Ishii wins showdown with Morikawa for 68kg gold; Kinjo claims 59kg crown

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO (December 23) -- Already a world silver medalist, Ami ISHII picked up her first national title at women's 68kg with a dramatic victory over world 65kg champion Miwa MORIKAWA, while two-time Olympic champion Risako KINJO was content with a title in a non-Olympic weight as she transitions back to the mat from childbirth.

Ishii denied Morikawa in her bid to move up to the Olympic weight class, scoring all of her points in the second period for a 5-2 victory in the final at the Emperor's Cup All-Japan Championships on Friday in Tokyo.

Kinjo, who plans to make a run for her third Olympic gold at the 2024 Paris Games at 57kg, forged out a 4-1 victory over former world U23 champion Yui SAKANO in the 59kg final in the tournament that is serving as the first domestic qualifier for next year's World Championships in Belgrade.

Meanwhile, Rei HIGUCHI and Sae NANJO both avenged losses to old nemeses in reaching the final of their respective weight classes, while Tokyo Olympic champion Yui SUSAKI, well, just did what Yui Susaki always does.

Ami ISHII (JPN)Ami ISHII, right, and Miwa MORIKAWA square off in the women's 68kg final. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

The Ishii-Morikawa clash came about due to the fact that the tournament has implications on qualifying for the Paris Olympics. Combined with the Meiji Cup All-Japan Invitational Championships in June, it helps determine the team to Belgrade, where a medal by a Japanese wrestler in an Olympic weight will mean an automatic place in Paris.

To better prepare the wrestlers for the worlds and Olympics, the format of the four-day tournament has been tweaked so that the Olympic weights are run over two days, while the non-Olympic classes are started and finished in one day.

Ishii moved a step closer to Paris by emerging victorious in a field that included four current or past world medalists and two former U20 world champions.

"When the buzzer sounded, I was really happy," said Ishii, who also picked up the world U20 gold this year. "But when I look at it calmly, this match was the first in the qualifying process, it didn't decide the Olympics. It's just a point along the way."

Morikawa, who missed out on the Tokyo Olympics when she lost a playoff for the 68kg spot to Sara DOSHO, took the lead in the final with a spin-behind takedown off an Ishii shot in the first period. In the second period, Ishii tied it with a single-leg takedown.

As Morikawa tried to press for a stepout, her strength was not enough against the rock-solid Ishii, who reversed the roles and forced Morikawa out. Ishii stuffed a last-ditch lateral drop attempt in the final seconds for her final points.

"The first two points I gave up, I started the attack and she scored off my mistake," Ishii said. "To tie the match, I went with my regular single. At 2-2, there was still a lot of time left, but I didn't want to just keep defending and I kept on the attack."

It was a major blow for Morikawa, who won the 68kg title in 2019 before winning consecutive crowns at 65kg in 2020 and 2021.

"At 65kg, I often press ahead to get stepout points," Morikawa said. "But she held me off and I couldn't get her out. I have to get [my strength] to the level of this weight class."

Risako KINJO (JPN)Risako KINJO clamps down on Yui SAKANO in the women's 59kg final. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

For the 28-year-old Kinjo, who won her Olympic golds and three world titles under her maiden name of KAWAI, the road ahead goes the opposite direction, as she will be returning to 57kg for the Meiji Cup.

Kinjo got married soon after the Tokyo Olympics -- to a fellow wrestler, of course -- and gave birth to her first child, a girl, in May. She returned to competition in October at the second-tier All-Japan Women's Open, where she won the 59kg title.

While her mother and others help with the childcare, Kinjo finds she must budget her time, which means quality over quantity when it comes to practice. But it makes her more appreciative of being able to still compete in the sport she loves.

"On days that I practice, putting on the shoes and taking the mat for a hard workout is tough, but just that alone is pleasureable and I can feel that wrestling is still fun," she said.

In contrast to her credentials, Kinjo did not have an easy time on Friday. In her opening match in the quarterfinals against collegian Natsuki YAMAGUCHI, she received an activity point just before giving up a takedown, then held on for a 3-2 victory.

"I'm usually tight in the first match," Kinjo said. "Even if it's only one point, I have more experience than the others, so it may seem like a little, but I think it's big. After the first match, I make changes that I need to make."

The most surprising aspect of the victory was the fact that Kinjo was not aware it had been five years since she won her last Emperor's Cup title. Since then, she came out on the short end of a classic battle with the legendary Kaori ICHO in 2018, then skipped the tournament the next three years.

