Team USA Sends Four Wrestlers to #WrestleBudapest Finals

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (July 19) --- As soon as James MULLEN (USA) won his semifinal at 110kg, his USA teammate James ROWLEY (USA) began calculating the team scores. “That's 80 points,” he would shout to his team in the warm-up hall.

USA took a huge step towards the team title at the cadet World Championships which got underway in Budapest Monday as they entered four wrestlers in the five finals for Tuesday, the most for any country. India were the second best behind USA with two finalists while Russia, Iran, Georgia and Kazakhstan sending one each. Wrestlers from USA and India will meet in the two finals – 48kg and 80kg – on Tuesday.

That gives them a 30-point lead going into Tuesday which will see five more freestyle weight classes in action apart from the medal bouts of 48kg, 55kg, 65kg, 80kg and 110kg.

Two 15-year-olds made it to the final of 48kg in contrasting fashion as Pan Am champion Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) registered a thrilling win in the semifinals while Aman GULIA (IND) dominated his semifinal to win in a minute and five seconds.

Luke LILLEDHALE USALuke LILLEDAHL (USA) won his semifinal at 48kg 4-3. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Lilledahl, who trains in Missouri, will be looking to give himself an early birthday present, hopefully a gold, as he turn 16 years old in two weeks' time. He had a tough day in office as he began with a stunning 9-9 win over Akhmad MUSAKHADZHIEV (RUS) which saw USA challenge a call and winning it. He then handled Azim ABDYKALYKOV (KGZ) 8-1 before beating Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ) 4-3 in the semifinals. He needed a late takedown with a double to win the bout.

Assessing his bouts, Lilledahl said he could have done better but he is now preparing for his final against India.

“[My wrestling was] not the best and I still have work to do,” Lilledahl said. “I am representing my country so I have to do my best no matter what. [For the final], just prepare mentally and watch some videos.”

Gulia went for a leg-lace to finish his opponent Rezo MARSAGISHVILI (GEO) 10-0 in the semifinal. In the morning session he had conceded only one point while scoring 14.

The Indian stayed back to watch Lilledahl's semifinal and observed a few things before the two meet in the final on Tuesday.

“He only shows false attack and dodges,” Gulia said. “I'll watch his videos from today and then prepare for final.”

UWW Photo

At 55kg, the weight class where USA did not have a finalist, saw Russia and Kazakhstan advance. Magomed BAITUKAEV (RUS) had a few slip ups in the semifinal against Abdullah TOPRAK (TUR) but eventually managed to win 10-6.

The wrestler from Chechnya was unfazed by the occasion of a World Championships final and said he will prepare for it as he does for any other bout.

His opponent, Abdinur NURLANBEK (KAZ) looked in the zone as he defeated Vaibhav PATIL (IND) 6-4 in the semifinals. Earlier in the day, he had defeated returing fifth-place and 2021 cadet European silver medalist Javi JAVIDOV (AZE) 10-0.

Nurlanbek challenged a takedown from Patil which had given Indian the lead. Kazakhstan won the challenge and kept off Patil's late attacks for the win.

Patil had earlier in the day ended the hopes for cadet European champion Andranik AVETISYAN (ARM) with a cradle pin despite the Armenian leading. He also pulled off a four-point throw in the dying seconds against Husanboy USMONOV (UZB). But his strategy did not work against the Kazak.

Meyer SHAPIRO USAMeyer SHAPIRO (USA) will wrestle in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Meyer SHAPIRO (USA) was the second USA wrestler to reach the final. Like Lilledahl, he had to go through a Russian wrestler to reach the final against Giorgi GOGRITCHIANI (GEO).

After a pin to start his day. Shapiro wrestled Khabib ZAVURBEKOV (RUS) and both exchanged attacks before Shapiro went for a final one. He managed to come out on top 8-6 but such was the intensity of the bout that he thought he had lost.

“My second match was super tough,” Shapiro said. “Definitely the best kid in the bracket. Honestly, anything could have happened in the end and I thought I lost because I could not see the score board. I was freaking out but turns out I had won. Later, I brought the pieces together and wrestled hard in the semifinals.”

He did not waste any time in the semifinal to handed a 10-0 defeat to Aghanazar NOVRUZOV (AZE).

Gogritchiani, who trains in Racha, had a contrasting semifinal as he defeated Ali REZAEIAGHOUZGELEH (IRI) 6-6 after a successful challenge to reclaim his lead in the final minute. Two points were awarded to Iran but Georgia challenged the call and instead, the two points were awarded to Gogritchiani. The Iran wrestler did get two stepouts but those were not enough for the win.

