#WrestlePlovdiv: Greece, Germany End Freestyle U23 Title Drought

By Vinay Siwach

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria (March 12) -- Georgios KOUGIOUMTSIDIS (GRE) has been close to the gold medal. He finished with silver at the cadet World Championships and the Junior European Championships. But crossing the final hurdle needed something special.

In the 79kg final at the U23 European Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, the 21-year-old was once again headed for a second-place finish. He trailed 8-2 against Evsem SHVELIDZE (GEO) and was subjected to a flurry of attacks.

But just before the break, he brought his opponent's lead down to 8-4 and then worked on his attacks. A final that was in Shvelidze's hands suddenly lit up as Kougioumtsidis scripted a comeback as Shvelidze failed to keep up with the pace of the bout.

“At the start of the second period I realized that he is tired,” Kougioumtsidis said. “Even I was tired but tried my best and I think that was the difference.”

The Greece wrestler scored 14 straight points to change the lead to 16-8 and gave a non-consequential step out.

“It's just a different feel to win the gold,” he said. “It was a little hard, especially in the first period. But in the second period, I tried my best.”

Despite the gold medal, the Greece wrestler is taking a lesson home as he aims to qualify for the Olympics.

“I can improve my defense,” he said. “I will try my best to qualify for the next Olympics. I can't say anything because I don't know.”

Horst LEHRHorst LEHR (GER) celebrates after winning the 57kg gold medal in Plovdiv. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Germany also got its first U23 European champion in freestyle after senior World Championships bronze medalist beat Giorgi GEGELASHVILI (GEO), 2-2 in the 57kg final. No German freestyle wrestler had reached the final at the U23 level before Lehr, who now has the record to his name.

Gegelashvili perhaps expected more attacks from Lehr to counter but he had to work harder for his points. Lehr was called passive in the final period and gave up a point but he scored a stepout at the stroke of the break.

“I wanted to keep the match open and not take any risks,” Lehr said. “I knew that I will be able to score if I needed to. So I waited.”

Using a similar game plan, Lehr frustrated his Georgian opponent with defense and despite giving up a point for another passivity, he scored a point via another stepout from a counter.

Leading 2-2 on criteria, Lehr made sure he defends all other attacks on him and ends the drought for Germany.

“I was nervous for the final and I did not want to do anything which would take it away from me,” he said. “It's the best feeling that I have been waiting for a long time.

“The journey has been long. I have been injured a lot but I stay focused and trained hard.”

Lehr has a bronze medal at the senior European as well but has been struggling with various health problems including recurring fever and knee injuries. But a bronze medal in Oslo gave his career a second wind.

"Wrestling is my life and I was mentally very pressurized to win,” he said. “But after having the health problems, I changed. I put my health first and realized that wrestling is not everything. I brought my health to a good level and that made me mentally free. That has helped me a lot.”

Keeping that in mind, Lehr has decided to skip the senior European Championships in Budapest, Hungary later this month.

“I have a history of injuries and these two tournaments are very close,” he said. “I will wrestle at the senior Worlds this year.”

Islam ILYASOVIslam ILYASOV (AZE) defeated Johannes MAYER (GER) in the 97kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

It could have been a double-delight for Germany had Johannes MAYER (GER) held on to his 4-3 lead for one more second in the 97kg final.

Islam ILYASOV (AZE) claimed the gold medal by scoring a takedown in the final second of the bout, giving Azerbaijan a second gold of the night.

He led 2-0 at the break after a point for Mayer's passivity and stepout. But he went on the defensive in the second period and gave up a point for passivity,

Mayer then attacked and scored a takedown with 16 seconds left to lead 3-2. The final push from Ilyasov with a duck under helped him get two points.

Germany challenged the call but it was confirmed on the review that Mayer did have three points touching the mat before the clock expired.

Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE)Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE) improved to U23 European gold from his bronze last year. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov) 

Azerbaijan's second gold came from the rising star at 65kg Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE). He continues his rapid rise in the weight class, dominating his competition in Plovdiv.