Ayano MORO (JPN)High schooler Ayano MORO gets emotional after winning the women's 76kg title in her first senior competition. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

Meanwhile, there was no outburst of joy like that of one of the youngest participants in the tournament, as world U20 champion Ayano MORO's victory in the women's 76kg final left the high schooler wailing in tears on the medal podium.

Moro, making her debut in a senior level tournament, scored a takedown with 20 seconds left to take a three-point lead, then held on for a 4-3 victory over Nodoka YAMAMOTO, who opened some eyes by winning both of her matches at the recent World Cup.

The 17-year-old Moro, a junior at Tokyo's Abe Gakuin High School, has not lost since November 2017, a span that includes a victory at the U20 World Championships in August this year in Sofia, Bulgaria, as she looks to fill the opening at the heaviest weight class once dominated by world medalists Kyoko HAMAGUCHI and Hiroe MINAGAWA.

In other action, Daichi TAKATANI combined with older brother Sohsuke for a sibling double for the second year in a row and third time overall when he defeated Kirin KINOSHITA 5-2 in the freestyle 74kg final.

Takatani scored with a front headlock roll late in the first period, then added a second-period takedown to defeat Kinoshita for his third career title. He still has a way to catch up to Sohsuke, who notched his 12th straight title on Thursday with a victory at 92kg.

Yuki TANAKA (JPN)Yuki TANAKA failed to get another shot at Yui SUSAKI after losing in the women's 50kg quarterfinals. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

Susaki cruises into final

Susaki, coming off her historic win at the world U23 two months ago, advanced to the women's 50kg final with an 11-0 technical fall over Nanami IRIE, the 2019 world silver medalist at 55kg.

The current world champion set up a clash for the gold with Remina YOSHIMOTO, the 2021 world champion in Susaki's absence and has lost all four previous encounters between the two, including the final of this year's Meiji Cup.

The 23-year-old Susaki moved into another stratosphere with her victory at the world U23 in Pontevedra, Spain, as it made her the first wrestler in history to complete the Grand Slam of Olympic gold and all four age-group titles. It also came a month after she captured her third senior world gold.

While Susaki disposed of one Irie sister in gaining a chance for her third career Emperor's Cup title and first since 2019, she was relieved of the burden of facing another one with whom she is much more familiar.

Yuki TANAKA, who remains the only wrestler on the planet to have beaten Susaki from her junior high school days, was ousted in her quarterfinal match by Hanano SAKURAI, the younger sister of 57kg world champion Tsugumi SAKURAI, who used a nifty barrel roll twice to score a 7-0 victory.

Tanaka, the oldest of the three Irie wrestling sisters, had stepped away from the sport when she failed to get to the Tokyo Olympics. Newly married, she only returned to competition in July this year.

"The level [of opponents] has gotten higher, and I haven't reached that yet," said Tanaka, who defeated Susaki three times in her career but eventually lost out to her for a place at the Tokyo Olympics. "I didn't wrestle for two years. Of course, I wanted to win the title, but I had a stronger feeling of just taking each and every match one at a time."

Rei HIGUCHI (JPN)Rei HIGUCHI, left, avenges a loss to Yuki TAKAHASHI in the playoff for the Tokyo Olympics to make the freestyle 57kg final. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

Higuchi, who won the world gold at 61kg this year, made a successful start in his drop back down to 57kg, the weight class in which he won the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

On Friday, Higuchi advanced to the final with an 11-0 technical fall over former world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI, avenging a devastating loss to the Yamanshi Gakuin University coach in a playoff for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

Higuchi used an effective single-leg attack to score three takedowns, two of which he punctuated with gut wrenches with the last one ending the match at 3:43.

For Higuchi, the biggest problem at 57kg has been weight control, as he famously failed to make weight at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament to open the door back up for Takahashi to gain the ticket to the Tokyo Olympics.

Higuchi refused to speak to the press after his win, saying he needed to focus on doing what he needs to do to make weight on Saturday.

Sae NANJO (JPN)Sae NANJO celebrates after holding on to beat Tsugumi SAKURAI in the women's 57kg semifinals. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

Nanjo made it third-time-lucky in her encounters with Tsugumi Sakurai, making the women's 57kg final by finally protecting a lead after twice seeing the Ikuei University star score a last-second victory over the past year.