“I wrestled very well,” he said. “In the last match with the Iranian I was sure I won those two points in the challenge. In tomorrow’s final I’ll do my best to get the gold medal.”

When Shapiro was asked who he is going to prepare for the final, he said he wanted to relax.

“I am not really worried about that,” he said. “I will watch a film [of Gogritchiani] and whatever happens, happens.”

Another India-USA was set at 80kg as Rowley made his way to wrestle Sagar JAGLAN (IND), defeating a Russian wrestler on the way.

Sagar JAGLAN INDSagar JAGLAN (IND) pinned Tornike SAMKHARADZE (GEO) in the semifinal at 80kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Rowley was slow to start as he wrestled Mustafagadzhi MALACHDIBIROV (RUS) in the 1/8 finals. A late takedown was what gave him an 8-6 win. In the quarterfinals, he picked up pace and defeated cadet European champion Oleksandr MAMROSH (UKR) before getting a technical superiority win over Gabriele NICCOLINI (ITA) 12-2.

“It kept getting better [for me],” Rowley said. “ My first match was slow and second was a little better. In the third, I blew him out of water.

“For the final, I will get the mindset right and win.”

He will face Jaglan in the final who won three out of his four bouts after trailing initially. But that was just another example of the exceptional motor skills of Indian wrestlers, made popular by Bajrang PUNIA (IND).

In the semifinal against cadet European Championships semifinalist Tornike SAMKHARADZE (GEO), he was trailing 4-6 as the Georgian struggled to catch his breath. Jaglan managed to put him on his back and get the fall.

A similar story saw him beat Radomir STOYANOV (BUL) in opening round. The Indian was trailing 1-9 but rebounded against a panting Stoyanov to win 15-10. Then against Musza ARSUNKAEV (UWW), he took advantage of a tiring opponent to win 14-9. A 12-4 win against Sattarkhan ALLAHVERDILI (AZE) earned him a place in the semifinal.

At 110kg, Amirreza MASOUMI VALADI (IRI) has begun well to follow his father's footsteps at the super-heavyweight category. Son of World Championships silver medalist and Beijing Olympic fifth placer Fardin MASOUMI VALADI, Amirreza stormed into the final with a 5-1 win over cadet European champion Ilia ZHIBALOV (RUS).

“Before coming here, I trained two months for this competition and I had great bouts,” Masoumi Valadi said.

He will face Pan-Am champion James MULLEN (USA) in the final. Mullen defeated Alikhan KUSSAINOV (KAZ) 7-1 in the semifinal.

Amirreza Fardin MASOUMI VALADI (IRI)Amirreza MASOUMI VALADI (IRI) will wrestle for gold at 110kg (Photo: UWW)



SF 2: Luke LILLEDAHL (USA) df Nurdanat AITANOV (KAZ), 4-3


SF 1: Magomed BAITUKAEV (RUS) df Abdullah TOPRAK (TUR), 10-6
SF 2: Abdinur NURLANBEK (KAZ) df Vaibhav PATIL (IND), 6-4


SF 2: Meyer SHAPIRO (USA) df Aghanazar NOVRUZOV (AZE), 10-0


SF 1: Sagar JAGLAN (IND) df Tornike SAMKHARADZE (GEO), via fall
SF 2: James ROWLEY (USA) df Gabriele NICCOLINI (ITA), 12-2


SF 1: Amirreza MASOUMI VALADI (IRI) df Ilia ZHIBALOV (RUS), 5-1
SF 2: James MULLEN (USA) df Alikhan KUSSAINOV (KAZ), 7-1


WATCH: 10 Greco-Roman Finals from European Championships

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (April 7) -- The European Championships saw 10 Greco-Roman champions being crowned. One of them, Riza KAYAALP (TUR), won his 11th European title and is now two away from breaking the all-time record 12.

Azerbaijan won the team title over Turkey while Georgia finished third in the title race. Azerbaijan had all ten wrestlers in medal bouts with eight coming home with at least a medal. Only two wrestlers failed to win a medal in Budapest.

Watch all the 10 gold medal bouts from the European Championships.

55kg GOLD - Eldaniz Azizli (AZE) vs Nugzari Tsurtsumia (GEO)

Azizli wrestled his rival and world champion from 2019 Nugzari Tsurtsumia (GEO). Prior to this meeting, the two had wrestled each other four times with Azizli enjoying a perfect 4-0 record over Tsurtsumia. He extended that record to 5-0 when he won 8-2 in the 55kg final.

