This past week, the Finnish capital of Helsinki played host to FILA's European Wrestling Championships. In the 97 kg weight class of the tournament's freestyle portion, Russia's Abdusalam Gadisov reclaimed his place as the champion of Europe with a fantastic performance over one of the world's top wrestlers.
Gadisov, a native of the Russian Republic of Dagestan, reestablished himself as one of Europe's top pound for pound freestylers, and his victory represented just one of a number of notable results. Turkey's Taha Akgul trounced a tough field at 125 kg, and confirmed his status as one of the world's best young heavyweights by taking his place with Gadisov as a 2014 European champion. While Akgul ascended, a couple of established champions faltered, as Russia's defending world champion Bekhan Goigereev at 61 kg and Azerbaijan's Togrul Asgarov both suffered surprising losses. Asgarov, a 2010 World silver medalist at 55 kg and 2012 Olympic champion at 60 kg, appeared shockingly large at his new weight of 65 kg, but also impressively out of shape. In the second round he faced Boris Novachkov of Bulgaria (via California), and after taking an early 4-0 lead seemed to gas badly, dropping a lopsided 13-5 decision.
Among these unexpected defeats and stirring victories, the most memorable performance of the event came 97 kg finals, featuring Russia's Gadisov and Azerbaijan's (via North Ossetia) Khetag Gazyumov*. Gadisov (pictured here with Fedor Emelianenko) has long shown the ability to become one of wrestling's true greats, and for the most part has made good on his enormous promise, winning multiple gold medals at the European Championships, Ivan Yarigin, and Russian Nationals. When it comes time for Gadisov to perform on the bigger stage of the Olympics or World Championships, however, the Dagestani has shown a remarkable and confounding tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In 2013, this head-scratching propensity to lose last-second matches steered Gadisov's career through it's roughest patch, as he dropped a heart-breaking match in the finals of Russian Nationals, and failed to make the Russian World Team.
This past weekend in Helsinki, Gadisov reminded wrestling fans of his prodigious talents, earning a European gold by easily downing Gayzumov , a World Champion and two-time Olympic medalist. The match appears below.
Gadisov opens the scoring a couple minutes into the match, earning his first takedown by way of a quick poke low single to Gayzumov's left ankle. The success of this maneuver sets up Gadisov's brilliant second takedown.
Above, Gadisov scores his second takedown off a misdirection single to Gayzumov's right leg. The misdirection occurs where the initial shot appeared to be the same low single performed earlier. When Gayzumov reacts to the low single, Gadisov seamlessly transitions, attacking the Azerbaijani's other leg. It all happens very fast; to explain the whole sequence, an instructional animation appears below.
At the completion of the final takedown, Gadisov's finish to the far knee, rather than the far hip, prevents a re-whizzer from his opponent, which could potentially ruin all the preceding work. At this level, every single step, of every single technique, must be perfect, or the other wrestler will find a way to escape or counter.
This year's European Championship in hand, Gadisov's attention must now turn to Russian Nationals and then the World Championships this fall. This year represents an important chance for the Russian to make good on his seemingly limitless potential, as terrifyingly, his window of opportunity may soon close. Russia, as always, boasts a mind-blowingly endless supply of wrestling talent, including a pair of young 97 kg wrestlers who may soon surpass Gadisov.
*Khetag Gayzumov's surname appears in various spellings, including Gazyumov, Gaizumov and Gazumov.
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