Nine return to defend European titles in Women's Wrestling

By Vinay Siwach

BUCHAREST, Romania (February 5) -- Nine out of the ten Women's Wrestling European champions will return to the European Championships, hoping to defend their gold medals in Bucharest next week. The one not coming, Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR) is yet to recover from an injury which also kept her out of the World Championships.

Two of them, Andreea ANA (ROU) and Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU), will be the most keen on repeating as European champions. In Zagreb last year, they gave the double gold to Romania but next week, wrestling at home will give them extra motivation to repeat.

Ana and Anghel will be in the non-Olympic weight classes 55kg and 72kg respectively. Ana is a two-time European champion and will be the favorite in Bucharest. If any, former age-group European champion Ekaterina VERBINA (AIN) can trouble Ana as she returns to competition. Ukraine is sending Mariia VYNNYK (UKR) while Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA), Roksana ZASINA (POL) and Tuba DEMIR (TUR) are also in the field.

Anghel, who defeated 68kg world champion Buse TOSUN (TUR) to win the gold medal at 72kg last year, can have a tougher time this year. 68kg European champion Yuliana YANEVA (BUL) is moving to 72kg after losing her place to Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) at 68kg. Kendra DACHER (FRA), age-group world medalist Wiktoria CHOLUJ (POL), U23 world champion Nesrin BAS (TUR) and Anastasiya ALPYEYEVA (UKR) are also in this weight class.

Yasemin ADAR (TUR)Yasemin ADAR (TUR) is a six-time European champion. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

2022 world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) is returning to the mat after one year, having skipped all competitions after the 2023 Euros. She will, despite her time off, be the favorite to win the 76kg gold medal. Adar is chasing her seventh European title after six golds and a silver medal.

Former European champion Epp MAE (EST) will be her biggest threat as she also looks to return after a medalless World Championships. Mae recently trained in Japan with world champion Yuka KAGAMI (JPN). Anastasiia OSNIACH SHUSTOVA (UKR) will also hope to make the final.

Turkiye's world champion in 2023, Tosun will be at 68kg. She had a disastrous start to the year, losing her first-round bout at the Zagreb Open Ranking Series in January. Tosun will look to put that behind her and start afresh for the Bucharest tournament.

To avoid any disappointments, Tosun will have to navigate past world bronze medalist Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), 65kg European champion Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) and former European champion Tetiana SOVA RIZHKO (UKR). Larroque won the European Championships gold medal in 2021 and will be keen on getting back on the top of the podium.

Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (AIN)Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (AIN) will look to win her first European title since 2020. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)

Two world silver medalists, Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (AIN) at 53kg and Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) at 59kg, will also be in action in Bucharest.  

Kaladzinskaya last wrestled at the European Championships in 2020 and won the gold medal. She will start as the favorite at 53kg despite the likes of Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) and Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) entered for the tournament.

Kaladzinskaya won the silver medal at the World Championships, dropping the final to Akari FUJINAMI (JPN). It was her first competition since winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Malmgren, the two-time defending champion, will have her task cut out this year. She lost to Kaladzinskaya at the World Championships but that loss can only be a lesson for the former U20 world champion.

Former Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE), Ekaterina POLESHCHUK (AIN), Sztalvira ORSUS (HUN), Iulia LEORDA (MDA) and Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) can upset the field in Bucharest and finish on the podium.

Defending champion Nichita is the clear front-runner for the gold at 59kg. After finishing with a silver medal at the World Championships at 57kg, Nichita returned to competition in Zagreb but suffered a loss to Kexin HONG (CHN).

Nichita will be drawn at random into the bracket as she has no ranking at 59kg. The top seed will be Othelie HOIE (NOR), a returning European bronze medalist and world bronze medalist. Age-group world medalists Alesia HETMANAVA (AIN) and Anastasiia SIDELNIKOVA (AIN) can also finish on the podium.

Grace BULLEN (NOR)Grace BULLEN (NOR) and Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) put a thriller in the 62kg semifinal last year. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 62kg, world bronze medalist Grace BULLEN (NOR) will have a chance to win her first European gold medal since 2020. She was a silver medalist last after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) in the final. She will have a chance to win the gold medal this year. Koliadenko has moved to 65kg for this tournament and is replaced by veteran Yuliia TKACH (UKR) which will also be a big test for Bullen.

Tkach, the silver medalist at 59kg from last year, has moved to 62kg after world bronze medalist Koliadenko moved up to 65kg. Tkach has every trick up her sleeve to keep Bullen at bay. But the Norway wrestler has improved leaps and bounds in recent times and can be called the favorite for this event.

One wrestler who will be waiting keenly to meet Bullen on the mat is Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL). She suffered a 7-6 loss to Bullen in the semifinal last year and finished with a bronze medal. Dudova, a former world champion at 59kg, is still trying to find her feet at 62kg. The two can only meet in the final, thanks to being seeded one and two.

Former U20 world champion Alina KASABIEVA (AIN) will also like to finish on the podium.

Mariya STADNIK (AZE)Mariya STADNIK (AZE) became a nine-time European champion last year. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 50kg, Mariya STADNIK (AZE) will look to extend her record streak of 10 European titles [12 as she has two European Games gold as well]. Last year, Oksana LIVACH (UKR) gave Stadnik a scare in the final but the Azerbaijan wrestler controlled the second period to keep her energy and win the gold.

A year older at 35, Stadnik will once again be tested by the young wrestler who will be participating in Bucharest. Livach will look to avenge the loss from last year while Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) and Emilia VUC (ROU) will also have a chance to upset the wrestling legend.

The 57kg weight class will see a new European champion as Hrushyna has not entered for her title defense. Tokyo silver medalist Iryna KURACHKINA (AIN) will be the favorite along with returning silver medalist Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE) and bronze medalist Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL). Veteran Veronika CHUMIKOVA (AIN) and U20 world champion Aurora RUSSO (ITA) and former world bronze medalist Anhelina LYSAK (POL) are also entered.

World bronze medalist and returning silver medalist Irina RINGACI (MDA) will be at 65kg, hoping to win the gold that she dropped against Hristova last year. Ringaci will be tested by Taybe YUSEIN (BUL), Kriszta INCZE (ROU) and world bronze medalist at 62kg Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR).


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)