Japanese legends head Class of 2022 inductees into UWW Hall of Fame

By United World Wrestling Press

BELGRADE, Serbia (September 9) --- Superstars Saori YOSHIDA and Kaori ICHO, who combined for seven Olympic and 23 world championship gold medals and inspired the next generation of Japanese women that continue to dominate the sport, were among nine immortals inducted into the UWW Hall of Fame on Friday.

Two Greco-Roman wrestlers, a pair of American brothers in freestyle, another Japanese woman, one referee and one coach also gained a place in the shrine to wrestling greatness during a ceremony held in Belgrade, Serbia, as a prelude to this year's World Championships starting Saturday.

The inductees will be permanently recognized on the UWW website, at the UWW headquarters in Vevey, Switzerland, and in the international wing of the USA Hall of Fame located in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Yoshida and Icho, who were both among the four inaugural Olympic champions when women's wrestling was added to the Olympic program at Athens 2004, were appropriately selected in the Legends category.

Yoshida struck gold in three straight Olympics and an unprecedented 13 World Championships, mostly at 55kg. Japan's flag-bearer at the London 2012 Olympics, Yoshida put together a streak of 119 consecutive wins in individual tournaments, a run that ended in the final match of her career that left her with the silver medal at the Rio 2016 Olympics. Her only two other losses to non-Japanese opponents came at World Cup team events.

Icho made history when she became the first wrestler and the first female athlete in any sport in Olympic history to win four consecutive gold medals, not to mention winning 10 world titles. She competed at 63kg for much of her career before moving down to 58kg when that became an Olympic weight class (now 57kg).

After Icho's epic victory at the Rio 2016 Olympics for her fourth gold, she was named a recipient of the People's Honor Award, used by the Japanese government to honor individuals in sports, entertainment and culture whose accomplishments have inspired society. Yoshida received the award in 2012 after winning her 13th straight world title.

The new Hall of Fame members in the Greco-Roman category are Pertti UKKOLA of Finland and Gheorghe BERCEANU of Romania, both winners of Olympic and world golds.

Ukkola won the gold at 57kg at the Montreal 1976 Olympics, and captured the world title the following year. He also won two world bronzes in his career, in 1975 and 1981. Berceanu made the top of the Olympic podium at Munich 1972 at 48kg, then took the silver at Montreal 1976. The Romanian won world titles in 1969 and 1970, and a silver medal in 1975, and was also a three-time European champion.

In Freestyle, American brothers John and Ben PETERSON will enter the Hall together. At Munich 1972, Ben, the younger of the two by two years, won the gold at 90kg and John the silver at 82kg. Four years later at Montreal 1976, they reversed that finish, with John taking a gold and Ben settling for the silver. Both brothers also won one silver and one bronze at the World Championships, while John had three World Cup golds and Ben had one gold and two silvers.

The Women's Wrestling inductee is Japan's Hitomi OBARA, the London 2012 Olympic champion at 48kg and an eight-time world champion. She won all but the last of her world under her maiden name of SAKAMOTO, and almost all at 51kg.

In the Coaches category, the newest Hall member is Yuri SHAKMURADOV of Russia. A 1970 world champion and three-time European champion himself, he coached 16 wrestlers, both male and female, to Olympic gold medals between 1976 and 2012.

The new inductee in the Referees category is Orestes MOLINA, who officiated at Olympics in four different decades. A long-time instructor and head referee, he held the position of vice-president of the FILA/UWW Referee Commission from 2013 to 2016. He called matches at Olympics in 1980, 1984, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016.


Olympic champ Orta wins first world title in move up to 67kg

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (September 24) -- Two years after winning the gold at the Tokyo Olympics in Greco-Roman at 60kg, Luis ORTA (CUB) made a successful jump up to the next Olympic weight and captured his first world title.

Orta rallied in the second period to defeat Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) 4-3 in the 67kg final and secure a spot at the 2024 Paris Olympics for his country on Sunday, the final day of the World Championships in Belgrade.

"The result of this gold medal is due to hard training and good work of my coaches, and the good preparation we did before coming here, and in the end, we got it," Orta said.

Ali CENGIZ (TUR) survived being on his back for nearly a minute to claim the gold at 87kg, while Leri ABULADZE (GEO) finally struck gold after finishing second the past two years in the non-Olympic weight of 63kg.

Azerbaijan, with three champions and two silver medalists, won the team title for the first time in its history with 120 points, followed by Iran with 102 and Turkiye with 93.

The tournament was also serving as the initial qualifier for the Paris Games, with five berths up for grabs in each of the six Olympic divisions. Iran came away with four in Greco, while Cuba and Armenia secured three each and Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Azerbaijan and Turkey two apiece. Asian countries swept all five spots at 60kg.

Orta transitioned to 67kg by competing at 63kg in 2022, but could only manage a seventh-place finish at last year's World Championships in the same Stark Arena in Belgrade.

