Iran, Georgia, Azerbaijan send talented stars for U20 Worlds

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 11) -- Before they take over the senior level in the coming years, a host of young Greco-Roman stars will land in Sofia to announce themselves at the U20 World Championships. The classic style will be in action in the Bulgarian capital from August 19, after the freestyle and women's wrestling.

While some of them have already participated in senior competitions, a few have burst into the scene by winning the continental tiles this year. And some others will resume their growing rivalries.

Emre MUTLU (TUR)Emre MUTLU (TUR) is a U23 European champion. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

The 55kg is a prime example of the quality of the wrestlers that are entered for the tournament. U23 European champion and bronze medalist at the senior level Emre MUTLU (TUR) is eyeing a world title after impressive runs at continentals.

But he is not the favorite. After winning the U23 Euros in February, he suffered a 3-1 loss against Denis MIHAI (ROU) at the U20 Euros.

Mihai reached the final but could not move past Nihad GULUZADE (AZE), a U23 world bronze medalist, who will now hope to get the U20 world title in Sofia.

But U20 Asian champion Seyedarash NEGAHDARI (IRI) looked in solid form in Bahrain and will be a threat at 55kg along with '21 U17 world champion Luka JAVAKHADZE (GEO).

Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM)Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM), red, won the U20 European title by beating Dimitri KHACHIDZE (GEO) in the final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Azerbaijan has a returning bronze medalist at 60kg in Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) who also won the same medal at the U20 European Championships which was won by Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM).

The Armenian finished 15th at last year's U20 Worlds but has since improved and won the continental title over Mammadali and Dimitri KHACHIDZE (GEO).

But Saeid Morad ESMAEILI (IRI) will be the favorite to win the gold as he looks to make amends from last year. While he was not on the Iran team for U20 Asians, Esmaeili is a silver medalist from Ufa.

He is joined by Mert ILBARS (TUR) who was a bronze medalist and a former U17 world silver medalist. Ilbars suffered a shock 4-2 loss to Olivier SKRZYPCZAK (POL) at the U20 Europeans.

Pan-Am champion Ronaldo RAMIREZ (COL) will be making the long trip to Sofia as well. He won the gold medal over Jeremy PERALTA (ECU) after a wild 14-10 final. Peralta's semifinal against Edwin MIRANDA (PER) ended with a 21-19 scoreline.

Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI)Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) will be hoping to add a world title to his continental one. (Photo: UWW / Bayrem Ben Mrad)

At 63kg, former U17 world bronze Arman VARDANYAN (ARM) and U23 European silver Ziya BABASHOV (AZE) will look to make the run to the final. The two have the experience to outclass their opponents.

Another wrestler who has impressed in the past year is U20 Asian champion Iman Khoon MOHAMMADI (IRI) who also won the bronze medal at the senior Asians in May.

Pan-Am champion Haiden DRURY (USA) was dominant in Mexico and will be the USA's medal hope.

Bulgaria would have liked U20 European champion Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) to enter the home tournament but the senior European silver medalist has decided to sit out.

Two continental champions are likely to clash at 67kg as U20 European champ Nika BROLADZE (GEO) and Asian champ Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) are entered. Broladze won the gold in Rome to add to his U17 world bronze medal from 2019 while Sohrabi is yet to win a world medal. He suffered a first-round loss in Ufa.

Trying to stop them are Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) who won a bronze medal at U20 Euros, Ufa ninth-placer Din KOSHKAR (KAZ), Erlan MARS UULU (KGZ) who won silver at U20 Asians at 72kg and Asia and U17 world bronze medalist Ankit GULIA (IND).

Attila TOESMAGI (HUN)Attila TOESMAGI (HUN) is the favorite to win the 72kg weight class in Sofia. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Hungary can hope to crown a world champion as U20 European gold medalist Attila TOESMAGI (HUN) is registered at 72kg. He won the title by beating Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) 2-1 in a close final. Gurbanov will look to avenge that loss and add to his two previous world medals, both at the U17 level.

U20 Asian champion Amir ABDI (IRI) would be itching to win a World Championships medal after finishing fifth in Ufa and later at the U23 Worlds in Belgrade. He won the Asian title without conceding a single point and will hope to continue the same form in Sofia.

The field also has '21 U17 world champion Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), European bronze medalists Omer DOGAN (TUR) and Temuri ORJONIKIDZE (GEO), and Pan-Am champion Richard FEDALEN (USA).

Alexandrin GUTU (MDA)Alexandrin GUTU (MDA) is returning bronze medalist at 77kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

U23 European champion Khasay HASANLI (AZE) had a disappointing U20 tournament as he lost 3-1 to Yuksel SARICICEK (TUR) and will be hoping to bounce back for the U20 Worlds at 77kg.

Returning bronze medalist Alexandrin GUTU (MDA) defended his U20 European title and will now hope to add a world title to his U17 one which he won in 2018. Overall, Gutu has had a mixed career since 2018, failing to enter the finals of four World Championships since then.

In Sofia, he may have to go past familiar opponents in Tornike MIKELADZE (GEO) and European bronze medalists Deni NAKAEV (GER) and Yuksel SARICICEK (TUR).

