Exhausted Ibragimov Captures 2nd Straight Asian Title

By Ken Marantz

It might not have been the longest minute of Magomed IBRAGIMOV's life. But he was sure glad to get through it, especially after the exhausted Uzbekistan star received the gold medal for his efforts.

Ibragimov expended every ounce of energy to hold on for a 5-3 victory over Mojtaba GOLEIJ (IRI) in the 97kg final as Uzbekistan came away with two golds on the first day of freestyle at the Asian Championships.

"I'm really satisfied because the Asian Championships is one of the most important tournaments for wrestlers," said Ibragimov, who now has back-to-back golds after winning last year in New Delhi.

Uzbekistan advanced four wrestlers into the five finals at Kozhomkul Sports Palace, but only Ikhtiyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) would join fellow Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Ibragimov as a champion after taking the 70kg title--his first Asian gold after two silvers and a bronze.

KANG Kumsong (PRK) shed tears of joy after holding off Makhmudjon SHAVKATOV (UZB), 4-2, in the 57kg final, while Ezzatollah AKBARIZARINKOLAEI (IRI) built up a commanding 5-0 lead before Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) defaulted with a knee injury with 0:19 remaining in their 79kg gold-medal match.

The other gold at stake on the fifth day of competition went to five-time Asian medalist Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ), who clamped a front headlock in the second period on Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) and reeled off five consecutive rolls to win the 65kg gold with an 11-0 technical fall with 2:07 remaining.

Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) celebrates after winning the 97kg Asian championship. Photo by Max Rose-Fyne. 

In the final match of the night, Ibragimov jumped out to a 4-0 lead after one period on a step-out, an activity clock point and a takedown. But in the second period, Goleij, a 2017 world under-23 champion, went on the offensive.

The Iranian scored a takedown with :44 left, then forced a step-out with :13 remaining on the clock. A final takedown attempt came up just short as Ibragimov managed to barely remain on his feet.

The image of the night was the sight of Ibragimov collapsing to the mat and remaining prone as the referees reviewed an Iranian challenge of the final move, which was refused. After having his hand raised, he again dropped to the mat, where he stayed during the medal ceremony for the previous weight class.

"I wouldn't say it was the most, but it was one of the hardest minutes of my career,"  Ibragimov said after his own medal ceremony. "After the wrestling, I couldn't leave the mat and had to stay there. Only now do I feel pretty good. Before that, I was super tired."

Asked if the victory boosted his confidence for the World Championships, to be held in Budapest in October, Ibragimov replied, "I can't say that I feel confident because the performance depends on a couple of things, like luck and training. So if I train well and I feel lucky, maybe I will be able to get a medal. "

Ikhtiyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) gets his hand raised after winning the 70kg crown. Photo by Max Rose-Fyne.

For Navrusov, his main problem was contending with what he claims was oil on opponent LEE Seungbong (KOR), which made it difficult to get a grasp and apply moves. Navrusov came out a 3-0 winner, with two of his points coming with Lee on the activity clock and one on a head-butt penalty.

"I found that my opponent was oiled and he was sweaty, and I didn't want to take a risk," Navrusov said. "That's why I started to act passive. I just tried to keep my poise and I succeeded."

While it might not have been the performance he would have liked, Navrusov credited the victory to perseverance.

"I worked hard to reach this medal, and everybody actually deserves this medal, but the one who was stronger, the one who worked harder, is the one that won," he said.

Navrusov said that winning the gold in the neighboring country of Kyrgyzstan made it a bit more special.

"As we are neighbors and we are close, my relatives came and also my coach was supporting me," he said. "I felt as if I was back in Uzbekistan in my home country."

KANG Kumsong (PRK) gets emotional after winning the 57kg title. Photo by Max Rose-Fyne. 

In the 57kg final, Kang led 2-0 when Shavkatov got behind on a takedown attempt in the second period. But as he pressed to force a knee down, Kang reversed him to his back to make it 4-0.  Shavkatov scored two step-outs in the final 10 seconds, but it was too little, too late.