Nanjo jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first period with a takedown, penalty point and lace lock, then held on for a 5-4 win after Sakurai scored two takedowns in the second but couldn't manage to turn her over.

"In the first period, I allowed her to easily get to my legs and after that, to turn me on the ground, so it put me in a tough five-point deficit," Sakurai said.

"My style is to fight the full six minutes and put it on the line in the second period. But I had a tough match in the quarterfinals, so I started getting tired. My opponent stayed tough and I couldn't pull out the win."

In the final at last year's Emperor's Cup, Sakurai seized the title with a four-point takedown in the final seconds for a 5-2 victory over Nanjo. Then, at this year's Meiji Cup it was deja vu all over again as Sakurai scored a buzzer-beating takedown for a 5-3 win.

In going for her fifth career title and first since 2020, Nanjo will next face Sara NATAMI, who pulled off a late victory by fall over Umi IMAI in the other semifinal, a battle of reigning Asian champions.

Natami was trailing 2-1 in the last minute when she used a front headlock roll to put Imai on her back and secured the fall at 5:31. Natami won the 59kg title at this year's Asian Championships, while Imai took home the 55kg gold.

Shohei YABIKU (JPN)Olympic bronze medalist Shohei YABIKU, right, and Nao KUSAKA know each other well as training partners. (Photo: Japan Wrestling Federation/Takeo Yabuki)

Another big name to fall was Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Shohei YABIKU, who was ousted in the Greco 77kg quarterfinals by collegiate champion Nao KUSAKU, with whom he trains at his alma mater Nippon Sports Science University.

Kusaku, a world U23 bronze medalist this year, led on criteria with the second of two passivity points handed out, then held on when placed on the bottom in par terre in the second period for a 1-1 victory.

Yabiku has been battling recent knee and other injuries since placing second at the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup in Poland in July and made an early exit at the World Championships in Belgrade.

"It can't be said I'm in the best condition, but as long as I'm taking the mat, I'm thinking of winning, so I don't want that to be an excuse," Yabiku said.

Yabiku had two chances on top in par terre, but he was unable to execute the spectacular throws that he rode to an eye-opening run to the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

"What I mostly rely on was stopped," Yabiku said. "We practice together every day, so he knows me very well. The big reason for the loss was my ground attack. I'm confident I can defend on the ground, but the offense has become a source of anxiety. Bad things come out in me."

Meanwhile, Taishi NARIKUNI's bold quest to become the first wrestler in 49 years to pull off a freestyle-Greco double at the All-Japan never got started, as the world freestyle 70kg champion withdrew due to a broken rib suffered in practice.

Narikuni, who was entered at both freestyle 70kg and Greco 67kg, suffered the injury about a month ago, but only had it diagnosed last week after he continued to feel pain, according to a Facebook post by Narikuni's mother, a former two-time world champion.

Another less-heralded wrestler who was attempting the same feat, collegian Akito MUKAIDA, also withdrew due to injury. Mukaida is the younger brother of Olympic champion Mayu SHIDOCHI.



57kg (11 entries)
Semifinal - Rikuto ARAI df. Ryuto SAKAKI, 5-4
Semifinal - Rei HIGUCHI df. Yuki TAKAHASHI by TF, 10-0, 3:43

74kg (14 entries)
Gold - Daichi TAKATANI df. Kirin KINOSHITA, 5-2

Bronze - Kojiro SHIGA df. Jintaro MOTOYAMA by TF, 10-0, 1:28
Bronze -Kota TAKAHASHI df. Ryutaro TOGIYA by TF, 10-0, 1:53

86kg (14 entries)
Semifinal - Hayato ISHIGURO df. Taisei MATSUYUKI, 4-3
Semifinal - Yudai TAKAHASHI df. Fumiya IGARASHI, 5-1

97kg (10 entries)
Gold - Takashi ISHIGURO df. Hibiki ITO by TF, 13-1, 5:51

Bronze - Shohei YAMAZAKI df. Toyoki HAMADA, 3-1
Bronze - Hiroto NINOMIYA df. Keiwan YOSHIDA by Def.

