#WrestleBudapest: Ukraine wins two golds on emotional day

By Vinay Siwach

BUDAPEST, Hungary (April 1) -- Alina HRUSHYNA AKOBIIA (UKR) was one of the 22-member Ukrainian team that gathered in Lviv, Ukraine on March 10.

After a traumatizing three-day journey by road, she reached Lviv and along with the team, stayed in the city for four days before leaving for Budapest, Hungary for a training camp. But as they left their homes and families behind, no one was able to concentrate on training at the camp in Budapest before the European Championships.

No one knew if they would ever return to their home, and like Akobiia, other wrestlers also spent some emotional days training in Budapest.

Those memories came bursting out of them as Akobiia claimed the first gold of the tournament for Ukraine and the chants of 'Ukarina, Ukarina' filled the Bok Sports Hall.

“I still can’t believe I’ve won the gold medal of the senior European championship," Akobiia said. "I’ve come through a tough way and a lot of people have helped me. But now, all of Ukraine has helped me. I am really happy."

Akobiia stunned Tokyo bronze medalist Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) in the 57kg final to claim the first gold of the tournament for her country. She was trailing 2-2 when Akobiia tripped Nikolova for four points with 39 seconds remaining. She won the final, 6-2.

Nikolova had been on an incredible run of seven wins via pin and it looked that Akobiia would be her latest victim but the Ukrainian managed to overpower Nikolova at the right time.

This was Akobiia's first-ever gold medal at the senior championships and it could not have been more special, as she dedicated the medal to Ukraine.

"I want to dedicate my gold to my parents and to my motherland Ukraine. These are the closest things to me," she said.

The fact that the team did not have a place to train until being allowed to train in Budapest made the 22-year-old's feat even more incredible. 

“It was really difficult to prepare mentally," she said. "Sometimes I would give up, but then I believed in myself again. My friends didn’t let me lose heart. I believed till the end that I could make it happen.

"Nobody even planned to go to the European Championships, we just wanted to save our lives. My family is still there and we worry a lot for them. But I am here and I am happy that I have proved that I am the strongest in this weight class."

Tetiana RIZHKOTetiana RIZHKO (UKR) pinned Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The second gold medal for the team went to Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) who pinned Tokyo Olympian Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) inside two minutes to win her maiden senior European gold. That medal from Rizhko sent another wave of emotional reactions not only in the Ukraine team but also in the stadium.

"It took me four days to reach Lviv, then we stayed there for three days because we couldn’t leave, then we came here to Hungary, we spent two weeks in a training camp," Rizhko said. "The wrestling association helped us a lot, the national team coaches who organized this trip. We have two gold."

Talking about her final, the Ukrainian said that she did not expect her to pin Manolova.

"I didn’t expect I would pin her so fast because the final was tough as there is high competition in my weight class," she said. "I am full of emotions. I am so glad we have such coaches and girls who came here with us."

Accompanying the team is the 2014 World Champions Yulia TAKCH (UKR), Tokyo medalist Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR), Tetyana KIT (UKR) and Oksana LIVACH (UKR) among others.

Since the team is a mix of young wrestlers as well, the senior wrestlers had to care for the younger ones.

"I had to distract the younger girls so they don't think about what is going on," Livach said. "We had to go through a lot and stay in shelters for two weeks. It was very emotional for everyone in the training."

But they did forget the difficult times, though momentarily, as the team ceremony happened.

"When the flag of Ukraine was going up, all I could think was about what the girls have done to reach here," Takch said. "The second place is still the first for us."

Emma MALMGRENJunior world champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE) won the 53kg gold in Budapest. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

In other finals, junior world champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE) defeated three-time Olympian Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE), 3-2, to win the gold medal at 53kg. 

The 20-year-old Malmgren trailed Prevolarki 2-2 at the break but she got a point for inactivity from Prevolaraki to lead 3-2 in the second period.

She defended that lead till the end to win Sweden's first gold at the senior European Championships after four years.

"It feels unreal for me to stand here," she said. "This has been a dream for me and I have worked so hard to stand here. So it feels good to walk home with the gold medal."