"After the Olympic gold in Tokyo, I couldn't step on the podium again so I am so happy that it happened today," Orta said.

He showed he could handle the extra weight at 67kg this year, beating defending champion Mate NEMES (SRB) in a tight semifinal and winning all three of his other matches en route to the final by technical fall.

Orta denied Jafrarov, the losing semifinalist to Nemes last year, of the world title by overcoming a 3-1 deficit in the second period with two stepouts, the second one coming after he opted to stay on his feet after being awarded a second passivity point.

Orta's bypassing ground wrestling was understandable. In the first period, he was put on top in par terre, only to see Jafrarov stop him during a gut wrench for 2, then add a stepout on an attempted throw.

Luis ORTA (CUB)Luis ORTA (CUB) celebrated his gold medal with a somersault. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

"I already beat Jafrarov once, but all finals are different," said Orta, who defeated the Azeri 5-1 in an early round at the Zagreb Open in February. "They can't be compared. We had a tough match. I think he was a very good opponent, and our fight was worthy of a final match for gold."

This year, Orta prepped for Belgrade and the new weight class by entering two of the Ranking Series events, finishing third in both Zagreb and Bishkek.

"After the gold in the Olympics in 2021, we decided to change the weight category. I went from 60 to 63 last year and we did good work. We did this as a step to fighting in the 67 category where there are very tough opponents. Since the weight change, I had to work harder."

Orta said he did not make any changes to his regimen after his Olympic triumph.

"I was training as before and I did not consider winning the gold in the Olympics as something that would change my life," he said. "I don't think about it and I'm focused on what I have to do next to get the same result in Paris next year."

Ali CENGIZ (TUR)Ali CENGIZ (TUR) celebrates after winning the 87kg final. (Photo: UWW / Amirreza Aliasgari)

In a clash between the bronze medalists from a year ago in the 87kg final, all looked lost for Cengiz until he fought off his back and held on for an 8-7 victory over David LOSONCZI (HUN).

In the first period, after Losonczi failed to score off par terre, he was pressing Cengiz at the edge when the Turk hit a front headlock throw for 4. Losonczi had inadvertently grabbed Cengiz's singlet, resulting in another 2 being tacked on for a 6-1 lead.

Cengiz's worst nightmare nearly came true in the second period. Attempting a reverse lift from par terre, Losonczi stepped over and landed chest-to-chest, getting 2 as Cengiz fought to avoid the fall, which the mat referee signaled but got no confirmation.

Ali CENGIZ (TUR)Ali CENGIZ (TUR), red, defends an attempted pin from David LOSONCZI (HUN). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Losonczi's repositioning to a reverse front headlock gave him 2 more and put Cengiz in danger again. But Cengiz somehow managed to extricate himself from the predicament, although his woes were still far from over.

He was assessed a 2-point caution for a foul, making it 7-7, although he held the criteria advantage due to the 4-pointer. That gave Losonczi one last chance in par terre, but he failed to budge Cengiz, and a late challenge that had no chance of succeeding over a suspected stepout added the final point.

For Losonczi, it will forever be a matter of what might have been. "I knew he would get tired, and he got tired and made a mistake," Losonczi said. "I had the opportunity to finish the match, but I didn't finish it, and that was it."

Still, achieving the objective of earning the Paris spot relieves some of the sting of defeat.

"My dream was to make it to the Paris Olympics," he said. "Being the world's best wrestler was not completed today, but I'm happy. I think I gave my all in this match. There is nothing left in me."

Leri ABULADZE (GEO)Leri ABULADZE (GEO) won the gold medal at 63kg after two silver-medal finishes. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 63kg, Abuladze finally made it to the top of the podium, beating Murad MAMMADOV (AZE) 2-2 on last-point criteria to add the world crown to the European title he won earlier this year.

Mammadov received the first passivity point, but Abuladze scored a reversal from par terre, only to see Mammadov gain a stepout to go up 2-1 in the first period.

Abuladze was the recipient of the second passivity point, which put him ahead on criteria. He nearly clinched the deal with a gut wrench that put Mammadov's back at about an 85-degree angle, just shy of the 90 degrees needed. Put on the bottom later, Abuladze held out for the win.

Geraei, Belenuik bag bronzes, Paris places

Two other Olympic champions in action, Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) and Zhan BELENIUK (UKR), both made it through the repechage earlier and came away with bronze medals to open the door for them to defend their Olympic crowns in Paris.

At 67kg, Geraei, taking full advantage of the challenge process as he did throughout the tournament, defeated Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM) by a rare disqualification for two leg violations.

After gaining a passivity point and going on top on par terre, Geraei received a 2-point leg penalty on a challenge. That kept him on top, and he then lifted up Galstyan and unleased a 2-point throw. Again Galstyan was flagged for a leg foul, which ended the match at 2:09.

Geraei, the world champion in 2021 and silver medalist last year, posted a wild 11-10 victory over Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) in the second round. After losing to Jafarov in the quarterfinals, he made it through the repechage earlier Sunday by rallying from four points down to defeat Krisztian VANCZA (HUN) 6-5.

