The second annual U23 European Championships are slated to begin next week (March 29th) in Bulgaria, but it isn’t likely going to be a tournament for the casual Greco Roman Wrestling fan to latch onto. The reason? It’s an Olympic year, which means the number one priority for just about all of the participating countries is qualifying. With two more qualifying tournaments on the docket still, teams are naturally holding back a good chunk of their under-23 studs who might be able to nail a spot down in either Mongolia or Turkey. Then again, maybe they want their wrestlers to get more matches in. Whatever. It’s always a convoluted topic, trying to figure out tournaments like this, especially when we’re dealing with teams which boast enormous depth.
Either way, there will be still be plenty of talent to pay attention to. Ruhin Mikayilov (AZE) will be competing at 71 kg. Mikayilov is a multiple-time junior world medalist at 66 kg and holds a number of other age-group titles. It will be interesting to see how he’ll perform at the higher weight. Perhaps his biggest rival, Shmagi Bolkvadze (GEO, world no. 13, junior world champ) is staying put at 66 and naturally enters as a strong favorite in his own bracket. Depending on the draw, of course, a final between Bolkvadze and Mate Nemes (world no. 18) would make for pretty good theater.
At 85 kg, Roberti Kobliashvili (GEO, world no. 10) is making an appearance coming off his outstanding performance at the European Championships just a couple of weeks ago, where he fell to world no. 1 Zhan Beleniuk (UKR) in the final. Kobliashvili has really started to assert himself at this weight, and it’s a good bet he will be tested at this event. Will former Cadet world champion Islam Abbasov be the one who is able to stir things up? Or could it be someone like Andrii Gladkykh (UKR) who rises to the occasion? 85 kg sure looks like an entertaining bracket to keep an eye on.
We will provide some developing storylines and updates as the tournament unfolds, including breakdowns of notable matches once they occur. The U23 European Championships got off to a great start last year, and the concept seems one that is embraced by the community. This year’s edition promises to provide a spotlight on some of the junior talent that has been waiting in the wings, so if you like making scouting reports, be sure to keep tabs on what goes next week in Bulgaria.
Main image: sport.akipress.org