"I thought that one step by one step with mental spirit I cannot give up, however difficult it was," said Kang, who was so elated, he jumped to the top step of the podium when the bronze-medal winners were announced, and happily waved to the crowd.

"I was very confident this competition was mine. I will be the winner. That's how I will bring honor to my nation, my family."

Every Uzbekistan wrestler came away with a medal when Temurjon USMONOHUNOV (UZB) won a bronze at 65kg.

Japan captured three bronzes, while Kazakhstan and India had two each. Mongolia and South Korea each won one.

57kg (14 entries)
Gold - KANG Kumsong (PRK) df. Makhmudjon SHAVKATOV (UZB), 4-2

Bronze - Toshihiro HASEGAWA (JPN) df. SONG Hyeonsik (KOR) by TF, 10-0, 5:08

65kg (14 entries)
Gold - Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ) df. Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) by TF, 11-0, 2:07

Bronze - Temurjon USMONOHUNOV (UZB) df. KIM Kukgwang (PRK) by Fall, 0:11 (10-6)
Bronze - Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) df. Yones EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI), 10-4

70kg (12 entries)
Gold - Ikhtiyor NAVRUZOV (UZB) df. LEE Seungbong (KOR), 3-0

Bronze - Kumar VINOD (IND) df. Elaman DOGDURBEK UULU (KGZ), 3x-3
Bronze - Meirzhan ASHIROV (KAZ) df. Byambadorj BAD ERDENE (MGL), 4-3

79kg (12 entries)
Gold - Ezzatollah AKBARIZARINKOLAEI (IRI) df. Rashid KURBANOV (UZB) by Default, 0:19 (5-0)

Bronze - Tsubasa ASAI (JPN) df. LEE Yunseok (KOR), 7-1
Bronze - Turbold GANBOLD (MGL) by Walkover

97kg (11 entries)
Gold - Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) df. Mojtaba GOLEIJ (IRI), 5-3

Bronze - KIM Jaegang (KOR) df. Mamed IBRAGIMOV (KAZ) by TF, 11-0, 2:47
Bronze - Takeshi YAMAGUCHI (JPN) df. Aibek USUPOV (KGZ), 6-3





Evloev Gives Host Country 74kg Freestyle Gold

By Ken Marantz

On the night the curtain came down on the Asian Championships in Bishkek, Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) provided the perfect final act.

Evloev gave the host country a gold medal in 74kg freestyle as the tournament wrapped up its well-supported six-day run at the Kozhomkul Sports Palace with finals in five weight divisions.

Evloev, riding an early 5-point lead, never let up in defeating Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by 11-1 technical fall with :24 remaining to give Kyrgyzstan its first Asian freestyle gold since 2015 and fourth in its history.

"It's a great feeling," Evloev said of winning at home to improve on his silver medal he won last year in New Delhi. "The crowd was really supporting me as much as they could and I couldn't fail them, so I did my best."

Iran finished up by capturing two golds, as reigning world and Olympic champion Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) cruised to his first Asian title with a victory at 86kg, and Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) followed by winning the 92kg crown.

In a duel between Georgian-born wrestlers for the 125kg title, Davit MODZMANASHVILI (UZB) defeated Giorgi SAKANDELIDZE (QAT), 5-0, in a tepid match that capped the tournament.

Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), 61kg champion looking for a gut wrench. Photo Max Rose-Fyne. 

The other gold at stake went to Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), a New Delhi 2017 bronze medalist who scored two takedowns in the second period of the 61kg final to top Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2.

Uzbekistan, which had won five medals, including two golds, on Saturday, added two bronzes to Modzmanashvili's gold to clinch the team title with 178 points. Iran finished second with 157 and Kazakhstan third with 146.

