Cengiz vs Losonczi on cards, Kayaalp eyes European record
Wednesday, February 7, 2024 - 10:47 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.
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) 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.