Despite the absence of superstars Rafiq Huseynov and Sanan Suleymanov in the Matteo Pellicone lineup, Azerbaijan’s young core of rising stars showed how poised they are to carry the baton when it’s ready to be handed over.
Azerbaijan built a commanding 59-point lead over Hungary in the team title race after the opening day of the third Ranking Series event of the season. Murad Mammadov, Taleh Mammadov and Hasrat Jafarov moved into at least the top four of the world rankings, while Islam Abbasov leaped into the top ten by winning gold medals last night.
Hungary sits in second place with 69 points, but more importantly, they may have locked in their World Championships roster after the in-country battle at 87kg and 97kg.
In the all-Azeri battle at 60kg, Murad Mammadov used his size to overpower the smaller Eldaniz Azizli, who was up from his world and European title-winning weight of 55kg.
Mammadov was creative with his lifts from the par terre position, picking up a four-pointer after earning a mid-period inactivity point. The 2021 world bronze medalist carried that momentum into the second period and exposed Azizli for two points before throwing the former world champ for the 9-1 win.
Mammadov will represent Azerbaijan at the World Championships at 60kg. He came into the Matteo Pellicone ranked fifth in the world, but after collecting 8000 first-place Ranking Series points, he leaped Kenichiro Fumita of Japan and is now ranked fourth in the world with 48,500 points.
Azizli will now move back to his normal weight of 55kg in preparation for Belgrade.
In the 63kg finals, Taleh Mammadov handed Azerbaijan their second gold medal of the night. The European runner-up upset reigning 60kg world champion Victor banu of Moldovia in a chippy final that featured multiple stoppages due to repeated head butts from both parties.
But in the end, Mammadov picked up the 4-2 win and earned 8000 Ranking Series points. That pushed him ahead of Iranian Meysam Dalkhani for the No. 2 ranking with 49,200 points. He’s now only 800 points shy of stealing the top seed at the World Championships from Georgia’s Leri Abuladze, who has 50,000 points.
The future of Azeri Greco-Roman wrestling, Jafarov cruised to his first Ranking Series gold medal with a blistering 9-0 win over Furkan Yildiz of Turkey. He closed out his Ranking Series debut by outscoring his four opponents, 34-3.
In the final, Jafarov, last year’s U20 and U23 world champion, scored four points in the first period after stopping a Yildiz headlock and then transitioned into a correct throw. The up-and-comer only needed 32 seconds in the second period to toss Yildiz to his back for the easy 9-0 win.
Jafarov came into the Matteo Pellicone with 36,500 points and was ranked sixth in the world at 67kg. However, he earned 8,000 points for his gold medal and jumped Nazir Abdullaev of Russia, Murat Firat of Turkey and Parviz Nasibov of Ukraine to be ranked No. 3 in the world with 44,500 points.
Islam Abbasov was the fourth Azeri wrestler who claimed gold on the first day of wrestling.
In the anticlimactic 87kg gold medal match, Abbasov traded inactivity points with Erik Szilvassy of Hungary, but his second-period inactivity was the difference in the finals.
Abbasov had 22,900 points before the competition, but after collecting 11,000 points on Wednesday, he now has 33,900. That’s good enough to push him up to No. 9 in the world rankings.
With his daughter and wife on hand in Italy, Riza Kayaalp of Turkey returned to the mat after dealing with personal matters and improved on his bronze-medal Ranking Series finish from earlier this year. The Turkish big man picked up a four-point shutout win over Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sabah Shariati of Azeerbaijan.
Kayaalp grabbed up a stepout point after being handed an inactivity point with 40 seconds left in the first period. Then, the four-time world champ tacked on two additional points with a reverse lift and carried the 4-0 lead into the second period.
After a scoreless second frame, Kayaalp hung on to the four-point win and claimed the third Ranking Series title of his career.
Now, the question that begs to be answered: what will Turkey do at 130kg for the Belgrade World Championships? Their first option, most would think, would be Kayaalp. But Osman Yildirim of Turkey is undefeated in the season, with a pair of 2022 Ranking Series titles to his name. Not to mention, Yildirim won gold at the Yasar Dogu, where Kayaalp fell in the semifinals and fought back to win a bronze medal.
Coming into the Matteo Pellicone, Hungary entered multiple wrestles into 87kg and 97kg, hoping it would help the Federation determine their world team roster.
David Losonczi may have locked himself into the Hungarian lineup at 97kg after winning gold in Rome.
In a reasonably slow 97kg finals match, Losonczi hung on to beat Italy’s own Nikoloz Kakhelashvili, 2-1. The determining factor in the gold-medal match was Losonczi’s push-out in the first period after trading inactivity points with Kakhelashvili.
Losonczi came to Italy fighting with Alex Szoke of Hungary for the start spot.
Szoke lost to Kakhelashvili in the semifinals, and with Losonczi’s win against the Italian, he’s almost a shoo-in for the World Championships at 97kg.
Another weight Hungary was looking for clarification on was 87kg, where Szilvassy, and the Hungarian duo of Istvan Takacs and Tamas Levai were in a tight race.
Szilvassy proved to be Hungary’s top option after finishing in second place and beating Levai en route to the finals.
Takacs and Levai fought back and won bronze medals despite falling in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively.
In the three-man 55kg Nordic-style bracket, Iranian Mohammad Hosseinvand picked up the gold medal with his 11-7 come-from-behind win over Rumanian Florin Tita.
Panahisani showed his never-say-die Iranian attitude against the Romanian in their opening-round match. He was in jeopardy of giving up the technical superiority after falling behind 7-0 in the first period. But in the second period, the Iranian stormed back to score 11 unanswered points and win his first Ranking Series title.
GOLD – Mohammad HOSSEINVAND (IRI)
SILVER – Florin TITA (ROU)
BRONZE – Max NOWRY (USA)
GOLD – Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) df. Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE), 9-1
BRONZE – Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) df. Helary MAEGISALU (EST),10-0
GOLD – Taleh MAMMADOV (AZE) df. Victor CIOBANU (MDA), 4-2
BRONZE – Razvan ARNAUT (ROU) df. Justas PETRAVICIUS (LTU), via inj. def.
GOLD – Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) df. Furkan YILDIZ (TUR), 9-0
BRONZE – Mohammad REZAEI (IRI) df. Niklas OEHLEN (SWE), 7-2
BRONZE – Tigran GALUSTYAN (FRA) df. Mihai MIHUT (ROU), 3-1
GOLD – Islam ABBASOV (AZE) df. Erik SZILVASSY (HUN), 1-1
BRONZE – Istvan TAKACS (HUN) df. Alex KESSIDIS (SWE), via inj. def.
BRONZE – Tamas LEVAI (HUN) df. Kristoffer BERG (SWE), 9-1
GOLD – David LOSONCZI (HUN) df. Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA), 2-1
BRONZE – Alex SZOKE (HUN) df. Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI), 7-4
BRONZE – Arvi SAVOLAINEN (FIN) df. Aleksandar STJEPANETIC (SWE), 8-0
GOLD – Riza KAYAALP (TUR) df. Sabah SHARIATI (AZE), 4-0
BRONZE – Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) df. Oskar MARVIK (NOR), 6-3
BRONZE – Beka KANDELAKI (AZE) df. Cohlton SCHULTZ (USA), 4-2