Nine return to defend European titles in Women’s Wrestling
Nine out of the ten European women’s wrestling champions will return to the European Championships, hoping to defend their gold medals in Bucharest next week. The one not coming, Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR), has yet to recover from an injury that kept her out of the World Championships, Vinay Siwach reports for United World Wrestling.
Two of them, Andreea ANA (ROU) and Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU), will be the most keen on repeating as European champions. In Zagreb last year, they gave the double gold to Romania, but next week, wrestling at home will give them extra motivation to repeat.
Ana and Anghel will be in the 55kg and 72kg of non-Olympic weight classes, respectively. Ana is a two-time European champion and will be the favorite in Bucharest. If any, former age-group European champion Ekaterina VERBINA (AIN) can trouble Ana as she returns to competition. Ukraine is sending Mariia VYNNYK (UKR), while Mariana DRAGUTAN (MDA), Roksana ZASINA (POL), and Tuba DEMIR (TUR) are also in the field.
Anghel, who defeated 68kg world champion Buse TOSUN (TUR) to win the gold medal at 72kg last year, can have a more challenging time this year. 68kg European champion Yuliana YANEVA (BUL) is moving to 72kg after losing her place to Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) at 68kg. Kendra DACHER (FRA), age-group world medalist Wiktoria CHOLUJ (POL), U23 world champion Nesrin BAS (TUR), and Anastasiya ALPYEYEVA (UKR) are also in this weight class.
Yasemin ADAR (TUR) is a six-time European champion. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
2022 world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) returns to the mat after one year, skipping all competitions after the 2023 Euros. Despite her time off, she will be the favorite to win the 76kg gold medal. Adar is chasing her seventh European title after six golds and a silver medal.
Former European champion Epp MAE (EST) will be her biggest threat as she also looks to return after a medalless World Championships. Mae recently trained in Japan with world champion Yuka KAGAMI (JPN). Anastasiia OSNIACH SHUSTOVA (UKR) also hopes to make the finals.
Turkiye’s world champion in 2023, Tosun, will be at 68kg. She had a disastrous start to the year, losing her first round at the Zagreb Open Ranking Series in January. Tosun will look to put that behind her and start afresh for the Bucharest tournament.
To avoid any disappointments, Tosun will have to navigate past world bronze medalist Koumba LARROQUE (FRA), Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), 65kg European champion Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) and former European champion Tetiana SOVA RIZHKO (UKR). Larroque won the European Championships gold medal in 2021 and will be keen on returning to the podium.
Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (AIN) will look to win her first European title since 2020. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)
Two world silver medalists, Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (AIN) at 53kg and Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) at 59kg, will also be in action in Bucharest.
Kaladzinskaya last wrestled at the European Championships in 2020 and won the gold medal. She will start as the favorite at 53kg despite Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) and Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) entering the tournament.
Kaladzinskaya won the silver medal at the World Championships, dropping the final to Akari FUJINAMI (JPN). It was her first competition since winning a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The two-time defending champion Malmgren will have her task cut out this year. She lost to Kaladzinskaya at the World Championships, but that loss can only be a lesson for the former U20 world champion.
Former Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE), Ekaterina POLESHCHUK (AIN), Sztalvira ORSUS (HUN), Iulia LEORDA (MDA), and Mariia YEFREMOVA (UKR) can upset the field in Bucharest and finish on the podium.
Defending champion Nichita is the clear front-runner for the gold at 59kg. After winning a silver medal at the World Championships at 57kg, Nichita returned to competition in Zagreb but suffered a loss to Kexin HONG (CHN).
Nichita will be drawn randomly into the bracket as she has no ranking at 59kg. The top seed will be Othelie HOIE (NOR), a returning European and world bronze medalist. Age-group world medalists Alesia HETMANAVA (AIN) and Anastasiia SIDELNIKOVA (AIN) can also finish on the podium.
Grace BULLEN (NOR) and Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) put up a thriller last year in the 62kg semifinal. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
At 62kg, world bronze medalist Grace BULLEN (NOR) will have a chance to win her first European gold medal since 2020. She was a silver medalist last after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) in the final. She will have a chance to win the gold medal this year. Koliadenko has moved to 65kg for this tournament and is replaced by veteran Yuliia TKACH (UKR), which will also be a big test for Bullen.
Tkach, the silver medalist at 59kg last year, has moved to 62 kilograms after world bronze medalist Koliadenko moved to 65kg. Tkach has every trick up her sleeve to keep Bullen at bay. But the Norway wrestler has recently improved by leaps and bounds and can be called the favorite for this event.
One wrestler who will be waiting keenly to meet Bullen on the mat is Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL). She suffered a 7-6 loss to Bullen in the semifinal last year and finished with a bronze medal. Dudova, a former world champion at 59kg, still tries to find her feet at 62kg. The two can only meet in the final, thanks to being seeded one and two.
Former U20 world champion Alina KASABIEVA (AIN) will also like to finish on the podium.
Mariya STADNIK (AZE) became a nine-time European champion last year. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)
At 50kg, Mariya STADNIK (AZE) will look to extend her record streak of 10 European titles [12 as she has two European Games gold as well]. Last year, Oksana LIVACH (UKR) gave Stadnik a scare in the final, but the Azerbaijan wrestler controlled the second period to keep her energy and win the gold.
A year older at 35, Stadnik will again be tested by the young wrestler participating in Bucharest. Livach will look to avenge the loss from last year, while Miglena SELISHKA (BUL) and Emilia VUC (ROU) will also have a chance to upset the wrestling legend.
The 57kg class will see a new European champion, as Hrushyna has not entered for her title defense. Tokyo silver medalist Iryna KURACHKINA (AIN) will be the favorite, along with returning silver medalist Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE) and bronze medalist Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL). Veteran Veronika CHUMIKOVA (AIN), U20 world champion Aurora RUSSO (ITA), and former world bronze medalist Anhelina LYSAK (POL) are also entered.
World bronze medalist and returning silver medalist Irina RINGACI (MDA) will be at 65kg, hoping to win the gold she dropped against Hristova last year. Ringaci will be tested by Taybe YUSEIN (BUL), Kriszta INCZE (ROU), and a world bronze medalist at 62kg Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR).