Japan Announces Squads for Asian Olympic Qualifier, Asian Championships

By Japan Wrestling Federation

Two-time world champion Yui SUSAKI heads a contingent of 10 Japanese who will aim to earn tickets to the Tokyo Olympics at next month's Asian Qualifying tournament in Kazakhstan, the Japan Wrestling Federation announced.

The federation also announced the squad to be dispatched to the Asian Championships that will follow the Olympic qualifier at the same venue in the Kazakh city of Almaty. Among those entries are seven wrestlers who have already qualified for the Tokyo Games, four of whom are also defending Asian champions.

The Olympic qualifying tournament will be held April 9-11, with competition in the six Olympic weight classes in each style. That will be followed by the Asian Championships, to run April 13-18 in all 10 weight classes.

It will mark the first time Japan has sent a team overseas since last year's Asian Championships in New Delhi in February 2020.

For the Tokyo Olympics, Japan has already qualified at freestyle 65kg and 74kg, Greco-Roman 60kg and women 53kg, 57kg, 62kg, 68kg and 76kg, based on results from the 2019 World Championships. The top two finishers at the continental qualifier will earn Olympic berths for their country.

Susaki will be looking to earn her first Olympic spot at women's 50kg. She and the others earned the right by winning titles at the 2019 national championships. Even when the Tokyo Games were postponed a year, they were allowed to keep their places.

Also hoping to qualify for Tokyo will be 2016 Rio Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI at freestyle 57kg and Sosuke TAKATANI, who will be aiming to make his third Olympics and first at freestyle 86kg.

The team for the Asian Championships consists mainly of the champions at the most recent national championships held in December 2020. In cases where the champion opted out or was unavailable, the runner-up or a third-place finisher filled the spot.

Takuto OTOGURO, Japan's '18 world champion, will wrestle at 65kg at the Asian Championships. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The wrestlers who have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and are entered for the Asian Championships are brothers Takuto and Keisuke OTOGURO at freestyle 65kg and 74kg, respectively, and the female quintet of Mayu MUKAIDA (53kg), Risako KAWAI (57kg), Yukako KAWAI (62kg), Sara DOSHO (68kg) and Hiroe MINAGAWA (76g).

Kenichiro FUMITA, Japan's lone current Olympic qualifier in Greco-Roman, has opted to skip the tournament and the chance to defend his 2020 Asian title at 60kg. He earned his Olympic ticket by winning the 2019 world title.

Takuto Otoguro, the Kawai sisters and Minagawa are the reigning Asian champions in their weight classes. Mukaida will be looking to improve on her silver medal from 2020.

At the 2020 tournament in New Delhi, Japan took home seven medals in freestyle, but with the exception of Otoguro, none of the other medalists earned a return trip this year. Also missing out are two women's champions from 2020, Miho IGARASHI and Naomi RUIKE.

Here are the squads:

Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament  (April 9-11, Almaty)

67kg: Shogo TAKAHASHI
77kg: Shohei YABIKU
87kg : Masato SUMI
97kg: Yuta NARA
130kg: Arata SONODA

50kg : Yui SUSAKI

57kg : Rei HIGUCHI
86kg : Sosuke TAKATANI
97kg : Naoya AKAGUMA
125kg : Tetsuya TANAKA

Asian Championships (April 13-18, Almaty)

60kg: Ayata SUZUKI
63kg: Kensuke SHIMIZU
67kg: Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA
72kg: Taishi HORIE
77kg: Kodai SAKURABA
82kg: Satoki MUKAI
87kg: So SAKABE
97kg: Masayuki AMANO
130kg: Sota OKUMURA

50kg: Remina YOSHIMOTO
53kg: Mayu MUKAIDA
55kg: Tsugumi SAKURAI
57kg: Risako KAWAI
59kg: Akie HANAI
62kg: Yukako KAWAI
65kg: Miwa MORIKAWA
68kg: Sara DOSHO
72kg: Masako FURUICHI
76kg: Hiroe MINAGAWA

57kg: Yuto TAKESHITA
61kg: Shoya SHIMAE
65kg: Takuto OTOGURO
70kg: Jintaro MOTOYAMA
74kg: Keisuke OTOGURO
79kg: Ryuki YOSHIDA
86kg: Hayato ISHIGURO
92kg: Yuto IZUTSU
97kg: Takashi ISHIGURO
125kg: Taiki YAMAMOTO


Payback Adds to Gold Medal's Luster for 2 New Asian Champions as Ryu Completes Almaty Double

By Ken Marantz

First-time champions Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ) and Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN) added
a sheen of payback to their gold-medals at the Asian Championships, while Hansu RYU (KOR) completed an amazing double in Almaty in grabbing his third straight continental title.