125kg (10 entries)
Gold - Daiki YAMAMOTO df. Ryusei FUJITA by TF, 12-0, 1:31

Bronze - Nozomi OISHI df. Takuya HIGUCHI by Def.
Bronze - Yuji FUKUI df. Kai SHUTTO, 3-0


63kg (16 entries)
Gold - Machiezo MARUYAMA df. Ryuto IKEDA, 6-1

Bronze - Kenshin MATSUMOTO df. Ryotaro FUJINAMI by Def.
Bronze - Yamato HAGIWARA df. Komei SAWADA, 7-1

Semifinal - Ryuto IKEDA df. Ryotaro FUJINAMI by TF, 8-0, 1:51
Semifinal - Machiezo MARUYAMA df. Komei SAWADA, 5-3

67kg (13 entries)
Semifinal - Katsuaki ENDO df. Haruto YABE, 5-5
Semifinal - Kyotaro SOGABE df. Shigeki TSUTSUMI by TF, 9-0, 2:01

77kg (13 entries)
Semifinal - Nao KUSAKA df. Tatsuya FUJII, 5-1
Semifinal - Kodai SAKURABA df. Minto MAEDA, 8-6

87kg (10 entries)
Gold - Masato SUMI df. So SAKABE, 5-1

Bronze - Yuto MATSUZAKI df. Daisei ISOE by TF, 9-0, 1:55
Bronze - Yoji KAWAMURA df. Kaito MIYAMOTO by Def.

97kg (11 entries)
Gold - Yuta NARA df. Masayuki AMANO, 3-0

Bronze - Yuri NAKAZATO df. Kairi YOSHIMURA by TF, 10-0, 4:09
Bronze - Riku NAKAHARA df. Kyo KITAWAKI by TF, 8-0, 4:07

130kg (10 entries)
Gold - Sota OKUMURA df. Shion OBATA, 3-3

Bronze - Daigo NISHI df. Koei YAMADA, 1-1
Bronze - Ryuta KONO df. Naoto YAMAGUCHI, 3-1


50kg (16 entries)
Semifinal - Yui SUSAKI df. Nanami IRIE by TF, 11-0, 2:47
Semifinal - Remina YOSHIMOTO df. Hanano SAKURAI by Fall, 3:57 (10-0)

57kg (10 entries)
Semifinal - Sae NANJO df. Tsugumi SAKURAI, 5-4
Semifinal - Sara NATAMI df. Umi IMAI by Fall, 5:31 (3-2)

59kg (15 entries)
Gold - Risako KINJO df. Yui SAKANO, 4-1

Bronze - Akie HANAI df. Natsuki YAMAGUCHI, 6-5
Bronze - Miyu NAKANISHI df. Nana IKEHATA by Fall, 3:54 (2-1)

Semifinal - Risako KINJO df. Akie HANAI, 5-0
Semifinal - Yui SAKANO df. Miyu NAKANISHI by TF, 11-0, 5:51

68kg (9 entries)
Gold - Ami ISHII df. Miwa MORIKAWA, 5-2

Bronze - Rin MIYAJI df. Naruha MATSUYUKI by TF, 10-0, 3:27
Bronze - Miyu IMAI df. Yui ISAKI by TF, 10-0, 1:10

72kg (8 entries)
Gold - Sumire NIIKURA df. Kanon KOBAYASHI, 7-5

Bronze - Yawara SHIOSAWA df. Mei SHINDO, 3-0
Bronze - Misaki WACHI df. Nana SAKAMOTO by TF, 10-0, 2:45

Semifinal - Sumire NIIKURA df. Mei SHINDO, 4-0
Semifinal - Kanon KOBAYASHI df. Misaki WACHI, 6-3

76kg (7 entries)
Gold - Ayano MORO df. Nodoka YAMAMOTO, 4-3

Bronze - Mizuki NAGASHIMA df. Nanaha TAKASU, 4-0


Motoki moves up to stun Ozaki; Otoguro, Fujinami, Fumita all prevail

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO (December 25) -- In a tournament that had its share of shocks, none was as stunning as the one pulled off in the finale by Sakura MOTOKI, who followed up her upset of the Olympic champion at women's 62kg by taking down the reigning world champion.

Motoki, moving up to the Olympic weight class from 59kg, handed world champion Nonoka OZAKI her first domestic loss in four years with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory in the final at the Emperor's Cup All-Japan Championships on Sunday at Tokyo.

"Since losing at the World Championships, I've thought for the last three months of winning here and I'm happy I was able to pull it off," said Motoki, who won a world bronze medal at 59kg in Belgrade in September a month after winning the world U20 gold.