Azizli got the point for his opponent's passivity and a roll gave him a 3-1 lead. Tsurtsumia tried exposing with a head pinch but in turn, ended up giving two points. In the same action, Azizli scored two more and led 7-1 with two minutes remaining before closing out the bout 8-2.


60kg GOLD - Kerem Kamal (TUR) vs Edmond Nazaryan (BUL)

Kerem KAMAL (TUR) was third time lucky in the final as he won the gold after previously losing two finals in 2020 and 2021. But in his third final in three years, he defeated former European champ Edmond NAZARYAN (BUL) 5-0 to win at 60kg.


63kg GOLD - Leri Abuladze (GEO) vs Taleh Mammadov (AZE)

Georgia did have a gold medalist Saturday as U23 World champion Leri Abuladze (GEO) added a European title to his resume. He wrestled Taleh Mammadov (AZE) in the 63kg final and controlled it well. His one scoring action in par terre in the second period was enough to give him a 3-1 win over Mammadov, his first in two meetings.


67kg GOLD - Murat Firat (TUR) vs Krisztian Vancza (HUN)

Murat FIRAT (TUR) denied Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) a gold medal at home. In the close final, Firat used an exposure close to the zone to win 3-1. Vancza had his chance to take the lead when Firat was called passive but he did not manage to score any points from par terre in the second period.


72kg GOLD - Robert Attila Fritsch (HUN) vs Shmagi Bolkvadze (GEO)

Robert FRITSCH (HUN) upset Rio bronze medalist Shmagi BOLKVADZE (GEO), 3-2, at the 72kg final. In one of the closest bouts of the tournament, Bolkvadze led 1-0 at the break for a passivity point. But Fritsch bounced back with a gut wrench from par terre to lead 3-1. A reversal point for Bolkvadze but his lead to 3-2 but he managed to hang on for the win.


77kg GOLD - Malkhas Amoyan (ARM) vs Yunus Emre Basar (TUR)

Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) won the 77kg European title. The world champion at 72kg was making his debut at 77kg and wrestled Yunus Basar (TUR) in the final. He was called passive and gave up a gut wrench to trail 3-0 at the break. But he got the same action using a chest wrap in the second period to lead 3-3 on criteria.

Turkey challenged the call asking for a leg foul but the judges found no negative wrestling which gave another point to Amoyan, extending his lead 4-3 with two minutes remaining.

The silver medalist from Warsaw European Championships was again called passive but this time Basar could not get any exposure from par terre as Amoyan let out a loud scream to celebrate his maiden gold at the continental championships.


82kg GOLD - Rafig Huseynov (AZE) vs Gela Bolkvadze (GEO)

In a historic feat, Rafiq HUSEYNOV (AZE) became the first-ever Azerbaijan wrestler to win three European titles. Wrestling Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the 82kg final, Huseynov gave up a point for passivity but defended the par terre position. Georgia asked for a challenge for Huseynov's fleeing but lost it. Huseynov got the second point from Bolkvadze's passivity and kept the 2-1 lead to win the gold.


87kg GOLD - Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) vs Nicu OJOG (ROU)

Bisultanov won the gold for Denmark at the European championship, outscoring his opponents 35-0 over two days and with his crowd-pleasing style became a fan favorite in Budapest. Wrestling Nicu Ojog (ROU) in the 87kg final, Bisultanov took only one minute and 13 seconds to finish the bout 8-0. In his four bouts, he did not wrestle the full six minutes in any, spending just over 13 minutes on the mat.


97kg GOLD - Kiril MILOV (BUL) vs Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN)

Kiril MILOV (BUL) upgraded from his silver in 2019. With fond memories of Budapest, he changed the color of his medal with an error-less performance in the final against Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN), 4-1. Milov got the match-deciding gut wrench in the second period to defeat the former U23 world champion Savolainen who won the title in Budapest three years ago.


130kg GOLD - Riza KAYAALP (TUR) vs Danila SOTNIKOV (ITA)

Riza Kayaalp (TUR) is on a mission to break Alexander Karelin (RWF) record of 12 European gold medals. He took another step closer to that by winning his 11th gold in Budapest. The four-time world champion defeated Danila Sotnikov (ITA), 4-0 in the 130kg final using a head-pinch exposure when the Italian was trying to push him out.