His no nonsense approach in the sandy circle is at complete odds with his relaxed, friendly attitude when he’s not in the zone. “The Big Gun” is looking forward to trying to reclaim his Beach Wrestling World Series title he last won in 2019, having missed out on the gold in last year’s Series by the narrowest of margins.
Ahead of the opening stop of the 2022 Series, The Azerbaijani Beach Wrestling team head coach sat down with us for a chat about all thing’s Beach Wrestling, as well as giving us an insight into what his hopes and dreams for the future for himself, the sport and Azerbaijan’s Beach Wrestling programme.
Born in Urmia, the West Azerbaijani state, 28-year-old Oyan first started in wrestling aged 12, having grown up watching his grandfather, who himself was a well-known national champion in Azerbaijan. "I was born into a sporting family where there was a great affection to sport which motivated and lead me to be a sportsman myself.”
He made the trip to the 2016 Olympics in Rio as a backup member of the Azerbaijan team but never got to participate in the event itself, but the experience he gained was invaluable and it helped the Greco-Roman wrestler to win the 2016 Golden Grand Prix in his native Azerbaijan, beating Kirly Hryshchanka of Belarus 3-1 in the final, as well as medalling in several World Cup events.
The 129kg giant first started training for Beach Wrestling in 2018 and he soon found his groove, excelling in mastering the techniques required to win in the sand; his hard work paid off as he was crowned the +90KG division’s first ever Beach Wrestling World Series winner winning 3 of the 4 events in 2019, and earning a silver medal in the other.
Although the athletes make it look second nature as they grapple in the sandy circle, Oyan pointed out that it’s a big change from the padding of the mats. "Since Beach Wrestling is conducted on sand, it's more challenging than other types of wrestling as it’s harder to move around quickly. I like the fact that Beach Wrestling attracts spectators new to the world of wrestling and it’s great to see the Series get more and more popular with each edition”.
He recommends that anyone interested in taking up the beach discipline gives it a go: “I’d say to anyone interested to just go for it, it can take a while to get used to it but if you keep working hard and not holding back you will soon start to move towards the targets you set yourself."
Nazariani was appointed Head Coach of the Azerbaijani Beach Wrestling team in September 2021 and it is a position that he relishes holding, passing on his knowledge and experience to both the up and coming talent and seasoned campaigners alike. Not one for bold predictions, when asked what his plans were for the future for himself as well as the team he said: “I cannot predict the future, but my prime aim is that both myself and the team train hard and diligently, focusing on each event as it approaches.”
Since taking up the beach version of the sport, Oyan has been a vocal advocate of the discipline. “One of the best things for me about Beach Wrestling is that the rules are really easy to understand, so it attracts a different crowd who provide an atmosphere unlike any other discipline of the sport. The only negative is that the Series, so far, is only organised over the summer months so the season is a little shorter than I’m used to”.
Oyan has visited many beaches since 2019 but one stands out for him. “My favourite beach has been the one in Rio. The spectacular ocean, the hot sun shining down on us and the party atmosphere generated by the spectators all made a big impression on me." On Brazilian sand is where he finished second to Georgia’s Mamuka Kordzaia in the second stop of the 2019 Series.
In last year’s edition of the World Series, the popular Nazariani agonisingly missed out on retaining the title by a few hundred ranking points, and he finished overall runner up to Kordzaia despite winning the World Championships in Constanta. For 2022, he is looking to use the experience to provide further motivation as he bids to re-claim the title. “It's true that I just missed out chance to get gold in the 2021 Beach Wrestling Series as I could not participate in the 1st stop in France, however it’s an experience that makes me more determined to win the upcoming Series.”
When asked how he unwound away from the sandy circle, the Azerbaijani revealed that he enjoys listening to traditional folk music with good food and good people around him. He also has a love of history and uses his trips around the world to find out more about the places he is visiting. On the Katerini trip last season the conversation as we headed to the hotel flowed freely between wrestling and Greek mythology!
We also asked him about his “Big Gun” nickname. "I saw it on an Instagram post on the Beach Wrestling channel; I am so proud of that and I will do my best to meet their expectations!” he explained after he claimed the name as his own when he remembered the post and as he won gold in Constanta let out a cry of “The Big Gun is here”.
We also asked him about his “Big Gun” nickname and how it came about and he revealed that it was actually bestowed upon him on an Instagram post on the Beach Wrestling channel. He remembered the post and as he won gold in Constanta let out a cry of “The Big Gun is here”. He is proud of the moniker: "I will do my best to meet these expectations!”
Whilst he may not predict the future, he does have clear cut aims and looks to be involved in the sport for years to come. “My main aim is to train hard and do my best as both an athlete and coach. I have dedicated my life to the sport and will be here in 10 years’ time still giving my all.”
He can also see a decade of growth for the beach discipline and can see it as an Olympic event soon. “Although Beach Wrestling is a new style of wrestling it has already gained popularity with sport fans all over the world and I believe that we will see it introduced as an Olympic event on the back of this popularity.”
It’s clear to see the dedication and passion that the big man has for the sport, but what would he have done with his life if he had never made it as a wrestler? “I can’t imagine me doing anything other than wrestling, but I would possibly have been a lawyer, as I studied law at University.”
Will he be laying down the law in the Beach Wrestling World Series this year? We will find out soon as the Series gets underway on the 28 and 29 of May in Ortaca, Turkey, on Sarigerme Beach.