In the final, his impeccable ability to control the center made it an easy one for him. He defeated Hrachya MARGARYAN (ARM) 4-1.

His was slow to start and was but on the activity clock but he scored via a double leg attack in that period to lead 2-0. In the second period, a single-leg takedown made it 4-0. Before the end of the bout, he gave up a point for stepout.

Giorgi ELBAKIDZE (GEO)Giorgi ELBAKIDZE (GEO) scored six unanswered points in the 70kg final to win the gold. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

A humdinger of a bout saw Georgia steal the gold at 70kg. Giorgi ELBAKIDZE (GEO) conceded a five-point throw and was staring at defeat but blasted a double-leg from nowhere against Narek HARUTYUNYAN (ARM), ultimately winning the final 6-5.

Harutyunyan was called passive in the second period and Elbakidze's attack was in the activity period. But despite that, he trailed 5-5 on criteria. But Harutyunyan gave up a stepout with 24 seconds left and saw the gold slip out of his hands.

Azerbaijan has a chance to win two more gold Sunday as the remaining five weight classes in freestyle will be decided on the final day of the competition in Plovdiv.


Day 6 Medal Bouts

GOLD: Horst LEHR (GER) df Giorgi GEGELASHVILI (GEO), 2-2

BRONZE: Tofig ALIYEV (AZE) df Ivaylo TISOV (BUL), 18-8

GOLD: Ziraddin BAYRAMOV (AZE) df Hrachya MARGARYAN (ARM), 4-1

BRONZE: Hamza ALACA (TUR) df Marwane YEZZA (FRA), via inj. def.


BRONZE: Nicolai GRAHMEZ (MDA) df Benedikt HUBER (AUT), 10-0


BRONZE: Ashraf ASHIROV (AZE) df Oktay HASAN (BUL), 14-3
BRONZE: Abdulvasi BALTA (TUR) df Mushegh MKRTCHYAN (ARM), 2-1

GOLD: Islam ILYASOV (AZE) df Johannes MAYER (GER), 5-3

BRONZE: Radu LEFTER (MDA) df Stole EFTIMOV (MKD), 10-0
BRONZE: Richard VEGH (HUN) df Riveri MTSITURI (GEO), 7-4



SF 1: Emrah ORMANOGLU (TUR) df Ramaz TURMANIDZE (GEO), 5-2
SF 2: Khamzat ARSAMERZOUEV (FRA) df Besir ALILI (MKD), 5-2

GOLD: Krisztian BIRO (ROU) vs Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE)

SF 1: Krisztian BIRO (ROU) df Dimitar ANGELOV (BUL), 11-0
SF 2: Dzhabrail GADZHIEV (AZE) df Ismet CIFTCI (TUR), 7-3

GOLD: Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE) vs Lilian BALAN (MDA)

SF 1: Abubakr ABAKAROV (AZE) df Emre CIFTCI ((TUR), 14-2
SF 2: Lilian BALAN (MDA) df Bagrati GAGNIDZE (GEO), via fall

GOLD: Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) vs Joshua MORODION (GER)

SF 1: Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) df Daviti KOGUASHVILI (GEO), 11-0
SF 2: Joshua MORODION (GER) df Gheorghe ERHAN (MDA), 14-4


SF 1: Milan KORCSOG (HUN) df Adil MISIRCI (TUR), 9-2
SF 2: Solomon MANASHVILI (GEO) df Aydin AHMADOV (AZE), 9-5


WATCH: #WrestlePlovdiv 10 Freestyle Finals

By United World Wrestling Press

PLOVDIV, Bulgaria -- Azerbaijan brought a solid freestyle team to Plovdiv with World Championships medalist and some continental champions.

The team did not disappoint and won the team title over Turkey and Georgia at the U23 European Championships. All four wrestlers from Azerbaijan who reached the finals won gold medals.

Germany had their first U23 European champion in Horst LEHR (GER) at 57kg while a few more firsts were recorded in the tournament.

Here are the 10 freestyle finals from the U23 European Championships.

57kg - GOLD: Giorgi GEGELASHVILI (GEO) vs Horst LEHR (GER)