The other featured finals went according to form, with Olympic champion Takuto OTOGURO and former world champions Akari FUJINAMI and Kenichiro FUMITA all emerging victorious on the last day of the four-day tournament that is also serving as the first domestic qualifier for next year's World Championships, to also be held in Belgrade.

Otoguro, appearing in his first competition since winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics at freestyle 65kg, finished up an unscored-upon run to his third national title and first since 2019 with a 4-0 victory over world U23 bronze medalist Ryoma ANRAKU.

Teen phenom Fujinami, returning from a spate of injuries that cause her to withdraw from both the senior and U20 worlds, captured her third straight title at women's 53kg with a 5-0 victory over a rejuvenated Haruna OKUNO that also extended her current winning streak to 106.

Okuno had pulled off one of the tournament's upsets by knocking off Olympic champion Mayu SHIDOCHI in the semifinals on Saturday.

Olympic silver medalist Fumita continued an unusual pattern of winning in even-numbered years, defeating Maito KAWANA in the Greco 60kg final to add to the titles he won in 2016, 2018 and 2020.

The victorious wrestlers moved halfway to securing spots on the world team to Belgrade, where, for those in the Olympic weight classes, the first qualifying berths for the 2024 Paris Olympics will be at stake.

The losers will get another chance at the second domestic qualifier, the Meiji Cup All-Japan Invitational Championships in June, where a victory will set up a playoff with the Emperor's Cup champions.

Sakura MOTOKI (JPN)Sakura MOTOKI became the first Japanese to beat Nonoka OZAKI in four years with a victory in the women's 62kg final. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

The Japan federation has sweetened the pot for making the team to the Belgrade worlds, as a medal there in an Olympic weight means an automatic ticket for that wrestler to Paris. For women, in particular, the sense of urgency for getting to Belgrade is high.

Motoki has her own incentive for getting to the Olympics. Since she started wrestling at age 3, the Ikuei University student has been aiming to follow in the footsteps of her father, Yasutoshi, who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, where he placed ninth at Greco 63kg.

"My father had a tough road leading up to the Olympics, with injuries and losses along the way," the 20-year-old Motoki said. "I expected to have the same hard road. So like my father, I will never give up until the end so I can get to the Olympics."

Such conviction was on full display against Ozaki when Motoki trailed 2-0 in the second period, having given up a pair of activity points. Motoki cut the lead with a stepout, then clinched the win with a duck-under takedown with :24 left.

Ozaki made a desperate attempt for the winning takedown when she tried to spin behind in the final seconds, but Motoki managed to hold on for the victory. An unsuccessful challenge added the final point.

"In the three months after the World Championships, I feel I've made progress technique-wise and mentally," Motoki said. "I wasn't confident of being the strongest at 62kg, but I was confident that I was stronger compared to where I was at the World Championships."

It was in Belgrade that Motoki suffered a disappointing loss that, upon reflection, indirectly laid the groundwork for her win over Ozaki.

In the semifinals, Motoki had taken the lead against Anastasia NICHITA (MDA), only to be reversed to her back late in the match and eventually lose 7-5. Motoki had tried desperately to score at the end, which she later realized was a losing strategy.

"In the last 30 seconds, I was haphazardly trying anything and I couldn't win, which I later regretted," Motoki said. "I practiced a lot looking at how much time was left and thinking about what to do, and I think that paid off today."

The victory came in the wake of her 9-2 victory in the semifinals over Olympic champion Yukako KAWAI, who later revealed she had not fully recovered from a back injury that had forced her to withdraw from a domestic tournament in October.

"Looking just at results, Kawai and Ozaki are above me," Motoki said. "I finished third at the World Championships in a non-Olympic weight class. They have the gold medals from the Olympics and World Championships that I am aiming for. I saw myself as the challenger."

The 19-year-old Ozaki was left in tears, having come into the tournament on an amazing roll that included a win over Kawai at the Meiji Cup last May. In a three-month span this fall, she picked up in succession the world U20, senior and U23 golds.

"I always try to be aggressive in my wrestling, and when I try to think about what was lacking today, I don't know," said Ozaki, whose last loss to a fellow Japanese was in the semifinals of the inter-high school championships in August 2018 to Yuzuka INAGAKI.

Looking ahead to the Meiji Cup, Ozaki said, "There is nothing beyond that. I have to change gears and make next year mine."

Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)Takuto OTOGURO works to score a takedown against Ryoma ANRAKU in the freestyle 65kg final. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

Otoguro, the 2018 world champion, showed no rust from the 14 months he had been away from competition, as he wrestled a solid match against a formidable opponent in Anraku.