Malmgren had Yuliya RATKEVICH (AZE), who wrestled the Greek wrestler at the London Olympics, in her corner, and before the final, the two had a chat about how to tackle the veteran.

"We had a good plan before the match I just kept to it," she said. "She [Ratkevich] did tell me a lot of things about her and I am glad that they are here with me. Sofia [MATTSSON] on the phone. It came out very good."

Malmgren had a great tournament as she won her first bout 12-2 and the semifinal via fall. After a disappointing tournament in Istanbul where she was pinned, it came around well.

"I am satisfied with my wrestling over the two days," she said. "I was very disappointed after Istanbul and a little concerned. Now I am feeling very happy with the result. We have new coaches in Sweden and I will start working with them and continue going with them to camps around the world."

Taybe YUSEINTaybe YUSEIN (BUL) won her first gold at European Championships since 2019. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 62kg, Tokyo bronze medalist Taybe YUSEIN (BUL) managed to claim the gold with a comfortable 7-0 victory over Luisa NIEMESCH (GER). She kept the pressure on her German opponent and never looked in trouble.

"I was without the gold for two years at the European Championships," Yusein said. "It was good for me to come back and win the gold. My plan was to take advantage of my opponent's mistakes. It was a great bout."

Anna SCHELLAnna SCHELL (GER) gave Germany its first gold since 2007. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Anna SCHELL (GER) gave Germany its lone gold of the tournament as she pinned Buse TOSUN (TUR) at 72kg. The win was her second straight win over the Turkey wrestler and she will now be UWW's number one ranked wrestler at 72kg.

"It's the second final because in Istanbul I met her in the semifinal. Today was the second bout against her and it's great to win," Schell said.

Not only did she end Germany's 15-year wait for a women's wrestling gold at European Championships, but Schell also reached a personal landmark. The gold in Budapest was the first ever in her international career.

"It's amazing as I don't have a gold medal in international competition," Schell said.

Turkey won its maiden women's wrestling team title with 140 points while Ukraine finished second with 135 points. Bulgaria was third in the race.


WW Results


BRONZE: Iulia LEORDA (MDA) df Zeynep YETGIL (TUR), 3-2
BRONZE: Katarzyna KRAWCZYK (POL) df Liliia MALANCHUK (UKR), 14-4 


BRONZE: Tamara DOLLAK (HUN) df Elvira KAMALOGLU (TUR), 7-2
BRONZE: Sandra PARUSZEWSKI (GER) df Anhelina LYSAK (POL), 4-2

GOLD: Taybe YUSEIN (BUL) df Luisa NIEMESCH (GER), 7-0

BRONZE: Natalia KUBATY (POL) df Yagmur CAKMAK (TUR), 10-0
BRONZE: Ilona PROKOPEVNIUK (UKR) df Anna FABIAN (SRB), via inj. def.

GOLD: Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) df Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), via fall
BRONZE: Kriszta INCZE (ROU) df Sofiya GEORGIEVA (BUL), 4-3

Final standings

GOLD: Anna SCHELL (GER) df Buse TOSUN (TUR), via fall

BRONZE: Kendra DACHER (FRA) df Eleni PJOLLAJ (ITA), via fall
BRONZE: Yuliana YANEVA (BUL) df Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU), 3-3

GR Semifinal Results


SF 1: Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) df Rudik MKRTCHYAN (ARM), 7-3
SF 2: Nugzari TSURTSUMIA (GEO) df Artiom DELEANU (MDA), 9-0


SF 1: Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) df Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM), 3-1
SF 2: Leri ABULADZE (GEO) df Etienne KINSINGER (GER), 6-2

GOLD: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) vs Yunus BASAR (TUR)

SF 1: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) df Per OLOFSSON (SWE), 9-0
SF 2: Yunus BASAR (TUR) df Aik MNATSAKANIAN (BUL), 5-3


SF 1: Nicu OJOG (ROU) df Islam ABBASOV (AZE), via fall
SF 2: Turpan BISULTANOV (DEN) df Mirco MINGUZZI (ITA), 10-0


SF 1: Danila SOTNIKOV (ITA) df Franz RICHTER (GER), via fall
SF 2: Riza KAYAALP (TUR) df Beka KANDELAKI (AZE), 1-1


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.