesh PHOGAT (IND), via fall



GOLD: Forrest MOLINARI (USA) df Mallory VELTE (USA), 7-4

BRONZE: Khadija JLASSI (TUN) df Uliana TUKURENOVA (RWF), via fall


BRONZE: Danute DOMIKAITYTE (LTU) df Kseniia BURAKOVA (RWF), via fall

FS Results


BRONZE: Mamed IBRAGIMOV (KAZ) df Mustafa SESSIZ (TUR), 3-2
BRONZE: Kollin MOORE (USA) df Burak SAHIN (TUR), 3-1

GOLD: Taha AKGUL (TUR) df Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL), 10-0

BRONZE: Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df Atsamaz TEBLOEV (RWF), via fall
BRONZE: Daniel LIGETI (HUN) df Magomedgadzhi NURASULOV (SRB), 2-2


Akgul answers if he's headed to the UFC

By Eric Olanowski

ISTANBUL, Turkey (April 14) --- Taha AKGUL (TUR) sat down with United World Wrestling after winning gold on home soil at the #WrestleIstanbul Yasar Dogu to answer questions from his loyal fan base. The Olympic champion opened up about fighting in the UFC, his favorite meal to eat, his ideal vacation destination and much more.