Japan’s FS/WW World Cup team announced

By Gary Abbott

CORALVILLE, Iowa (November 16) --- The lineups for Japan, which will compete in both freestyle and women’s wrestling at the World Cup at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, Dec. 10-11 have been released.

The Freestyle and Women’s Wrestling World Cup will be held at Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa, Dec. 10-11. It is the first time that men’s freestyle and women’s wrestling will be held together side-by-side at the World Cup. 

The World Cup is the annual international dual meet championships, conducted by United World Wrestling. The top five teams in men’s freestyle and the top five teams in women’s freestyle from the 2022 Senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in September have confirmed their participation. There is also an All World Team in each discipline, featuring the top available athlete from the World Championships in each weight class that were not from a nation which qualified for the World Cup.

Japan is bringing a young women’s team, which features six athletes who have won age-group world titles, including three who have won multiple age-group world titles. 

A three-time age group champion is Moe KIYOOKA (55kg), who won a pair of world titles in 2022, both a U23 and a U20 world title, and also won a 2019 U17 world title.

Two-time age-group world champions include Harano SAKURAI (50kg), and Ruka NATAMI (57kg). Sakurai won the U17 World Championships in both 2017 and 2019. Natami earned a 2019 U17 world title and a 2022 U20 world title.

The other age-group world champions on the team are Himeka TOKUARA (59kg), Yui SAKANO (62kg) and Miyu IMAI (65kg). Tokuhara was a 2022 U23 world champion. Sakano, a 2017 U23 world champion, was also fifth in the 2016 Senior World Championships. Imai, a 2018 U20 world champion, was second in the 2018 Senior Asian Championships.

Japan, which was World Team champion at the 2022 World Championships in women’s wrestling, will be joined in the World Cup by second place United States, third place China, fourth place Mongolia and fifth place Ukraine, in addition to the All-World Team. 

The Japan freestyle World Cup teams will feature some talented young athletes making an impact internationally.

A 2022 Senior World Team member on the roster is Takahashi ISHIGURO (97kg). Ishaguro was third in the 2021 Asian Championships.  

Many of the team members have experience and success at the age-group levels. Tatsuya Shirai (86 kg) was a 2022 U23 world champion. Ryoma ANRAKU (65kg) was a 2022 U23 World bronze medalist. Kirin KINOSHITA (74kg) was a 2018 University world champion. Yajiro YAMASAKI (79kg) won a silver medal at the 2018 University World Championships.

The Japanese freestyle team, which placed third at the 2022 World Championships, will be joined in the World Cup by first place United States, second place Iran, fourth place Mongolia and fifth place Georgia, in addition to the All-World Team.

The rosters of the World Cup teams for the other nations will be announced over the next week by USA Wrestling.

Ticket packages for the 2022 Men’s and Women’s Freestyle World Cup are currently on sale. The seating capacity for Xtream Arena for the World Cup will be approximately 5,300. Ticket packages include a Gold package for $275, Silver package for $200 and All-Session tickets for $90.

A special Presentation of Teams and Team USA Meet & Greet will also be held on Friday, December 9, with tickets available at $10. Fans can receive a free youth ticket for the Friday night event, with the purchase of an adult general admission ticket.

Men’s and Women’s Freestyle World Cup tickets -> https://worldcupiowacity.com/tickets/

Japan Women’s Wrestling World Cup team
50kg – Hanano SAKRAI
53kg – Rino KATAOKA
55kg – Moe KIYOOKA
57kg – Ruka NATAMI
59kg – Himeka TOKUHARA
62kg – Yui SAKANO
65kg – Miyu IMAI
68kg – Kumi KOBAYASHI
68kg – Yuka FUJIKURA
76kg – Nodoka YAMAMOTO

Japan Men’s Freestyle World Cup team
57kg – Taichi YAMAGUCHI
61kg – Kaito MORIKAWA
65kg – Ryoma ANRAKU
70kg – Keitaro ONON
74kg – Kirin KINOSHITA
79kg – Yajiro YAMASAKI
86kg – Tatsuya SHIRAI
92kg - Sotoshi MIURA
97kg – Takahashi ISHIGURO
125kg – Hiroto NINOMIYA


With World Cup history on mind, Ukraine arrives in US

By Vinay Siwach

CORALVILLE, Iowa (December 2) -- In the last 10 months, Ukraine women's team has finished on the podium at the European Championships, U23 and U17 World Championships and qualified for the World Cup by finishing in the top five at the World Championships in Belgrade.

