Perfect Japan sweeps 5 golds at U20 Worlds

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 18) -- Japan has won every women's team title at the U20 Worlds they have participated in. But when the USA won the team title in Ufa last year in Japan's absence with Russia finishing second and India third, talks of other nations catching up with Japan were ripe.

But on Thursday, Japan once again reminded the world about the gulf in class between them and other nations in women's wrestling.

In what was a day of utter dominance on the mat, Japan swept all five gold medals on offer on Thursday at the U20 World Championships in Sofia, astonishingly only in 14 minutes and 45 seconds.

While Umi ITO (JPN), Moe KIYOOKA (JPN), Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) and Ami ISHII (JPN) finished their bouts in a total of eight minutes 45 seconds, only Ayano MORO (JPN) wrestled the full six minutes.

Moreover, all five wrestlers did not let any of their opponents score a single attacking point with Moro giving up a passivity point in the final.

U20 Asian champion Ito got it going with a 10-0 technical superiority over Audrey JIMENEZ (USA) in the 50kg final. Like all other of her bouts, she never looked in any kind of trouble.

Ito and Jimenez scrambled for the initial takedown but it was the former who got the upper hand. She then added another before getting a roll to lead 4-0.  Two go-behinds got her the win in just two minutes and 22 seconds.

The 2017 U17 world champion was injured in the semifinal loss against world champion Remina YOSHIMOTO (JPN) at the Meiji Cup. But Ito said that the injury healed just in the nick of time for the U20 Worlds.

"I had the injury two months ago," Ito said. "But I overcame the injury, so like I did in the final, I was able to move well in my matches. Anyway, I'm relieved."

Wrestling at her first U20 Worlds, Ito did not feel any pressure whatsoever to win the title or begin the session with gold for Japan.

"I didn't feel any pressure," she said. "I was able to stay relaxed and I fought without feeling pressure."

With the win, Ito continued her unbeaten record internationally, extending back to 2017.

Moe KIYOOKA (JPN)Moe KIYOOKA (JPN) scored a 10-0 win over Albina RILLIA (UKR) in the 55kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Returning to Sofia for her second age-group World Championships, Moe KIYOOKA (JPN) repeated as the champion, this year at 55kg. Wrestling U20 European bronze medalist Albina RILLIA (UKR), Kiyooka finished the bout in three minutes and 36 seconds.

Aware of how the world looks up to Japan as the gold standard in women's wrestling, Kiyooka wanted to keep it the same way.

"Japan [women], of course, every year in international tournaments wins team titles," Kiyooka said. "Every country looks at Japan as a strong team. More than pressure, I'm aware that my country is strong so I prepare to go out and give everything in matches."

And she had a special motivation all the way from Japan going into the gold medal bout on Thursday.

Kiyooka's brother, Kotaro, won his first national collegiate title for Nippon Sports Science University at freestyle 65kg earlier on Thursday. Before his sister's final, he sent a text saying 'ganbatte', which translates to fight hard.

"It motivated me that my brother was watching," she said. "I heard that my older brother had won the title. I was very happy. It made me want to fight hard and achieve the goal of having us siblings win double gold. It became a source of energy and it made me twice as powerful."

Evident on the mat as she did not let Rillia even come close to finishing an attack. For Kiyooka, the performance was similar to any even if it was not the World Championships.

"No matter the tournament, I go into it thinking I will definitely win the title," she said. "More than being concerned about my opponents, I focus on putting out an effort that makes use of what I did in training up to now, and to have matches that I have no regrets about."

Sakura MOTOKI (JPN)Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) secures the fall over Viktoria BORSOS (HUN) in the 59kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Two senior world team members gave a peek into what to expect from them at the senior World Championships in Belgrade as both outclassed their opponents in the final.

At 59kg, Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) secured a fall over Viktoria BORSOS (HUN) using a cradle in just one minute and 11 seconds. After the final, Motoki said she learned the move recently.

"I thought I would try a new technique that I was taught, and it was really good that I did it well," Motoki said.

While she secured a fall in the final, her semifinal was a tight affair as she scraped past Ebru DAGBASI (TUR) 2-2 after a late takedown. Motoki said it was the nervousness of wrestling at a World Championships that got to her.

"I had a very disappointing match [semifinal on Wednesday]," she said. "I had to put that behind me and clear my head [for the final]. I felt the pressure. I'm also going to the [senior] World Championships, so yesterday [Wednesday, the nervousness and anxiety caused me to not wrestle so well."

Taking lessons from the U20 Worlds, Motoki, whose father Yasutoshi competed in Greco-Roman 63kg at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, will now train for Belgrade.

"In my training, I want to add new moves and develop more patterns of attack," she said.

Ami ISHII (JPN)The four medalists at 68kg including gold winner Ami ISHII (JPN), second from left. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan) 

Ami ISHII (JPN) was the second senior world team member to win the gold on Thursday. She was the quickest of the lot to finish her final, taking just a minute and 36 seconds. She pinned Nurzat NURTAEVA (KGZ) for the gold.

