Berg Gives Sweden 2nd Gold, Georgia Takes Home European U23 GR Team Title

By William May

SZOMBATHELY, Hungary (April 2) – Zakarias BERG (SWE) emerged from the crowded 85kg weight category with the gold medal Sunday while Georgia overcame early upset losses to grab the Greco-Roman team title on the final day of the European Under-23 Wrestling Championships.

Berg, who defeated Rio 2016 bronze medalist Denis KUDLA (GER) in the semifinals, took a hard-fought final from Ivan Poddubny bronze medalist Ruslan YUSUPOV (RUS), 4-0, to give Sweden its second gold medal of the championships at Arena Savaria in Szombathely.

Berg’s good friend and “brother” Alex KESSIDIS (SWE) won the 80kg crown on Saturday evening, giving Sweden its first gold medal in the men’s events in the championships for “younger” seniors.

“It was really hard not to go out last evening to celebrate with Alex” Berg confided after his victory. “But, I had to keep my focus. So, the only color I saw today all day was gold.”

When asked about his 2-1 victory over Kudla in the semifinals, Berg – also a Rio 2016 Olympian -- said “We changed a few things (since the Thor Masters tourney won by Kudla in early March) and came up with a new game plan. I am so happy to finally have my first win over him.”

Sweden’s newly installed national team coach Zigmunds JANSONS (SWE) was also elated with the results of his young team, “We only been at this for a couple of months, so I would say this has been a ‘good start’. Our main goal, of course, is the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020.”

Meanwhile, in the bronze medal matches at 85kg, Kudla rebounded for a 2-1 victory over U23 defending champion Erik SZILVASSY (HUN).

Lasha GOBADZE (GEO), who had been seeking his third straight U23 title, was dumped in the quarterfinals by Yusupov, 6-5, but claimed a 6-4 win last year’s silver medalist Yoan DIMITROV (BUL).

Gobadze’s win, coupled with another bronze medal from reigning junior world champion Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO), lifted Georgia over Russia and first-day leader Azerbaijan for the team title. Georgia won with 47 points, followed by Russia (45) and Azerbaijan (42).

Pataridze, a two-time cadet and junior world champion, was pinned in the semifinals by last year’s U23 bronze medalist Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) but came back for a technical fall over Artur VITITIN (EST), 8-0, with a headlock and a pair of gut wrenches in just 35 seconds.

In the 130kg final, junior world runner-up Osman YILDIRIM (TUR) fashioned a 5-1 win over Knystautas.

In other gold medal matches, Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL) continued his run of success in 2017 with a 6-4 victory over 2015 junior European bronze medalist Aslan VISAITOV (RUS) at 66kg.

Pacurkowski won a bronze medal at the Paris Grand Prix in late January and silver medal at the regional Thor Masters meet the first weekend in March.

At 75kg, Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) ended two years as a U23 bronze collector with a 7-2 triumph over Antonio KAMENJASEVIC (CRO), who was assigned the U23 silver medal for the second year in a row.

Results of Medal Matches and Semifinals:


66kg (24 entries)
Gold – Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL) df. Aslan VISAITOV (RUS), 6-4
Bronze – Tihomir DIMITROV (BUL) df. Aleksandrs JURKJANS (LAT), 5-3
Bronze – Sergey KOZUB (UKR) df. Sebastian NAD (SRB) by TF, 9-1, 2:39 

Semifinal – Roman PACURKOWSKI (POL) df. Aleksandrs JURKJANS (LAT) by Fall, 1:15 (5-0)
Semifinal – Aslan VISAITOV (RUS) df. Sergey KOZUB (UKR), 5-2

75kg (22 entries)
Gold – Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) df. Antonio KAMENJASEVIC (CRO), 7-2 
Bronze – Timur BERDIEV (BLR) df. Pavlo MOLNAR (UKR), 1-1 
Bronze – Akhmed KAYTSUKOV (RUS) df. George Vlad MARIEA (ROU) by TF, 8-0, 1:23

Semifinal – Antonio KAMENJASEVIC (CRO) df. Timur BERDIEV (BLR), 5-2
Semifinal – Zoltan LEVAI (HUN) df. Akhmed KAYTSUKOV (RUS), 5-0

85kg (17 entries)
Gold – Zakarias BERG (SWE) df. Ruslan YUSUPOV (RUS), 4-0 
Bronze – Lasha GOBADZE (GEO) df. Yoan DIMITROV (BUL), 6-4
Bronze – Denis KUDLA (GER) df. Erik SZILVASSY (HUN), 2-1 

Semifinal – Ruslan YUSUPOV (RUS) df. Yoan DIMITROV (BUL) by Fall, 0:41 (4-0)
Semifinal – Zakarias BERG (SWE) df. Denis KUDLA (GER), 2-1

130kg (17 entries)
Gold – Osman YILDIRIM (TUR) df. Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU), 5-1
Bronze – Oskar MARVIK (NOR) df. Jello KRAHMER (GER), 3-1
Bronze – Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO) df. Artur VITITIN (EST) by TF, 8-0, 0:34 

Semifinal – Osman YILDIRIM (TUR) df. Jello KRAHMER (GER) by TF, 9-1, 1:57
Semifinal – Mantas KNYSTAUTAS (LTU) df. Zviadi PATARIDZE (GEO) by Fall, 5:30 (9-4)