The wrestlers achieved this with little to no training before the Euros and with no training base for the rest of the year. A few trained in Budapest while another group was in Warsaw. If anyone was relatively lucky, they could train in western Ukraine.

So it was a commendable gesture from USA Wrestling to invite the Ukraine team to the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs two weeks before the December 10-11 World Cup despite being two of the strongest teams out there.

Throughout the year, United World Wrestling, along with Olympic Solidarity, the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and the USOC, provided technical assistance to the Ukraine Wrestling Federation for the participation of Ukraine women’s team in major UWW events.

The World Cup was also part of the same plan the UWW Development Department and local organizing committees provided technical support for Ukraine.

“We remain committed and devoted to supporting all our national federations around the world," UWW President Nenand LALOVIC said. "Despite the current political problems, we remain one family through wrestling.”

Ukraine has been preparing for the World Cup with a full-strength team and will be heading to Iowa from Colorado for the competition.  

"The American team welcomed us very kindly," Oksana LIVACH (UKR) said. "We are in the Olympic Center in Colorado, there are very good conditions for training and we enjoy spending time here."

Amidst all the difficulties the team has faced, the wrestlers have held together, switching between wrestling and coaching during various tournaments. The World Cup will see them rise to the challenge once again when Ukraine takes on Japan and Mongolia in the group stages of the tournament.

After the World Championships, the wrestlers did participate in the U23 Worlds in Spain before arriving in the United States last week. The 26-member delegation was welcomed with open arms and are provided with the best facilities and training.

"There are many sparring sessions, the training is very interesting, you can learn something new, exchange experience," Oksana said.

The World Cup will not only be a way to show the strength of the Ukraine team, it will also mark the return of Ukraine's two biggest stars. Former world champion and three-time Olympian Yulia TKACH (UKR) is entered for the tournament, her first in almost three years.

Another wrestler who will be returning in over a year is Tokyo bronze medalist Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR) at 62kg. She has skipped all tournaments in between.

Both Tkach and Koliadenko will be leaders of the team which also comprises Oksana LIVACH (UKR), Alina HRUSHYNA (UKR), Alla BELINSKA (UKR) and other youngsters.

At the World Cup, Ukraine will open its campaign against Mongolia on Saturday afternoon and will fancy its chances of winning the dual and setting up a virtual final against Japan. As the best country in women's wrestling is sending a depleted squad with no senior world medalist, Ukraine will look to pull off an upset win if it wants to reach the final from Group A.

With the team already acclimatized to the US and the return of its senior wrestlers, Ukraine winning will not be a surprise.

"Japan is the strongest team in the world in women's wrestling," Tkach said. "I think the young team will also be strong and it will be interesting for us to compete with them. Our team is also quite young and strong.

"We believe in our team. We will see a good fight on the mat and it will show who wins."

Apart from the chance to win the World Cup, the team is motivated and united by the tough times everyone faced this year. The emotions ran high at the European Championships when it crowned three champions in Budapest despite the uncertainty of the lives back home. A big relief came when it qualified for the World Cup finishing fifth in Belgrade with three medals.

"This year was really very difficult for our team. Our girls performed really well," Livach said. "I think this season will remain in history and in our memory. The World Cup is the final point for this year and we want to end it on a good note. All the teams are very strong and everyone can and has a chance to win, just like our team."

The World Cup win will make the year even more historic for the country as it has never finished on the podium before at the competition. But that can change in Coralville.

"Our team has many young wrestlers who have the opportunity to prove themselves," Livach said. "Expect a worthy fight."