Russia earned three titles on the first day of Greco-Roman competition ©UWW

Armenia’s world champion Artur Aleksanyan fell to defeat to his old rival Nikita Melnikov on the opening day of Greco-Roman competition at the European Wrestling Championships in the Riga Arena.

Despite claiming the world title in 2013, where he defeated Aleksanyan in the final, Melnikov’s success has been limited on the major stage and he failed to secure a podium finish at the previous European Championships.

However, he was able to end that barren spell by booking his place in the 98 kilogram gold medal bout, where he would meet the two-time world champion, who had yet to beaten since their meeting in 2013.

Melnikov rose to the occasion again against Aleksanyan, as he opened up a four point lead over his rival and maintained the advantage for the duration of the contest to seal his first European crown.

Turkey’s Cenk Ildem claimed the first bronze medal on offer courtesy of a last point victory over Ukraine’s Dimitri Timchenko after the contest ended 6-6, while Belarus’ Aleksander Hrabovik sealed a 6-0 triumph over Azerbaijan’s Orkhan Nuriev.

Melnikov’s gold medal success had been the third of the day for Russia, with Mingiyan Semenov and Islambek Albiev earning impressive wins in the lightweight events.

London 2012 bronze medallist Semenov had given them the perfect start to the evening as he sealed a technical fall win over Armenia’s Roman Amoyan in the 59kg gold medal contest.

Moldova’s Donior Islamov and Ukraine’s Dmitriy Tsymbaliuk replicated the feat in the bronze medal contest against Serbia’s Kristijan Fris and Croatia’s Ivan Lizatovic to book their places on the podium.

Riza Kayaalp won his sixth European title
Riza Kayaalp won his sixth European title ©UWW

Albiev made it a hat-trick of golds for Russia, as the Beijing 2008 Olympic champion defeated Serbia’s Davor Stefanek by a technical fall to win the 66kg division.

Azerbaijan’s Kamran Mammadov earned a 6-4 win over Lithuania’s Edgaras Venckaitis to win bronze, while hosts Latvia were left disappointed as Nikita Masjuks lost his medal bout to Georgia’s Shmagi Bolkvadze by the same scoreline.

Turkish great Riza Kayaalp triumphed in the last final of the day to secure his fifth consecutive European title and sixth in total.

The reigning 130kg world champion secured a victory by fall over Ukraine’s Aleksander Chernetski to maintain his stunning winning streak at the event, before setting his sights on further success at Rio 2016.

“I’m really happy now to have won six European titles, but I want to continue until I win 10,” he said.

“I would also like to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games and some more world championships to become one of the best wrestlers ever.”

Sweden’s Johan Euren won a low scoring bronze medal bout against Russia’s Vitali Shchur 2-1, while Belarus’ Iosif Chugoshvili overcame Germany’s Eduard Popp 4-1.

The final day of the Championships will take place tomorrow, with the final four Greco-Roman titles on offer.