In the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, every competition counts as the world’s best freestyle wrestlers race for seeding points and a place in their respective brackets.
The continental championships are a huge opportunity for competitors to position themselves near the top of the field. Of these tournaments, none are tougher than the European Championship.
At the Olympic weight of 74 kg, two competitors stood out above the rest.
Most prominent was media darling and Cuban transfer Frank Chamizo Marquez.
#4 Frank CHAMIZO (ITA)
Opposite Chamizo was a fellow two-time World champion, Russia’s Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov.
#5 Magomedrasul GAZIMAGOMEDOV (RUS)
Russian head coach Dzhambolat Tedeev announced that 2018 and 2019 World champion Zaurbek Sidakov would be their nation’s representative at 74 kg. Strong Olympic medal contenders like Gazimagomedov, Khetik Tsabolov, and Magomed Kurbanaliev, despite their recent runs and credentials, have no chance of earning the spot this year.
The Russian system differs tremendously from what we see in the US. In a sense, Russia’s best have been contending for the Olympic trip since the action concluded in Rio in 2016. Sidakov’s two-year undefeated run cemented his place.
Outside of the non-Olympic World Championship, which will crown medalists at 61, 70, 79, and 92 kg, the continental championships are the brightest stage for those not invited to Tokyo.
Eager to build upon his legacy, serve his team, and stay in contention for future spots, Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov wrestled in Italy with something to prove.
Chamizo Cruises to European Finals in Style
After key losses to Jordan Burroughs and Zaurbek Sidakov, the pressure was on Chamizo to make a change, or risk falling out of medal contention.
While he had a bit of scare in a close match with Olympic bronze medalist Soner Demirtas, Chamizo rebounded in style, obliterating a young contender in Gadzhiyev along with a pair of dangerous European journeymen.
Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR)
#12 Khadzimurad GADZHIYEV (AZE)
Besides showcasing his genuinely ridiculous hips, Chamizo looked sharp utilizing his level changing motion to perfectly time explosive shot entries.
In simpler terms, he was on point.
Russia’s Gazimagomedov faced only one real test – 2018 World silver medalist Avtandil Kentchadze of Georgia.
#10 Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO)
In contrast to the blinding speed and stylish flurries of Chamizo, Gazimagomedov worked at a cautious pace, imposing his physicality with brutal handfighting, dropping to the leg off hard clubs or a tight front headlock.
Using drastically different approaches, the two World champions found themselves in the continental finals.
Chamizo vs. Gazimagomedov
With both men finding initiative on their entries, the match was determined by a handful of extended exchanges.
After going even in the single collars, Chamizo snapped off the ties and circled to find an angle on Gazimagomedov.
Creating space and getting height on the attacking Chamizo, Gazimagomedov dropped off the front headlock himself and momentarily picked the ankle, denied by the powerful hip pressure and whizzer of Chamizo.
The Cuban hustled to go-behind, even momentarily working the “head in the hole” approach from front headlock, but Gazimagomedov’s excellent positioning and footwork kept him out of danger.
One small moment from Magomedrasul Gazimagomedov defined their next flurry.
Chamizo looked to shuck from the head to attack the ankle, Gazimagomedov held steady and circled out, returning to his feet.
As Chamizo pushed to keep the exchange going, Gazimagomedov used a deep overhook to essentially arm drag Chamizo off balance and cross-body as he stepped, sending the cat-like athlete to the mat.
Posting on the head and hustling for the go-behind, Gazimagomedov got an angle on the leg and stood with the single, pinching the leg between his own. Eager to plant his feet and flex his hips back, Chamizo balanced on one leg, searching for a cross-face to push Gazimagomedov off the single.
Keeping his head outside and moving Chamizo around the mat, Gazimagomedov redirected and capitalized as Chamizo posted to retain balance, pressuring forward and coming within centimeters of taking the two-time World champion feet-to-back.
After being countered in a flurry, Chamizo slowed just a touch, allowing Gazimagomedov to build momentum in the ties.
Handfighting hard, Gazimagomedov snapped from front headlock and stepped off to the single as Chamizo turned to kick out range.
With Gazimagomedov sticking to the leg on his knees, Chamizo clearly had the opportunity to turn, limp leg and kick out. However, given their proximity to the edge, he took his chances, waiting for Gazimagomedov’s next move, hoping to give himself more room to maneuver as they extended the exchange.
But instead of looking to stand with the leg, as expected, Gazimagomedov pivoted toward the opposite side behind Chamizo and attacked the far ankle, standing with his head completely underneath Chamizo’s hips and bundling the legs as Chamizo stood narrow, suspended in the air.
The referee ruled Chamizo out of bounds before Gazimagomedov met the takedown criteria, a controversial call. He could have been up 4-1, or 6-1 if they had given him the four-point move on the near feet-to-back situation earlier.
Still, down 3-1, with only one minute remaining Chamizo needed to rally, and fast.
Picking up his motion, level changing and handfighting with fury, Chamizo hit a powerful snap and continued to reattack with short offense as Gazimagomedov recovered – he knew one move would not be enough.
The second snap did the trick, Chamizo ran his feet and found the ankle off the go-behind, scoring the pushout for one.
Hoping to stifle Chamizo’s building momentum, Gazimagomedov shot straight in as Chamizo gripped the head, but a brilliant back-step by the fantastic Cuban transfered the shot to the opposite side, leaving Gazimagomedov extended on a single. Chamizo passed the arm and found his first takedown of the match.
With ten seconds left, Gazimagomedov switched up his shot selection, hitting the swing single off front headlock, but Chamizo’s impeccable motion saved the day. Pressuring backward with his hips while keeping his far ankle fully extended, Chamizo posted and circled with Gazimagomedov, eventually beating the Russian on that chase and finding space to square up.
Although he was aided by a pair of controversial rulings, Chamizo survived what will likely be his only test before the 2020 Olympic Games.
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