Evloev acknowledged he was heartened by the Greco victory of compatriot Akzhol MAKHMUDOV on the second day, one of the tournament's iconic moments for the thunderous ovation it elicited from the delirious crowd.

"Of course he did inspire me," Evloev said. "And I also want to say congratulations to Makhmudov because I haven't seen him yet."

In the final, Evloev used a single-leg lift to dump Ganzorig, a two-time world bronze medalist, backwards to the mat for a 4-point move, which became 5 when the Mongolian side's challenge was unsuccessful.

"It made me feel more confident, but I was going to wrestle until the last second," Evloev said of being staked to a big early lead. "That's why I won."

Photo of Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) by Max Rose-Fyne. 

Outside of the Kyrgyz wrestlers, the spotlight was squarely on superstar Yazdani Charati.

And he lived up to expectations by overwhelming Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) in the 86kg final, scoring with a takedown and roll combination right away, and then reeling off three takedowns for a 10-0 technical fall with 36 seconds still left in the first period.

Orgodol added the Asian silver to the one he won in 2016 and his bronze from 2013.

So popular is the Iranian that he had a phalanx of Kyrygz security guards whereever he went, and was whisked pass waiting media and fans without comment after his medal ceremony and completing doping procedures.

In the 92kg final, Ebrahimizivlaei built up a 5-1 lead through the first period against Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), then gave up a passivity point and nothing else to take the gold with a 5-2 victory.

The plodding end to the final bout of the tournament, the 125kg final, belied the historical significance of it.

Modzmanashvili, a London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist for Georgia, took a 4-0 lead with an early takedown to a roll, then gained a point when Sakandelidze was on the activity clock in the second period, when the two giants seemed to have little desire to expend further energy.  

By winning the silver medal, Sakandelidze became Qatar's first-ever medalist at the Asian Championships. The Gulf nation's best previous showing had been fifth place.

Although it took an import to gain a spot on the medal podium, Qatari officials were ecstatic with the result.

"After a long period, this is a big success for Qatar wrestling federation, for Qatar," said team leader Vardan Ghazaryan. "For the first time in senior championships, after more than 50 years, we take such success. Qatar is very proud and it will advertise wrestling to include more young schoolboys for developing wrestling in Qatar."

Ghazaryan said the federation has high expectations for Sakandelidze, who he said has lived in Qatar for two years.

"This is, of course, his first match for Qatar, but you will see his success and medals, gold medals, in the future."

Among the bronze-medal matches, Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) overcame an 8-3 deficit with 45 seconds remaining, scoring the winning takedown in the final seconds to defeat KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8, at 74kg.

Kim, who clearly ran out of gas down the stretch, is a 40-something high school wrestling coach who came out of retirement to make the national team, according to a South Korean federation official.

Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) also notched a last-second takedown to upend Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3, in their 92kg third-place match.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and China all came away with two bronze medals on the night, while host Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia had one each.

61kg (12 entries)
Gold - Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ) df. Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2

Bronze - Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB) df. Sharvan SHARVAN (IND), 6x-6

74kg (12 entries)
Gold - Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) df. Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by TF, 11-1, 0:24

Bronze - Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8
Bronze - Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Dovletmyrat ORAZGYLYJOV (TKM) by TF, 10-0, 4:12

86kg (12 entries)
Gold - Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) df. Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 3:24

Bronze - Azamat DAULETBEKOV (KAZ) df. Javrail SHAPIEV (UZB), 4-0
Bronze - BI Shengfeng (CHN) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by TF, 10-0, 3:41

92kg (10 entries)
Gold - Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), 5-2

Bronze - LIN Zushen (CHN) df. SUE Changjae (KOR), 2-1
Bronze - Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) df. Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3

125kg (13 entries)

Bronze - Zolboo NATSAGSUREN (MGL) df. NAM Koungjin (KOR) by TF, 10-0, 4:43
Bronze - Amin TAHERI (IRI) df. Sohbet BELLIYEV (TKM) by TF, 14-4, 3:02