Kakran Clinches 68kg Gold as Indian Women Get off to Strong Start Before Home Crowd

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 20) -- Divya KAKRAN (IND) shed tears of joy after clinching a gold medal for host India, while compatriots advanced to three of the four other finals as women’s wrestling got started Thursday at the Asian Championships.

Kakran won all four of her matches by fall at 68kg, which, with just five entries, is being competed in a round-robin format. With no matches remaining in the night session, she secured her first Asian gold after finishing third in 2019 and second in 2017.  

Kakran’s key victory came in the fourth round of matches over reigning world junior champion Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN), when she was losing 4-4 on criteria but locked up her opponent’s arms from the bottom and tipped her over backwards to secure a fall at 4:20. 

“That’s my best move,” Kakran said through tears. “Before coming here, I thought that I wanted to pin everyone.”

Sarita SARITA (IND) is one of three Indian Day Three finalists. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

In the night session, India will have a chance to pick up more golds through Devi NIRMALA (IND) at 50kg, Pinki PINKI (IND) at 55kg and Sarita SARITA (IND) at 59kg. Japan has two finalists, including world 76kg silver medalist Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN), as does Mongolia, while Kyrgyzstan has one.

India’s American coach Andrew Cook, hired a year ago as a “women’s foreign expert,” said he was proud of the team’s showing in a competition that unfortunately is missing women’s powerhouses China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea due to circumstances related to the new coronavirus.

“I think the last two months or so we’ve had some of the best training that I’ve [seen] in the year that I’ve been in India,” Cook said. “Cohesion with coaches, cohesion with athletes. I think the training program is right on point.

“I’m happy with the things they are showing. They’re actually doing what we do in practice. That’s a big deal.”

Cook said his concerns about how his charges would deal with the pressure of competing before the home crowd at K.D. Jadrav Wrestling Stadium were swiftly alleviated.

“I was a little bit worried, because through the weekend, they all split off and went to their homes and I didn’t really see them until this morning,” Cook said. “So I was a tiny bit worried, how we were going to react, how were we going to wrestle. I also felt that they’re very comfortable in India, and they wrestle hard for their fans. I thought it would wash, and it washed strong.”

Miho IGARASHI (JPN) upset Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ), a world bronze medalist, and made it to the 50kg finals. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

In the 50kg final, Nirmala will face two-time world U-23 champion Miho IGARASHI (JPN), who pulled off an upset when she scored the decisive takedown with :15 left in a 5-3 victory over world bronze medalist Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ).

“I lost to her two years ago, and I was going for revenge,” Igarashi said. “Even though I cut it close, I thought if I stayed calm, I could turn her over. I kept my cool during the match and it paid off.”

Igarashi has extra motivation coming into her first senior continental championships—younger sister Saki already has an Asian gold, which she won at 55kg in 2018 in Bishkek.  

“My younger sister won the title before me, so I want to catch up and definitely win the championship,” she said with a smile.

Nirmala earned her place in the final by rolling to a 10-0 technical fall over Dauletbike YAKHSHIMURATOVA (UZB).

At 55kg, Pinki PINKI (IND) defeated Marina ZUYEVA (KAZ) 6-0 in the semifinals to set up a showdown for the gold with Dulguun BOLORMAA (MGL), who assured she will improve on her 2019 bronze medal by pinning Kana Higashikawa (JPN) in 44 seconds.

Battsetseng ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), a silver medalist a year ago in Xi’an, China, advanced to the 59kg final against Sarita with a 5-1 victory over Madina BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ).

Sarita herself survived a scare against Yuumi KON (JPN), as she scored a 4-point move to go up 10-0, but because the action continued the technical fall was not called. Kon managed to reverse and put Sarita on her back, but she held out to clinch a 10-3 win.

Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN), the reigning world silver medalist, will wrestle in the 76kg finals. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

All but one of the weight classes used preliminary groups due to limited entries, and the 76kg final will be a rematch of Minagawa’s 3-0 victory over world U-23 bronze medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ).

Both wrestlers won their semifinals by fall, with Minagawa topping Arlunjargal GANBAT (MGL) and Medet Kyzy decking Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ), a 2018 bronze medalist who placed fifth at last year’s World Championships. 

Minagawa, who scored all of her points against Medet Kyzy on stepouts, is aiming for her third Asian title and first since 2015, and sixth medal overall. She was second to Chinese opponents in both 2018 and 2019.

