Armenian Sports Wrap: February Finale

From a Middle Eastern tennis triumph to an undefeated boxing record put to the test, Armenian athletes had a fruitful finale to February.

The now No. 15 men’s tennis player in the world Karen Khachanov proved why he is a top 15 tennis player during the Qatar Open. Without losing a single set, Khachanov battled his way from the round of 16 to the final unblemished to win his sixth-career title on February 24. 

The Russian-Armenian’s skill set was on full display, including this ridiculous between-the-legs return:

Undefeated boxer Gor Yeritsyan stepped into the ring on February 23 to fight for his first-career title. Yeritsyan (18-0-0) earned a unanimous decision win over Quinton Randall (13-2-1) and secured the vacant WBC Continental Americas welterweight title in the main event of the 360 Boxing Promotions show on UFC Fight Pass in Santa Ynez, California.

This title victory marks Yeritsyan’s fourth fight in the past eight months. With legendary trainer Freddie Roach in his corner, Yeritsyan is setting his sights sky-high. “This is my first step. Remember my name. This was a good experience for me. I want to go forward and forward. I can’t stop,” Yeritsyan said during the post-fight interview.

The Armenia men’s national basketball team earned its first win in the 2027 FIBA World Cup pre-qualifiers with an 84-79 victory over Albania on February 25. The game’s Most Valuable Player honors went to Andre Mkrtchyan Spight, who tallied 31 points on 62.5-percent efficiency, six rebounds and four assists. Chris Jones also put in a solid performance for Armenia, posting up 22 points, 11 assists and three steals.

Armenia began its 2027 FIBA World Cup pre-qualifiers campaign in Vienna, Austria on February 22, suffering a 91-106 away loss. While Armenia started the match with a 29-23 first quarter advantage, the Austrians proved to be more physical and better conditioned to cruise to victory. Jones led the way in scoring for the matchup with 30 points and eight assists, but the Armenians knew they had to bounce back from the loss to keep their World Cup hopes alive. Notably, a massive crowd of Armenians was present in the Hallmann Dome to support the team.

Head Coach Rex Kalamian traveled with the team to Vienna to help prepare for the slate of FIBA pre-qualifiers, but he had to return to his assistant coaching duties with the Milwaukee Bucks on February 22. Assistant Coach Alex Zampier was called to lead the men forward and picked up his first-career head coaching win with the Armenian national team against Albania.

The match against the Albanians had crucial lead changes throughout the game. Albert Tatevosyan netted back-to-back three-pointers in the second quarter to take Armenia from a six point deficit (32-38) to a tie game (38-38). Tatevosyan appeared to have been fouled on his second three-point make but was not granted a four-point play.

The MVP of the match also flexed his muscles from downtown. With less than three seconds left in the first half, Jones’ dribble drive found Spight in the left corner for a buzzer-beating bucket that gave Armenia a 48-42 halftime advantage.

The match was ultimately decided by the last few possessions, as Jones drove into the paint and attempted a difficult fadeaway with his defender draped all over him. The shot went wide, but that’s when Zach Tavitian collected the rebound and put in a banked layup with 21 seconds left in the match. Armenia grabbed an 81-77 lead that the Albanians never recovered from. With an 84-79 victory in its back pocket, Armenia will now shift attention to Los Angeles, where the national team will play Ireland and Guatemala in a pair of friendly matches from June 21-23.

A trio of Armenian wrestlers competed in California for the state’s top prize on February 24. Grigor Cholakyan, Henry Aslikyan and Nikolas Sahakian were all in contention for the 2024 CIF state wrestling championships in their respective weight classes.

In the 106 lbs category, sophomore Aslikyan proved he’s more than just the fourth-ranked wrestler in his division. The Armenian, based out of Birmingham Community High School, bested Arseni Kikiniou of Poway with a 6-3 win in the state final. Aslikyan is the youngest Armenian to compete at the finals and has already won the U15 and U17 Pan-American championship twice.

In the 285 lbs state final, St. John Bosco High School’s Sahakian fell short of coming away with a state title. The junior lost a tight 2-3 decision to Cody Merrill of Gilroy.

In the 157 lbs final, Stanford commit Grigor Cholakyan showcased why he is one of the best wrestlers in the United States. After being ranked the fifth-best wrestler in the state of California before the season began, the high school senior proved why he needs more respect on his name. Cholakyan defeated Andrew Barbosa of Palm Desert with a 3-2 result. Cholakyan and Aslikyan also helped St. John Bosco place fourth in the team result with a combined 186 points.

A duo of Armenian gymnasts are continuing the trend of medaling at the 2024 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup series.

Three-time European medalist Vahagn Davtyan walked away from Cottbus, Germany with a bronze medal for his efforts in the rings exercise. Davtyan scored a 14.600 to win his second medal at the 2024 World Cup. He earned a silver medal for scoring a 14.500 in the rings event in Cairo, Egypt.

Six-time European Champion Artur Davtyan struck gold once again during the 2024 FIG Artistic Gymnastics World Cup after scoring a resounding 15.050 in the vault exercise in Germany. This is Davtyan’s 12th gold medal win in his last 14 events. The legendary Armenian gymnast is already qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France but is continuing to put on a show around the world. After winning gold in Cairo and now Cottbus, Armenia’s gymnasts will not compete in the third leg of the World Cup, which is set to take place in Baku, Azerbaijan from March 7-10. Instead, they will pick back up in Doha, Qatar for the fourth and final series of the FIG World Cup from April 17-20.

After nearly a quarter century with the New England Patriots and longtime head coach Bill Belichek, Berj Najarian will accept a role with Boston College football as Bill O’Brien’s chief of staff. The details on Najarian’s role are still to be determined, but he is one of the few members of Belichek’s staff who was with him for his entire Patriots tenure, winning six Super Bowls in the process.

Najarian and Boston College head coach Bill O’Brien are familiar with each other. They worked alongside each other for the Patriots from 2007-2011. According to Pete Thamel, O’Brien once described Najarian to the New York Times as “the consigliere of the New England Patriots.”

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian

Jason Takhtadjian is a reporter, producer and weekend anchor at KCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa. Takhtadjian began college pursuing Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Aerospace until deciding to pursue a sports broadcast career after one semester at the University of Nevada - Las Vegas. While at UNLV, Takhtadjian worked on his own weekly radio show/podcast covering soccer and basketball, produced his own sports debate show, was part of the university’s weekly sports show “The Rebel Report” and was the play-by-play commentator for UNLV men’s and women’s soccer and basketball, to name a few. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Jason was graduating college and had to pivot to the world of general news to land a job. Three years after accepting a job in the middle of the United States with no Armenian community, Takhtadjian accepted a reporter position at KSEE in Fresno, California. The 26-year-old also worked as a contributor for Armenian Sports News, helping grow the page by thousands of followers in less than a year of work.

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