After gaining an activity point, Otoguro showed one of his best traits of quickly transitioning to score a takedown off a single-leg attack that Anraku fiercely resisted. In a tense second period with few attacks, Otoguro added a stepout at the buzzer.

"Today and yesterday, I had three matches in my first tournament in a while," Otoguro said. "As it went on, it got more enjoyable. I was able to beat strong opponents, so I think it was a good performance."

Otoguro said that he considered his time away from the mat as a positive. "There were no real drawbacks," he said. "Instead, I was able to focus on this tournament. There were only good aspects."

In Otoguro's absence, a new young champion has emerged in Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI). Otoguro said he did not watch this year's World Championships, but is aware of the Iranian. As for a possible meeting at this year's Asian Championships, Otoguro, who won back-to-back Asian titles in 2020 and 2021, would not commit.

"I'll talk it over with my coach," he said. "If I have the chance, I want to get started on having international matches."

Akari FUJINAMI (JPN)Akari FUJINAMI shoots for a takedown in the women's 53kg final against Haruna OKUNO. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

Fujinami's absence from the competition was not her choice, as a foot injury kept her from defending her senior world title in Belgrade and a knee injury forced her out of the world U20.

That meant she had not had a match since the national collegiate championships in August, where she won the 55kg title.

"Even though I was confident," Fujinami said. "I had had a series of injuries and there was a time I couldn't compete, so there was also uncertainty as well as pressure. I'm glad I could still come out with the win."

In the final, Fujinami used her low single attack to score takedowns in both periods and fend off all attacks to defeat Okuno for the fourth time in four career meetings, most recently a 4-0 win in the Meiji Cup final.

"I expected her to come up with a strategy, but I'm confident of my training and I put it all out on the mat," Fujinami said.

Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN)Kenichi FUMITA positions himself for a throw in the Greco 60kg final against Maito KAWANA. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

For Fumita, winning the Greco 60kg gold for his fourth career title and first since 2020 helped restore the good name of the Nippon Sports Science University (NSSU) alumni in Greco, which was dealt a number of setbacks earlier in the tournament.

Olympic bronze medalist Shohei YABIKU lost in the third-place match at 77kg, while Katsuaki ENDO failed to defend his title at 67kg with a loss in the final.

"Overall, it hadn't been a good tournament for the alumni from Nittaidai, for Shohei and Katsuaki," Fumita said, using the familiar term for NSSU. "In Greco, we have wrestled poorly."

Fumita, the 2017 and 2019 world champion who had to settle for a bronze this year, scored three points in each period for a 6-0 victory over Maito KAWANA to restore NSSU to good standing. He had a gut wrench from par terre in the first period and a takedown and stepout in the second.

It was far better than his opening match when he got thrown for 4 in a 7-4 victory over Kaito INABA, a current student at NSSU.

"In my first match yesterday, the bad side of me came out," Fumita said. "After that, I thought I had to turn it around and stop the bad flow so I aimed to get a good result. And I won and took a step closer to Paris."

ShotaTANOKURA (JPN)In-laws Shota TANOKURA and Mayu SHIDOCHI indicate the place each took in the tournament. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

Tanokura takes bronze in return pushed by in-law

One of the more interesting stories of the tournament culminated with former Asian champion Shota TANOKURA taking third place at Greco 55kg in his return from a four-year absence.

The 32-year-old Tanokura, currently the coach at Tokyo's Jiyugaoka Gakuen High School, was urged to give it another whirl by a family member, who just happens to be Shidochi. Tanokura's wife is the younger sister of Shidochi's husband and coach, Shota SHIDOCHI -- a classmate of Tanokura's at NSSU.

"'Let's go to [the] Paris [Olympics] together,'" Tanokura said was the line that Mayu used to pester him into returning to competition. "'Do it one more time.'"

Tanokura agreed, not so much over his own desire to make the Olympics but to assuage Mayu. "I wasn't thinking of Paris, but Mayu wanted to us to go together," he said. "If I went, she said it would give her mental strength."

He qualified for the Emperor's Cup by winning the title at the All-Japan Non-Student Championships in October. That was his first competition since placing eighth at 55kg at the 2018 World Championships in Budapest.