Meanwhile, the fifth-round match at 68kg between Matsuyuki and Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN (MGL) will ostensibly decide the silver and bronze medals. 


Women’s Wrestling
50kg (8 entries)
SEMIFINAL - Devi NIRMALA (IND) df. Dauletbike YAKHSHIMURATOVA (UZB) by TF, 10-0, 3:29

55kg (6 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Pinki PINKI (IND) df. Marina ZUYEVA (KAZ), 6-0
SEMIFINAL – Dulguun BOLORMAA (MGL) df. Kana Higashikawa (JPN) by Fall, :44 (2-0)

59kg (7 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Sarita SARITA (IND) df. Yuumi KON (JPN), 10-3

68kg (5 entries)
Round-Robin Standings (through 4 rounds)
1. Divya KAKRAN (IND), 4-0;
2. Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN), 2-1;
3. Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN (MGL) 2-1;
4. Albina KAIRGELDINOVA (KAZ), 0-3;
5. Azoda ESBERGENOVA (UZB), 0-3.

76kg (7 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) df. Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) by Fall, 2:48 (4-1)
SEMIFINAL – Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) df. Arlunjargal GANBAT (MGL) by Fall, 1:33 (5-0)


Kaisanov Caps Eventful Week by Repeating as Asian 74kg Champ

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 23)—It’s been a good week for Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ). Five days after he was upgraded to the world bronze medal that he felt should have been his all along, he clinched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by successfully defending his freestyle 74kg title at the Asian Championships.

Kaisanov edged local favorite Jitender JITENDER (IND) 3-1 in the final as Kazakhstan captured two of the remaining five gold medals at stake on the final day of action at New Delhi’s K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Stadium.

“I believed I could win the Asian championship a second time,” Kaisanov said. “This gold medal was very important to me.”

It’s value was enhanced because the Kazakhstan federation informed him that a gold medal in New Delhi would automatically clinch the Olympic spot that he earned at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, where he lost a contentious bronze-medal match to Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA). 

A loss and he would have had to enter a playoff for the ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Even though he recently suffered a knee injury, the incentive of sewing up the place in New Delhi led him to make the decision to participate. 

“I participated because it was part of the Kazakhstan process for qualifying for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had to win.”

Kaisanov had faced Jitender last month at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series event in Rome, handily winning 9-2 in a repechage match before winning a bronze.

“One month ago I beat him with a big score [in Rome],” Naisanov said. “But this match was different because he was at home in front of his fans. It was mentally different, that’s why it was difficult.”

In the final, Kaisanov was on the clock when he scored with an exposure off a counter, before Jitender gained a stepout point. In the second period, Naisanov gained an insurance point with a stepout and held on for the win.

The victory came after UWW announced that Khadiev had failed a doping test, which moved Naisanov up to the world bronze. Khadiev had won their third-place match 4-3, but there was contention whether a late stepout by Naisanov should have been scored a takedown.

“I am very happy because after the World Championships I was so sad because I thought I won that match,” Naisanov said. “The referees made some mistakes. When I first heard the news of the doping by the French wrestler, I waited for the official news. I am so very happy. “

In other finals, world U-23 champion Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) picked up his first senior Asia gold after winning bronzes in 2016 and 2018 when he decked Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) in 2:44.

Zholdoshbekov, who had an eye poked in his opening match by an Iranian foe that bothered him throughout the day, scored a stepout while on the activity clock, then stuffed an arm drag attempt to put Ikromov into a headlock and secure the fall.

“All of the wrestlers want to take the gold in tournaments,” Zholdoshbekov said of gaining the elusive gold. “I worked very hard and I’m very happy.”

Ikromov was denied in his bid to become just the second Tajikstan wrestler in history to win an Asian gold. The only other came in 2003.

Zholdoshbekov said he will drop down to 57kg for the Asian Olympic qualifier to be held in his home country next month.

Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) defeated Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 in the 86kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The biggest surprise of the evening came in the 86kg final, in which unheralded Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) uncorked a pair of 4-point throws and held on to defeat 2019 Asian U-23 champion Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) 10-10 on big-point criteria.

Yamada was third at the Japan Championships, but got the chance to make his international senior debut as national champ Sosuke TAKATANI (JPN) will enter the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament. 

“The chance came to me and to be honest, I thought I wouldn’t win a medal, much less the championship,” said Yamada, who knocked off world silver medalist Deepak PUNIA (IND) in the semifinals. “To get the gold, I’m extremely happy.

“After the semifinal, I went back to the hotel and looked at videos of my opponent in the final. He had high finishes in various tournaments. He’s a strong wrestler. This time, more than skills, I won with guts and patience.”

Bazrighaleh took a 3-0 lead on a takedown and stepout, before Yamada cut the lead with a nifty back trip for a takedown. But the Iranian added another stepout and a takedown to go ahead 6-2 heading into the second period.

That’s when Yamada put to good use his occasional training in Greco, as he locked up Bazrighaleh and executed a picture-perfect lateral drop, not once but twice. That put him up 10-6, and a takedown and 2-point counter were not enough to give Bazrighaleh the win.

“When I was in high school and sometimes in college, I entered Greco competitions,” said Yamada, a second-year student at powerhouse Yamanashi Gakuin University. “We often practice Greco style. Even though the styles are different, I’m glad I didn’t just limit myself to freestyle. 

“I used it in situations where I was both winning and losing. I just had to give it a shot and see what happens.”

Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) crushed Takuma OTSU (JPN),11-0, and claimed the 92kg gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Another final that featured a clash between Iran and Japan went the Middle East nation’s way, as Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) stormed to an 11-0 technical fall of Takuma OTSU (JPN) for the 92kg gold. 

That helped Iran capture the team title with 168 points, just 9 ahead of host India in second. Kazakhstan finished third with 146 points, 6 ahead of Japan.

Ironically, had Yamanashi Gakuin University entered the team competition on its own, it would have placed sixth with 100 points. The school located 120 kilometers west of Tokyo in Kofu city got gold medals from Yamada and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) at 65kg, a silver from Otsu, and bronzes from Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) at 61kg and alumnus Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) at 57kg.

“We expected at least third places from the lower weights,” Yamanashi coach Kunihiko OBATA said. “The guys in the upper weights far exceeded our expectations. It’s a good experience and gives them confidence.”

The final gold of the night went to world U-23 bronze medalist Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ), who executed three gut wreches in dominating Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) for a 10-0 technical fall in 1:32.

In the bronze-medal matches, host India’s two world medalists came away with hardware, as Rahul AWARE (IND) topped Majid DASTAN (IRI) 5-2 at 57kg and Punia rolled to a 10-0 technical fall of Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) at 86kg.

Japan and Iran had two bronze medalists each, while Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Korea had one each.

Daichi TAKATANI (JPN), a silver medalist at both the Asian Championships and Asian Games in 2018 at 65kg, picked up a bronze medal in his debut at the next Olympic weight of 74kg with a 15-4 technical fall of Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ).

Takatani had unsuccessfully tried to dislodge 2018 world champion Otoguro at 65kg in the battle to make Japan’s Olympic team, then made the drastic jump up two weight classes to 74kg. He came up short of grabbing the Tokyo 2020 spot, but his second place at the Japan Championships earned him a ticket to New Delhi.

While conceding little in terms of technique, Takatani still feels the gap in size, and allowed Mahmood to pull off a 4-point counter to start their bronze-medal match. But his superior skills came to the forefront and he piled up the points before finishing the match in 5:28.

Day 6 Results


61kg (13 entries)
GOLD – Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) df. Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) by Fall, 2:44 (3-0)
BRONZE – Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) df. YUN Jihoon (KOR), 4-2
BRONZE – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Majid DASTAN (IRI), 5-2

74kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Jitender JITENDER (IND), 3-1
BRONZE – Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) df. Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ) by TF, 15-4, 5:28
BRONZE – Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), 5-0 

86kg (9 entries)
GOLD – Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 
BRONZE – Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) by TF, 10-0, 2:43

92kg (8 entries)
GOLD – Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Takuma OTSU (JPN) by TF, 11-0, 5:31 
BRONZE – Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) df. Chyngyz KERIMULOV (KGZ) by TF, 11-1, 4:30
BRONZE – Iliskhan CHILAYEV (KAZ) df. Ajiniyaz SAPARNIYAZOV (UZB), 4-4

125kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:32
BRONZE – NAM Koungjin (KOR) df. Zaman ANWAR (PAK) by TF, 10-0, 3:23
BRONZE – Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI) df. Farkhod ANAKULOV (TJK) by TF, 10-0, 2:04