Cengiz vs Losonczi on cards, Kayaalp eyes European record

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (February 7) -- World champions Ali CENGIZ (TUR) and David LOSONCZI (HUN) may have shared the 87kg world title from Belgrade but the two are on course to meet and settle the scores at the European Championships in Bucharest next week.

Cengiz won the gold medal in Belgrade but a United World Wrestling review ruled that a referee error cost Losonczi the title. The Hungary wrestler was later awarded a shared world title.

But we are likely to find who is the clear winner in Bucharest as Greco-Roman will kick off the tournament on February 12. The European Championships will be live on UWW+ which can be watched on uww.org or the UWW App.

Losonczi and Cengiz can only meet in the final as they are seeded one and two respectively. And to reach the gold medal bout, both have to navigate a tough bracket.

The biggest threat will be Alan OSTAEV (AIN) who won a bronze medal at the Zagreb Open Ranking Series in January. He stunned a packed house in Zagreb by beating Losonczi 9-0 in the first round. Ostaev had two big throws which helped him win the contest in the first period itself.

The second bronze medalist from Zagreb, Aleksandr KOMAROV (SRB) will also be in action in Bucharest hoping to win his first medal at a championship for Serbia.

Tokyo Olympic champion and world bronze medalist Zhan BELENIUK (UKR) will also make a comeback to the European Championships. He last wrestled at the tournament in 2021, winning a bronze medal. He won the gold medal in the 2019 edition of the championships.

Young stars in the weight class include U20 world champion Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO), former U20 world champion Marcel STERKENBURG (NED) and former U23 world champion Exauce MUKUBU (NOR).

At 130kg, Riza KAYAALP (TUR) is going for a record-breaking 13th European Championships title. A gold medal will take him past the 12th title Aleksandr KARELIN holds in Greco-Roman.

Kayaalp suffered a loss in the final at the World Championships but will hope that his reign in Europe doesn't meet the same fate. Sergei SEMENOV (AIN), veteran Heiki NABI (EST), home favorite Alin ALEXUC CIURARIU (ROU) and young star Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) are the few other names in the bracket.

Another packed weight class in 77kg as Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) looks to defend his title from Zagreb. But challenging him are world silver medalist Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE), 72kg world champion Ibrahim GHANEM (FRA), Robert FRITSCH (HUN), U23 world champion Alexandrin GUTU (MDA), former world champion Ali ARSALAN (SRB) and former European champion Yunus BASAR (TUR).

Amoyan's run last year included a semifinal victory over Basar who later won a bronze medal. Gutu was injured in the repechage round and pulled out.

Suleymanov lost his first-round bout but he reached the final of the World Championships and won the Zagreb Open last month. He will also be seeded number one for the European Championships, making a clash with Amoyan possible in the gold-medal bout.

Ghanem won the world title at 72kg but he suffered an early loss at the Zagreb Open. Arsalan won a bronze medal at that event.

Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM)Defending champion Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) (blue) and silver medalist Kiril MILOV (BUL) are entered at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Artur ALEKSANYAN (ARM) will also be wrestling for the first since the World Championships in which suffered a shocking loss in the final to win a silver medal at 97kg. The defending champion will be seeded third and looking for his seventh gold medal at the competition.

The field includes top seed world bronze medalist Artur OMAROV (CZE), Zagreb Open winner and second seed Abubakar KHASLAKHANAU (AIN), former world bronze medalist Artur SARGSIAN (AIN), 2022 European champion Kiril MILOV (BUL), Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN), Tamas LEVAI (HUN) and Felix BALDAUF (NOR).

Milov is making a comeback since his silver medal at the 2023 European Championships as he suffered a career-threatening injury that also forced him to skip the World Championships.

Last year, Victor CIOBANU (MDA) and Kerem KAMAL (TUR) offered an action-packed bout and the two are expected to clash again. Since Kamal is unseeded, he can meet Ciobanu in any round of the bracket. 

Ciobanu, the returning silver medalist, reached the final of the Zagreb Open but pulled out, handing the victory to Sadyk LALAEV (AIN). Lalaev is entered to compete in Bucharest and Ciobanu will be keen to have a go this time.

Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) and Pridon ABULADZE (GEO) will be part of the bracket but with defending champion Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) moving to 63kg, the 60kg weight class will have a new European champion.

Nazaryan's task to win the 63kg weight class won't be a walk in the park as he has to face world and defending champion Leri ABULADZE (GEO). Zhambolat LOKYAEV (AIN) and Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) will also look to win the gold medal.

Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE)Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) is the defending champion at 67kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) has had a tough time since winning the gold medal at 67kg at the last European Championships as he lost the final of the World Championships and then got pinned at the Zagreb Open. But he will look to return to gold-winning ways in Bucharest.

Jafarov will be the favorite to win the gold medal despite the likes of Gagik SNJOYAN (FRA), Morten THORESEN (NOR), Sebastian NAD (SRB) and Murat FIRAT (TUR) in the weight class.

82kg world champion Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) will be eyeing another European title after skipping the last edition. Huseynov won the world title in 2021 but failed to repeat in 2022. He moved back to 82kg for the 2023 edition and won the gold medal.

He will have a young field to navigate as former U20 world champion Islam ALIEV (AIN) is joined by multiple-time age-group world medalist Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA) and U20 world champion Alperen BERBER (TUR).

Azerbaijan has another chance at winning the gold medal at 72kg defending champion Ulvu GANIZADE (AZE) returns to defend his title. He will face the likes of Krisztian VANCZA (HUN), Mate NEMES (SRB), Selcuk CAN (TUR) and Parviz NASIBOV (UKR) among others.

At 55kg, Adem UZUN (TUR) had a dream run last year, winning the gold medal. He will look to repeat as the champion even though Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO), who suffered a 13-3 semifinal loss to Uzun, hopes to finally win the European title. Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) has decided to skip the tournament.


