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Turkish freestyle wrestlers destroy Europe for 1st time in 31 years

The Turkish freestyle wrestling national team on Sunday claimed the European Championships for the first time since 1993 after dominating the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

Winning a total of two gold, two silver and two bronze medals, the Turkish team topped the team standings ahead of Georgia and Azerbaijan.

This victory marks the first team championship in freestyle wrestling since the 1993 European Championship held in Istanbul.

Feyzullah Aktürk (92 kg.) and Taha Akgül (125 kg.) won gold, Muhammet Karavuş (57 kg.) and Soner Demirtaş (74 kg.) won silver, while Osman Göçen (86 kg.) and İbrahim Çiftçi (97 kg.) won bronze medals.

Turkish wrestler Feyzullah Aktürk (C) celebrates after winning at the European Championships, Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 18, 2024. (AA Photo)
Turkish wrestler Feyzullah Aktürk (C) celebrates after winning at the European Championships, Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 18, 2024. (AA Photo)

Taha Akgül, who won gold in the 125 kg. freestyle wrestling at the European Wrestling Championship, stated, “There was not much of a difference between 10 and 11 for me. But regardless, if we enter a championship, if we put in the effort, finishing with a gold medal is the biggest goal.”

Continuing in Bucharest, Romania, Taha Akgül competed in the 125 kg. freestyle wrestling and defeated Geno Petriashvili in the final with a score of 5-4 to win the gold medal.

Turkish wrestler Taha Akgül (C) celebrates after winning at the European Championships, Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 18, 2024. (AA Photo)
Turkish wrestler Taha Akgül (C) celebrates after winning at the European Championships, Bucharest, Romania, Feb. 18, 2024. (AA Photo)

This marks his 11th European championship.

Akgül emphasized the dedication and hard work behind his 11th championship win, highlighting the intense focus required during matches.

He expressed that each championship is equally important to him and stressed the importance of striving for gold in every competition.

Akgül also mentioned the team’s success in various wrestling categories and expressed gratitude for the historic achievements in freestyle wrestling.

Looking ahead to the Olympics, he acknowledged the different atmosphere but expressed confidence in his ability to perform well with proper preparation.

Şeref Eroğlu, president of the Turkish Wrestling Federation, praised the team’s captain for leading them to success and emphasized the unity and spirit within the national team.

He highlighted Türkiye’s strong performance, with the team competing for medals in eight out of 10 weight classes.

Eroğlu also noted the significance of the team’s victory, securing the European championship for the third time in history after 31 years.

Abdullah Çakmar, the national team coach, reiterated the team’s focus on the Olympics as their ultimate goal.

He expressed gratitude for the support from wrestling head Şeref Eroğlu and Youth and Sports Osman Minister Aşkın, emphasizing the family bond within the team.

Çakmar dedicated the team’s success and medals to the nation and expressed hope for wrestler Taha Akgül to win gold at the 2024 Olympics.

Feyzullah Aktürk, winner of the gold medal in the 92 kg. category expressed his joy in the victory and his pride in maintaining an undefeated streak for three years.

He thanked the Turkish people for their support and emphasized their nationalist spirit in representing Türkiye in wrestling.

Aktürk also mentioned his upcoming preparations for the world championship and the Olympics, aiming to continue his success in future tournaments.

Şeref Eroğlu praised Feyzullah Aktürk, expressing gratitude for his dedication and achievements in wrestling.

Eroğlu highlighted Aktürk’s remarkable consistency, noting that he has won three European championships in the 92 kg category.

Eroğlu also mentioned Aktürk’s dream of becoming an Olympic champion and jokingly added that he promised to send Aktürk to oil wrestling if he achieves this goal.

He commended Aktürk’s performance, emphasizing his passion and courage in the sport, which has brought great pride to Turkish wrestling.

Kayaalp falls short

However, Rıza Kayaalp was unable to seize the opportunity to make history.

Despite breaking the record at the European Wrestling Championship, he settled for the silver medal.

In the Greco-Roman style 130 kg. final, Kayaalp was defeated by pinfall by Russian Sergei Semenov, competing as an individual athlete.

This loss prevented Rıza from breaking the record by becoming the European champion for the 13th time.

Kayaalp, who won his 12th European championship in Croatia last year, currently shares the record with Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin.

New European champs

Nineteen-year-old national wrestler Alperen Berber made a name for himself by clinching the gold medal in his debut at the senior category of the European Championship.

Other rising stars from Türkiye, Selçuk Can, Buse Tosun Çavuşoğlu and Nesrin Baş, also made their mark by qualifying for their first European championship.

Çavuşoğlu, who also secured the gold medal at the World Wrestling Championship held last year in Belgrade, Serbia, experienced the thrill of her first world championship win and qualified to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics.

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