U20 Asian champion Samandar BOBONAZAROV (UZB) and silver to him Masoud KAVOUSI GHAFI (IRI) are also entered along with Pan-Am champion Guilherme DE ARRUDA (BRA) who outscored his opponents 50-1 in the five bouts in Mexico.

Alperen BERBER (TUR)Alperen BERBER (TUR) was crowned the U17 world champion in July. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Former U17 world champ and U20 European champion Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO) will start as the favorite to win the gold at 82kg. He defeated Rauf ALIYEV (AZE), Ruslan ABDIIEV (UKR), Hamza SERTCANLI (SWE) and Jonni SARKKINEN (FIN) to win the gold in Rome. All but Sertcanli are entered for the Sofia Worlds.

Sarkkinen will be hoping for a rematch so he can avenge his 9-4 loss in the final. If he manages to win the title in Sofia, Sarkkinen will be Finland's fifth U20 world champion and first since 2018.

But recently crowned U17 world champion Alperen BERBER (TUR) can prove to be the dark horse of the weight class as he tries to win a second world title in three weeks.

European bronze medalists Abdiiev and Ilia CERNOVOL (MDA) along with U20 Asian champion Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) will be the other names to follow.

Lachin VALIYEV (AZE)U20 European champion Lachin VALIYEV (AZE) finished fifth in Ufa. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor) 

Wrestling at his final U20 World Championships, Lachin VALIYEV (AZE) will like to sign off on a winning note in the 87kg weight class. He won the U20 European title last month and has a U17 world title from 2019 but since failed to medal at the two U20 Worlds, finishing fifth in Ufa.

Another wrestler who won the continental title and is returning from Ufa is Maksat SAILAU (KAZ), who finished eighth last year.

Both European bronze medalists Nikolaos IOSIFIDIS (GRE) and Vigen NAZARYAN (ARM) are entered along with Asian silver Azamatjon ABDUBANNOBOV (UZB).

Gabriel LUPASCO (MDA) and U20 European silver Patrik GORDAN (ROU) can upset any wrestler in the field and will be big threats to win a medal.

Richard KARELSON (EST)Richard KARELSON (EST) can become Estonia's first-ever medalist at U20 Worlds. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Estonia has never won a medal at the U20 Worlds but Richard KARELSON (EST) may change that as the U20 European champion enters the competition carrying the responsibility of ending the drought. In Rome, he became the first Estonia wrestler to win the continental title at the U20 level and the second to enter the final.

Incidentally, the first ever Estonian to reach the U20 European final was also named Richard KARELSON (EST), who achieved the feat in 1981.

But to create history, Karelson will have a strong field of European and Asian wrestlers. U20 Asian Championships finalists Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ) and Nurmanbet RAIMALY UULU (KGZ) are hoping to win a title as well.

Add U20 European silver Connor SAMMET (GER) who is hoping to avenge his final's loss to Karelson and both bronze medalists Maans KLOSTERMANN (SWE) and Oktay DEMIR (TUR).

Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI)Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) is the U20 Asian champion. (Photo: UWW / Bayrem Ben Mrad)

The 130kg weight class has more than one contender eyeing world glory. U20 European champion Mykhailo VYSHNYVETSKYI (UKR) and silver medalist Adolf BAZSO (HUN) may have a rematch in Sofia with Bazso hoping to reverse the result from the continentals.

Fardin HEDAYATI (IRI) won the Asian title over Temurbek NASIMOV (UZB) and both are entered. Nasimov has the experience of wrestling at last year's Worlds.

European bronze medalists Albert VARDANYAN (ARM) and Dominik KRAWCZYK (POL) would like to upset the two European finalists after missing out on in Rome.


Iran crowns trio of U20 world champs, wins team title

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 21) -- When Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) was in Bulgaria last time, he was wrestling at his first senior tournament at the Dan Kolov in Sofia. Mohmadipiani finished with a bronze medal after losing the semifinal to European silver medalist Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the semifinal.

Despite the loss, Mohmadipiani took home a lesson from the loss of being on the attack from the word go in a bout.

He used a similar strategy in the 82kg final against '21 U17 world champion Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO) to win the gold medal at the U20 World Championships in Sofia.

Mohmadipiani was one of the three gold medalists for Iran on Sunday as the latest edition of the U20 World Championships came to an end with Iran winning the Greco-Roman title with 174 points. Azerbaijan finished second with 119 points while Ukraine managed to jump to third with 93 points.

The two other gold medals on Sunday were captured by wrestlers from Azerbaijan. A historic bronze medal was also won by Richard KARELSON (EST), becoming the first-ever medalist from the country at U20 Worlds.

For Iran, Mohmadipiani had the most convincing victory even though he faced one of the most accomplished wrestlers entered in the competition.

18-year-old Bolkvadze began aggressively against Mohmadipiani but lost some steam as the bout went on. He was called passive and Mohmadipiani failed to get a turn. But 20 seconds later, Mohmadipiani got him into a body lock and pushed him to the mat to get four points.