Sultangali rallied from a three-point deficit to defeat Mehdi MOHSEN NEJAD (IRI) 8-4 in a tempestuous 60kg final as the Greco-Roman competition concluded Wednesday on the second day of the six-day tournament in the spectator-less Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports.

Sultangali's victory avenged a 5-3 loss to the Iranian in a bronze-medal match at last year's Asian Championships in New Delhi, and adds the senior gold to his collection of Asian junior
and cadet titles.

"I have wrestled him before but lost to him, but it was a lesson for me," said Sultangali, a 2018 world bronze medalist. "Today, I felt that he was tired after the first period and I started attacking and worked in par terre. It was a serious win for me."

Mohsen Nejad, a 2019 world U-23 and junior bronze medalist, jumped out to a 3-0 lead with a gut wrench out of the par terre position. In the second period, Sultangali matched that with a throw from par terre, then added a big 4-point hip throw. An unsuccessful challenge gave the Kazakh an 8-3 lead.

Sultangali nearly paid for a premature celebration in the final seconds, but Mohsen Nejad could only force him out for a single point.

"For any wrestler, it means a lot to win in his home country," Sultangali said. "Even though there are no spectators, you can feel the hometown tribute. I love wrestling so that I get the opportunity to raise the Kazakh national flag."

Mohsen Nejad was less than satisfied with the bout and the silver medal.

"I am not satisfied with the referees, I think he committed a leg foul," the Iranian said. "I defeated Uzbek and Japan to reach [the final] and then lose to Kazakh. Not possible. I only came here to win gold. I had beaten him easily in New Delhi last year in the bronze-medal bout."

Shimoyamada also settled a old score by digging himself out of a big hole, fighting back from the brink of a technical fall loss in the 67kg final to defeat Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) with a dramatic fall after building a 12-7 lead.

It was three years ago in the final in Bishkek that Kebispayev denied Shimoyamada with a 5-1 victory.

"It's a great feeling," Shimoyamada said. "At the 2018 Asian Championships, I fought him and lost, and now I got revenge, so I'm very happy."

Kebispayev used a reverse headlock roll from the par terre position to take a 5-0 lead, which he then padded with a stepout and an unsuccessful challenge point. But in the second period, Shimoyamada went on the offensive.

After getting back into the match with a takedown, the Japanese went ahead on criteria with a four-point throw from par terre. In the final minute, he sent Kebispayev to his back with a driving bear hug, and secured the fall with :38 left.

"I wasn't thinking anything, just to do my wrestling," Shimoyamada said of his comeback. Asked about how he will celebrate, the member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police force replied with a smile, "I want to eat Japanese food and drink too much."

Two-in-two for Hansu Ryu

Ryu can be popping some corks after adding another chapter to his legendary story, when the two-time former world champion held off 2020 Asian bronze medalist Ruslan TSAREV (KGZ) to win the 72kg title with a 6-5 victory.

The title came five days after he secured a 67kg berth in the Tokyo Olympics at the Asian Qualifying tournament, held at the same venue April 9-11. With the pandemic curtailing tournaments around the world, he said he stayed for the Asian Championships just for the thrill of competition.

His natural ability made up for the size disadvantage at 72kg, where he more than held his own.

Against Tsarev, Ryu jumped out to a 5-0 lead with a 4-point spinning throw from a high-chest
hold in the par terre position.

In the second period, Tsarev chipped away at the lead with a passivity point, a 2-point leg
blocking penalty and an unsuccessful challenge point. He had a chance to go ahead when he lifted Ryu into the air, but the nimble Korean managed to land on his feet on Tsarev's throw attempt.

Tsarev gained a point for the stepout, which tied the score but left him trailing on criteria. He
understandably challenged the call, and understandably lost it to make the final score 6-5 and
give Ryu his fourth career Asian gold.

"My main target is the Olympic Games and all of these competition are stages to achieve the
target," said Ryu, who finished fifth in his only Olympic appearance at Rio 2016.

"I can win a medal [in Tokyo], but there is also a chance that I may not win the medal. So it's 50-50. My last aim in wrestling is to win an Olympic gold. I may be the coach for the national
team [in the future]."