Akgul adds 11th Euro gold to help Turkiye wins team title

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (February 18) -- The final ended like all the previous ones between Taha AKGUL (TUR) and Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO). Akgul built a lead and Petriashvili tried making a comeback. However, Akgul was strong enough to hold off his Georgian rival and won yet another European title.

Petriashvili came close this year to beating Akgul but fell short. Akgul extended his record of European gold medals to 11 after the 5-4 win in the 125kg weight class. Akgul has won 11 European gold medals in 12 years and is already the most successful Freestyle wrestler in European history.

The record for most European titles is jointly held by Aleksandar KARELIN and Riza KAYAALP (TUR) as both have 12 titles. Akgul's Turkish teammate in Greco-Roman Kayaalp had the opportunity to break that record in Bucharest but suffered a loss in the 130kg final to Sergei SEMENOV (AIN).

There was no such heartbreak for Akgul as he paced his final to perfection against his arch-rival. Petriashvili was warned for open fingers on the face and was penalized for it with one point. Akgul scored a stepout and then got another point for Petriasvili's passivity, leading 3-0.

Akgul remained cautious of Petriashvili's attacks and countered one of them to score a takedown for two points and extended his lead to 5-0. With a minute remaining, Petriashvili did get two takedowns but he could not get the winning point needed as the clock expired.

"I am so happy. I had a final with Geno PETRIASHVILI (GEO) and it is always hard," Akgul said. "This is my 11th European gold which is a record. I prepared well for this tournament. This is like practice because we are preparing for the Paris Olympics."

Before the final, Akgul won his three bouts via superiority and he was so dominant that two of his bouts finished before the break while the semifinal ended before time. Akgul wishes to repeat the performance in coming tournaments, especially the Olympics.

"I will now prepare for the Olympics," he said. "I am 34 years old. Of course, my energy is not like the young wrestlers. I am doing more conditioning and weightlifting. I am a technical wrestler but I am working hard."

The final against Petriashvili was even more significant as the Freestyle team title depended on it. Turkiye had 115 points going into the final while Georgia had 110 points. An Akgul win would clinch the title for Turkiye with 140 points to Georgia's 130 while a win for Petriashvili will hand Georgia the title despite both countries being tied at 135 points as Georgia has more gold medals.

"Our team won the team title in Freestyle after 31 years," Akgul said. "That is also a big success because Freestyle is so difficult and so many teams are coming. I am the captain so I am happy. My last match against Georgia was also important because if I won, Turkiye would win the title, and if Petriashvili won, Georgia would win the team title."

Another big contribution to Turkiye's historic team title win was Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) defending his 92kg European title. He gold gave Turkiye 25 points which pushed it over Georgia in the race.

In Bucharest, Akturk pulled off two top wins, beating Mariani MAISURADZE (GEO) in the semifinal and Boris MAKOEV (SVK) in the final. Makoev could never find an opening in the whole match which Akturk won 8-0, thus becoming a three-time European champion.

Kurugliev, Salkazanov repeat

Daruen KURGULIEV (GRE) added another European gold medal to his resume after he defeated Myles AMINE (SMR) for a second straight year. Kurguliev scored a stepout and later got another point for Amine's inactivity, giving him a 2-0 lead. Amine kept attacking Kurugliev's legs but could not score a takedown. The referee cautioned Kurugliev for fleeing late in the match which gave Amine a point.

But as Amine made his last attempt to score in the final 15 seconds, Kurugliev grabbed Amine's leg and bent it more than 90 degrees forcing the referee to stop the bout with three seconds on the clock left. Kurugliev got the breather he needed and defended the last three seconds with ease.

Tajmuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) extended his European title run to four gold medals, winning the 74kg final against Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR).

Salkazanov hit a double-leg 10 seconds into the final and scored two points. He went into a shell for the remaining first period and was put on the clock in the second period. However, he scored a stepout within the activity period to avoid any trouble and lead 3-0.

Demirtas made a desperate attempt to get a takedown in the final seconds but Salkazanov kept his distance and even scored a takedown on the counter to win 5-0.

At 61kg, Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (AIN) won his second European title after beating Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB), his second straight silver medal at the European Championships.


Magomedov, a world silver medalist, was the first to get the activity period against his name but he scored a stepout during that to lead 1-0. Abakarov responded with a big throw that Magomedov did well to not land in danger and give up only two points.

The lead exchanged hands when Magomedov scored a takedown. But in one sequence, Abakarov scored two points via exposure while Magomedov was given only one for reversal. However, on challenge, Magomedov got two points to lead 5-4.

Abakarov tried the same exposure lift again but Magomedov defended well before elevating Abakarov and scoring a takedown to win 7-4 and denying Albania its second European champion in two days.



Abasgadzhi MAGOMEDOV (AIN) df. Zelimkhan ABAKAROV (ALB), 7-4

BRONZE: Nuraddin NOVRUZOV (AZE) df. Georgi VANGELOV (BUL), 7-3

GOLD: Taimuraz SALKAZANOV (SVK) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 5-0


GOLD: Dauren KURUGLIEV (GRE) df. Myles AMINE (SMR), 2-1

BRONZE: Arsenii DZHIOEV (AZE) df. Arslan BAGAEV (AIN), 6-4
BRONZE: Osman GOCEN (TUR) df. Vasyl MYKHAILOV (UKR), 8-0

GOLD: Feyzullah AKTURK (TUR) df. Boris MAKOEV (SVK), 8-0

BRONZE: Miriani MAISURADZE (GEO) df. Andrian GROSUL (MDA), 7-0
BRONZE: Magomed KURBANOV (AIN) df. Denys SAHALIUK (UKR), via fall (8-0)