Russian wrestlers prove class at European Nations Cup
Entering any wrestling event as one of the favorites has always been a given for Russia.
The European Nations Cup, held in Moscow over the weekend, was no exception and, with seven nations taking part in the competition, it was Azerbaijan who joined Russia in the finals.
The freestyle wrestlers were first on the mat to settle scores in seven weight divisions.
The 2010 World Cup winner, Nariman Israpilov, proved his class here to give the hosts a 1-0 lead, right before the eyes of Russia's pride in the sport, three-time Olympic champion Buvaisar Saitiev.
Nevertheless, Azerbaijan leveled matters through Torgul Asgarov, signaling this would be no walk in the park for the home side.
And it was three-all after four more clashes as the superheavyweights – Russia's Barsag Kesayev and Azerbaijan's Aslan Dzebisov – grappled to settle the outcome.
“It was tough when I realized that I was responsible for the final result,” Kesayev told RT. “So I was pretty nervous in the beginning. But, as the clash went on, and as soon as I started getting a bit tired, I said to myself: it's action time – I need to take a risk. And it worked.”
The 22-year-old did not let his coaches down, securing the crucial points in the dying seconds of the clash.
“This time around we decided to give our leading men a rest and let some of the young guns show off and test themselves at a higher level. And it paid off,” Dzambolat Tedeyev, Russia’s freestyle wrestling team coach, said. “Some of them won, the others could've done better. They have time to improve. There's still nine months left before the London Olympics. The most important thing right now is that we've won and kept the European Cup in Russia.”
And their Russian teammates in the Greco-Roman category mirrored their success, but in a much more convincing way.
The same opponents in the finals – Azerbaijan – but this time around, the hosts were represented by their number one athletes.
2004 Olympic champions Hasan Baroev and Aleksey Mishin gave their opponents free masterclasses in Greco-Roman wrestling.
“I've just started getting back into shape after a long break,” Mishin said. “So my task was to get the feeling of the mat back, practice my favorite moves and throws, and that's what I've done.”
So, more proof that Russia remains one the world's leading wrestling nations. Although the major test for this generation – the 2012 summer Olympics – is still ahead.