In the second period, Bolkvadze got the opportunity to level scores but he failed to get any points from par terre.

Bolkvadze struggled to keep up with the pace of the bout and the referee warned him for blocking. On the second warning, he was cautioned with two points. Mohmadipiani got the win when Bolkvadze received his second caution and two points.

"Bolkvadze is a good wrestler and he won a gold medal last year [at U17," Mohmadipiani said. "I won the Asian Championships. So great bout but I won against him at the end."

With the U20 title in the bag, the Iran youngster is hoping to quickly move to seniors from next year onwards. But he knows the challenge that comes with it.

"The weight class has many good wrestlers," he said. "We have Azerbaijan [Rafig HUSEYNOV] and Turkey [Burhan AKBUDAK] but I'm well trained and I think I can win.”

Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI)Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) defeated Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 60kg, Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) had all but lost the gold to Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) as he trailed 6-2 with 22 seconds left in the final. But Esmaeili got his hands around Aghajanyan’s waist before moving into a bearhug and he secured a four-point throw to win 6-6.

Aghajanyan scored exposure from par terre to lead 3-2 before Esmaeili scored a takedown on the edge just before the break.

In the second period, Esmaeili worked more but there was no passivity call as Aghajanyan scored two stepouts to lead 5-2.

Esmaeili tried going for a takedown but his hands moved below the Aghajanyan’s waist and the move was illegal. Iran challenged the call but lost. It seemed that the final was all locked up when the U20 Asian champion stunned Aghajanyan, and the crowd with the throw to take the criteria lead.

Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI)Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) scored six stepout points against Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ) in the 97kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

The third gold medal for Iran came in emphatic fashion as Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) won the 97kg weight class over Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ).

Matsiyev took a 4-0 lead with a stepout and turn from par terre and Abedidarzi was struggling to get going with his attacks. But just before the break, he scored two stepouts and Matsiyev was hit with caution for fleeing.

Abedidarzi scored three more stepouts in the second period to claim the lead 5-4. When Matsiyev was called passive, Abedidarzi continued the bout from standing and scored three points to win 9-4.

Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE)Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the gold at 67kg after beating Nika BROLADZE (GEO). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Azerbaijan won the remaining two gold medals as Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the 67kg weight class while Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) won at 72kg.

Abdullazade wrestled Nika BROLADZE (GEO) in the final and fell when the latter took the 1-1 criteria lead. Broladze planned to keep the lead until the end of the six minutes but Abdullazade scored a stepout with a minute and 13 seconds left.

Broladze, with time running out, tried to throw Abdullazade but both wrestlers fell with no control. But in the same sequence, Abdulladze managed to run around and score a go-behind to extend his lead to 4-1 for the win.

Gurban GURBANOV (AZE)Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) celebrates after emerging as the champion at 72kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Gurbanov had a similar script for his final as he defeated Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0, in the 72kg final. Perhaps he did not plan to get the first passivity point but Solovei was called passive and forced into par terre.

The former U17 world champion got the turn using a gut wrench to lead 3-0 at the break. He then continued to wrestle aggressively in the second period and Solovei was again called passive. This time Gurbanov did not get the turn but the score read 4-0.

Solovei got his chance to score when the third passivity was called against Gurbanov but Solovei had nothing left in him to turn the Azerbaijan wrestler.

Richard KARELSON (EST)Richard KARELSON (EST), blue, won Estonia's first-ever medal at U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Estonia’s historic medal

No Estonia Greco-Roman wrestler even won a medal at the U20 Worlds but Richard KARELSON (EST) changed that on Sunday as he won a bronze medal in the 97kg weight class after beating Roman BALCHIVSCHII (MDA), 8-0, in the bronze medal bout.

In June, Karelson had become the first U20 European champion from Estonia in Greco-Roman. He was the second ever Estonian Greco-Roman wrestler to enter the final.

Incidentally, his father is also named Richard.

“It’s a great feeling,” Karelson said. “I hope I can work on this and win at the U23 Worlds as well. I know that the competition will be harder than this.

Karelson's father was the one who forced his son into wrestling after he was growing too fast.

In the previous two U20 Worlds, Karelson had finished 15th in Ufa and 12th in Tallin, his hometown. But with the bronze medal in Sofia, Karelson hopes he can lift his performance moving forward.

"The U20 European gold and this bronze medal will help me get some funds," he said. "Now I hope to continue this performance and train more."

With the U17 and U20 behind, the action now moves on to the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in two weeks. 

IranIran won the Greco-Roman team title at the U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)



BRONZE: Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) df. Koto GOMI (JPN), 3-3 


BRONZE: Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) df. Nestori MANNILA (FIN), 11-2

GOLD: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) df. Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0

BRONZE: Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR) df. Igor BOTEZ (ROU), 7-6




BRONZE: Rohit DAHIYA (IND) df. Ruslan ABDIIEV (UKR), 8-7 (via cautions)
BRONZE: Alperen BERBER (TUR) df. Fares GHALY (EGY), 9-1


BRONZE: Nurmanbet RAIMALY UULU (KGZ) df. Luka KATIC (SRB), 9-0