Tanokura won the Asian gold earlier that year in Bishkek, beating local favorite Zholoman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ) in the final. He also came away with the gold in his most recent Emperor's Cup appearance in 2017, adding to the titles he won in 2012 and 2013.

In Sunday's bronze-medal match, Tanokura showed some of his old magic with a majestic five-point throw in a 7-4 victory over collegian Yuto GOMI.

"I'm really happy," Tanokura said of coming away with a bronze, which qualifies him for the Meiji Cup. He is still undecided whether he will enter that tournament. "If I enter, I'll give it my all. Right now I'm torn. If my family pushes it, I might do it."

In the quarterfinals, Tanokura executed a nifty duck-under-and-lift that sent Kawana sailing head over heels and onto his back for 4 points, but he still came out on the short end of a 7-4 decision.

"That's the level I am at now," Tanokura said. "I didn't practice and you can't take matches lightly."

Tanokura's lone regret was that he didn't get to face either Fumita or Yu SHIOTANI, his former team member at Jiyugaoka Gakuen and a world 55kg bronze medalist, who had moved up to the Olympic weight class but lost to Gomi in his opening match.

Mayu SHIDOCHI (JPN)Mayu SHIDOCHI records a fall over Yumi SHIMONO in a women's 53kg bronze-medal match. (Photo: Takeo Yabuki/Japan Wrestling Federation)

As it turned out, bronze became the family color of the day as Shidochi bounced back from her stunning loss to Okuno to finish third at women's 53kg with a victory by fall over collegiate champion Yumi SHIMONO.

"Finishing up with a win is good leading up to the Meiji Cup," Shidochi said. "I'm glad I was able to turn it around. In the past, I wasn't able to do that."

Shidochi led 2-0 after receiving activity points in both the first and second periods, then fought off a Shimono takedown attempt that would have put her behind. When Shimono shot again, Shidochi straightened her up and pancaked her to her back, notching the fall at 4:59.

"The new generation of wrestlers are getting stronger," the 25-year-old Shidochi said. "They are providing the motivation for me to train hard to beat them. The Tokyo Olympics are in the past."

Shidochi knows that to have any chance of defending her Olympic gold, she will first have to face and defeat Fujinami.

"She's a really strong athlete, with a long reach and good speed," Shidochi said. "She's at the top of the world. To get to Paris, I have to beat her. Even for Fujinami, the 53kg class is deep."

Day 4 Results


61kg (14 entries)
Gold - Kodai OGAWA df. Hayato FUJITA, 7-0

Bronze - Kaito MORITA df. Kazuya KOYANAGI by TF, 11-0, 2:21
Bronze - Taichi YAMAGUCHI df. Kosei KANEKO, 10-8

Semifinal - Kodai OGAWA df. Kazuya KOYANAGI, 10-4
Semifinal - Hayato FUJITA df. Kosei KANEKO by TF, 14-4, 4:25

65kg (14 entries)
Gold - Takuto OTOGURO df. Ryoma ANRAKU, 4-0

Bronze - Kaiji OGINO df. Kenho UTO by TF, 11-0, 6:00
Bronze - Kotaro KIYOOKA df. Yujiro UENO, 14-6


60kg (11 entries)
Gold - Kenichiro FUMITA df. Maito KAWANA, 6-0

Bronze - Kaito INABA df. Kosei TAKESHITA by TF, 11-1, 4:22
Bronze - Shota TANOKURA df. Yuto GOMI, 7-4

72kg (11 entries)
Gold - Taishi HORIE df. Shoki NAKADA by TF, 9-0, 3:32

Bronze - Daigo KOBAYASHI df. Seiya TERADA by Fall, 4:03 (7-3)
Bronze - Tetsuto KANUKA df. Yuga KASUGAI, 9-5

Semifinal - Taishi HORIE df. Daigo KOBAYASHI, 3-1
Semifinal - Shoki NAKADA df. Tetsuto KANUKA, 7-1


53kg (9 entries)
Gold - Akari FUJINAMI df. Haruna OKUNO, 5-0

Bronze - Mako ONO df. Nagisa HARADA, 6-0
Bronze - Mayu SHIDOCHI df. Yumi SHIMONO by Fall, 4:59 (6-0)

62kg (11 entries)
Gold - Sakura MOTOKI df. Nonoka OZAKI, 4-2

Bronze - Naomi RUIKE df. Nayu UCHIDA by Fall, 5:58 (10-0)
Bronze - Kiwa IWASAWA df. Yukako KAWAI by Def.