Beleniuk, a two-time former world champion who was competing for just the second time since his triumph in Tokyo, reeled off three rolls in par terre in the first period against Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ) and cruised to a 7-2 victory at 87kg.

"It was a very difficult competition," Beleniuk said. "Today this was my second fight, but I kept with it and I got the license for the Olympic Games and a bronze medal for my country, which is very important because now is a very tough situation in Ukraine."

The victory gave the 32-year-old Beleniuk his fifth world medal. In Paris, he will have a chance at a third Olympic medal, having also won a silver in Rio in 2016.

The other 87kg bronze went to European bronze medalist Semen NOVIKOV (BUL), who used some nifty dexterity to turn the tide against Islam ABBASOV (AZE) and come out with a 6-3 victory.

After being rolled in par terre, Novikov responded with a gymnastics-like kip-up over Abbasov to secure a reversal and went right into a 4-point throw to take a 5-3 lead. Novikov received a passivity point in the second period to account for the final score.

The Ukrainian-born Novikov, who transferred to Bulgaria this year because of his inability to displace Beleniuk, lost to Losonczi in the semifinal and Cengiz at the European U23 in 2019.

Regarding his three fellow medalists, he said, "I need three rematches."

Host Serbia came away with two bronze medals on the final night from Nemes at 67kg and Georgij TIBILOV (SRB) at 63kg, much to the delight of the home crowd.

Nemes notched a 3-3 win on last-point criteria that denied Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) a second straight world bronze.

Nemes trailed after Ismailov scored with a 2-point lift from par terre in the first period. In the second, Nemes uncorked a gut wrench from par terre to make it 3-3 before running out the clock.

Tibilov, normally a 60kg wrestler, took home a medal in his first senior world appearance when he defeated Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM) 4-0. Tibilov, after receiving a passivity point in the first period, stopped a lateral drop attempt for 2 in the second period, then added the icing on the cake with a stepout.

The Serbian came into the tournament with a third-place finish at the European Championships and the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Cup in Warsaw, both at 60kg.

At 63kg, Enes BASAR (TUR) scored eight points in the first period, then survived a bizarre second period in which he handed Stefan CLEMENT (FRA) five free points to take the other bronze with a 9-6 victory.

Basar, making his senior world debut a decade removed from winning a world junior (U20) silver medal, was put on the bottom of par terre in the first period, but stopped a gut wrench attempt and had Clement on his back and near to a fall.

Clement was also assessed a 2-point penalty for a leg violation, which put Basar on top, and he took advantage with two gut wrenches for an 8-1 lead.

One point from ending the match, Basar instead was twice hit with a 2-point penalty for grabbing the singlet early in the second period, with an unsuccessful challenge of the second one giving Clement a further point to cut the gap to 8-6.

But a caution on Clement gave Basar a point, and the period ended with no technical points scored and the Turk, the bronze medalist at the Grand Prix of Germany, defeating the champion of that tournament in August.

Armenia, Kazakhstan gain last Olympic spots

Galstyan returned to the mat later for the fifth-place playoff for the Olympic berth but didn't stay long as he needed less than a minute to roll to an 8-0 technical fall over Ismailov to gain the spot for Armenia.

The lanky Galstyan grabbed a quick takedown and, wrapping his long arms around Ismailov's waist, put together a series of three gut wrenches to end the match in 59 seconds.

Kazakhstan's Tursynov also earned a ticket to Paris with an 8-0 victory in the first period, helped by a number of penalty points and capped with a gut wrench in defeating Abbasov.

Tursynov opened with a stepout, then, put on top in par terre, he received in succession a 2-point leg penalty, an unsuccessful challenge point, and a fleeing point. In the third start, he uncorked the gut wrench with the final move of the tournament.


Day 9 Results

63kg (24 entries)

BRONZE: Enes BASAR (TUR) df. Stefan CLEMENT (FRA), 9-6
BRONZE: Georgij TIBILOV (SRB) df. Hrachya POGHOSYAN (ARM), 4-0

67kg (41 entries)
GOLD: Luis ORTA (CUB) df. Hasrat JAFAROV (AZE) 4-3

BRONZE: Mate NEMES (SRB) df. Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ), 3-3
BRONZE: Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) df. Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM) by Disq., 2:09 (8-0)

5th-Place Playoff: Slavik GALSTYAN (ARM) df. Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) by TF, 8-0, :59

87kg (42 entries)
GOLD: Ali CENGIZ (TUR) df. David LOSONCZI (HUN), 8-7

BRONZE: Zhan BELENIUK (UKR) df. Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ), 7-2
BRONZE: Semen NOVIKOV (BUL) df. Islam ABBASOV (AZE), 6-3

5th-Place Playoff: Nursultan TURSYNOV (KAZ) df. Islam ABBASOV (AZE) by TF, 8-0, 2:14