Iran, which medaled in all but one weight class, easily captured the team title with 194 points, as former Asian junior champion Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) provided the last of its four
golds by taking the 97kg title.

Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ), Asian Championships 2021
Aidos Sultangali won the gold medal at the 60kg Greco-Roman weight category. (Photo: UWW/Sachiko HOTAKA)

Kazakhstan, lifted by Sultangali's gold, finished second with 156 points, edging third-place
Kyrgyzstan by three points.

In the 97kg final, Balihamzehdeh built up a 7-2 lead in the first period, then held off a late surge by Seungjun KIM (KOR) for a 9-7 victory.

"I was able to win the gold medal because of my training and the coaches," Balihamzehdeh said.

"The wrestlers I fought today were very strong and the pace of the bouts was very high. So I am feeling very good now."

Another Tokyo-bound wrestler who captured a gold medal -- also in a different weight class --
was Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB), who won the 82kg title with a victory by fall over
Kalidin ASYKEEV (KGZ).

"In the future I have a big hopes to become Olympic champion," Berdimuratov said. "I qualified for the Olympics already. We have a lot of training to do until [Tokyo]. Now here, I truly competed for the gold medal."

Berdimuratov, who won a bronze medal at 77kg at the 2019 World Championships in Nursultan to gain a ticket to Tokyo, was put on the bottom of the par terre, but stepped over Asykeev's attempted roll and clamped down for the fall in 1:46.

Berdimuratov, a bronze medalist at 82kg a year ago, had defeated Asykeev 3-0 earlier in the day in their round-robin group match. For Asykeev, the loss in the rematch meant having to add a senior Asian silver to his one at U-23 and two at the junior level.

"I wrestled against the Kyrgyz wrestler last time and I lost 3-0," Berdimuratov said. "But today we were competing again and I won the gold medal. I’d like to share this medal with my whole team, and my coaches, because we worked hard to achieve this result."

It was a good day overall for Japan, which also came away with three bronze medals from Ayata SUZUKI (JPN) at 60kg, Taishi HORIE (JPN) at 72kg and Satoki MUKAI (JPN) at 82kg. A chance for a fourth failed to come to fruition when Beksultan MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) handed
Masayuki AMANO (JPN) a 5-3 loss at 82kg, earning a bronze for himself after consecutive fifth places at the last two Asian Championships.

At 67kg, one of the third-place matches was a clash of the two bronze medalists from 2020, with Hossein ASSADI KOLMATI (IRI) taking home the hardware again after using a devastating front headlock to wipe out Ashu ASHU (IND) by 9-0 technical fall in 26 seconds.

The other 67kg match for the bronze produced a startling comeback, as Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) rallied from a seven-point deficit to defeat Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB) by fall after building up a 15-7 lead.

Amin KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI), last year's 72kg champion, came away with a bronze this time
after edging Makhmud BAKHSHILLOEV (UZB) 2-1. Bakhshilloev was the silver medalist at
67kg behind Ryu last year.

Day 2 Finals


60kg (10 entries)
BRONZE - Seunghak KIM (KOR) df. Karrar Abbas ALBEEDHAN (IRQ) by TF, 9-0, :56
BRONZE - Ayata SUZUKI (JPN) df. Merdan ALLAYAROV (TKM) by TF, 8-0, 2:18

67kg (10 entries)
GOLD - Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (JPN) df. Almat KEBISPAYEV (KAZ) by Fall, 5:22 (12-7)
BRONZE - Hossein ASSADI KOLMATI (IRI) df. Ashu ASHU (IND) by TF, 9-0, :26
BRONZE - Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) df. Mirzobek RAKHMATOV (UZB) by Fall, 4:51 (15-7)

72kg (9 entries)
GOLD - Hansu RYU (KOR) df. Ruslan TSAREV (KGZ), 6-5
BRONZE - Taishi HORIE (JPN) df. Muslihiddin UROQOV (TJK) by TF, 9-0, 3:16

82kg (7 entries)
GOLD - Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) df. Kalidin ASYKEEV (KGZ) by Fall, 1:46 (2-1)
BRONZE - Satoki MUKAI (JPN) df. Yevgeniy POLIVADOV (KAZ), 3-1

97kg (9 entries)
GOLD - Mehdi BALIHAMZEHDEH (IRI) df. Seungjun KIM (KOR), 9-5
BRONZE - Yerulan ISKAKOV (KAZ) df. Al Majeed AL KAABI (IRQ) by Default
BRONZE - Beksultan MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) df. Masayuki AMANO (JPN), 5-3