London 2012 84kg Freestyle Wrestling gold medallist Sharif Sharifov led a strong showing by the Azerbaijan team at the second Grand Prix of Paris, Poland wrestlers also stood out.
Sharifov won the Olympic gold medal at 84kg but he has since upped his weight class to 97kg. In Paris, he beat Iran’s Mohammad Hossein Mohammadian in Freestyle Wrestling while Magomed Muslimov took first place in the 65kg category.
Fellow Azerbaijani Elvin Mursaliyev, the 2014 World Championship bronze medallist at 75kg, won in Paris at 80kg in Greco-Roman Wrestling.
Sharifov, Muslimov and Mursaliyev proved good role models for a group of recent Azerbaijani junior world champions.
Murad Mammadov took third place in the Greco-Roman 59kg class while Islam Abbasov was third at 85kg, and Orkhan Nuriyev finished third at the 98kg weight class, where 2014 world champion Melonin Noumonvi of France grabbed second place after jumping up from 85kg.
Local hopeful Zelimkhan Khadjiev of France took third in the Freestyle 74kg competition, competing in his first senior event since becoming France’s first junior world champion in August.
Poland’s Mateusz Bernatek took first place in the Greco-Roman 66kg competition. It was the highlight of a very successful performance by Polish wrestlers, who collected 13 podium finishes.
Besides Bernatek’s victory, four Polish Freestyle wrestlers finished in the top three, there were four women’s podiums in Freestyle - including 2014 World Championship silver medallist Iwona Matkowska’s second place at 48kg, and four Greco-Roman second or third place finishes.
“I am pleased with the results achieved by my wrestlers, especially because we are only at the beginning of the pre-season. The best form should be in June at the Baku 2015 European Games and the World Championship in September in Las Vegas,” Polish women’s coach Krzysztof Olenczyn said.
Other finishes of note were 61kg Freestyle world champion Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan taking third place at 65kg, and Hungary’s London 2012 74kg bronze medallist Gabor Hatos moving up in weight and finishing third at 86kg in Freestyle.
Many of the top performers at the Paris Grand Prix will also compete at the Baku 2015 European Games.