The former U17 Asian champion had to beat world silver medalist Rin MIYAJI (JPN) in the semifinal of the Meiji Cup and Naruha MAYSUYUKI (JPN) in the final and playoff to make the senior world team.

"Yes, there was [pressure]. I am going to the [senior] World Championships, so I thought that I absolutely have to win this tournament," she said.

Ishii is aware that the competition in Belgrade will be much tougher, especially at 68kg. Olympic champion Taymra MENSAH STOCK (USA), world champion Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ), Olympic silver Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR), 65kg world champion Irina RINGACI (MDA), Feng ZHOU (CHN), and Alla BELINSKA (UKR) are expected to be in Belgrade. But Ishii is up for the challenge.

"I know that the matches will be a lot tougher, so in the short time remaining until then, I will do everything that I need to do to be prepared," she said.

Ayano MORO (JPN)Ayano MORO (JPN) extending her unbeaten streak to 35 bouts. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

The final gold was won by Ayano MORO (JPN) who had to work hard for a 3-1 win against two-time U17 world champion Priya MALIK (IND) in the 76kg final.

Moro was called passive in the first period but she scored a stepout to lead 1-1 on criteria at the break.

Malik shot for Moro's legs on a few occasions in the second period but failed to score. Moro, however, hit a low double and scored a takedown and defended her 3-1 lead till the time expired.

With the win, she extended her unbeaten record to 35 bouts, a streak that began in 2017. Her last loss was to Ishii in the 57kg final at the National Junior High School Invitational 2017. 

Out of her 35 wins, the bout against Malik was only the second in which she did not secure a fall or technical superiority. The final did leave Moro in tears as she was surprised that it took her six minutes to win the gold medal in Sofia.

"These tears are not for winning gold but for not dominating the final," Moro said. "I want to be at the Olympics and win it but not with this performance. I wrestled very poorly here."

ANTIM (IND)ANTIM (IND) ended Japan's winning run in Sofia. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Antim stops Japan

Japan had the chance to put all 10 of its wrestlers in the final but ANTIM (IND) pinned Ayaka KIMURA (JPN) in the 53kg quarterfinals to dash its hopes. Japan, however, still has the chance to win 10 medals as Antim reached the final by beating Nataliia KLIVCHUTSKA (UKR), 11-2, in the semifinal.

Altyn SHAGAYEVA (KAZ) will try to stop Antim from becoming India's first woman to be U20 world champion after she defeated Shaimaa MOHAMED (EGY) via fall. The bout was closer than the scoreline shows as Shagayeva was almost pinned by Mohamed when the referees stopped the bout as the Egypt wrestler pulled Shagayeva's singlet.

The bout began in par terre and the Kazakhstan wrestler got the gut wrench to make it 5-1 before a final-second fall.

Sofia MACALUSO (USA)Sofia MACALUSO (USA) reached the final at 57kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 57kg, Sofia MACALUSO (USA) entered the finals after three wins via fall. She defeated two returning medalists and Melda DERNEKCI (TUR) in the semifinals.

Macaluso will have Ruka NATAMI (JPN) in the final. The Japanese wrestler defeated Zeinep BAYANOVA (KAZ), 7-1 after trailing for most of the bout. Bayanova kept 1-1 criteria lead and Natami was called passive for the second but she scored an underhook for four.

The second USA wrestler to reach the final was returning U20 world champion Amit ELOR (USA), who moved past REETIKA (IND) 12-1 with ease. With a win away from her second U20 title, Elor will face Anastassiya PANASSOVICH (KAZ) in the final.

Panassovich was the second wrestler to beat a wrestler from Japan in a thrilling semifinal. Sumire NIIKURA (JPN) led 6-5 with just 15 seconds but Panassovich hit a double leg and scored a takedown to win 7-6. A lost challenge added one more point.

Nonoka OZAKI (JPN)Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) is a win away from becoming a U20 world champion. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

A battle between two former U17 world champions will be seen in the 62kg final as Asian champion and senior world bronze medalist Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) reached the final and Tokyo Olympian Sonam MALIK (IND) made it to the gold bout from the other side.

Ozaki defeated Birgul SOLTANOVA (AZE), 10-0, using a leg lace while Malik scored a fall over Bermet NURIDIN KYZY (KGZ).

Another India-Japan final will take place as PRIYANKA (IND) booked the spot against Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) at 65kg.

Priyanka used an armbar to pin Dilnaz SAZANOVA (KGZ) while Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) defeated Khadija JLASSI (TUN), 10-0.



GOLD: Umi ITO (JPN) df. Audrey JIMENEZ (USA), 10-0

BRONZE: Priyanshi PRAJAPAT (IND) df. Munkhgerel MUNKHBAT (MGL), via fall
BRONZE: Gultakin SHIRINOVA (AZE) df. Natalia WALCZAK (POL), 10-0

GOLD: Moe KIYOOKA (JPN) df. Albina RILLIA (UKR), 10-0 

BRONZE: Roza SZENTTAMASI (HUN) df. Pei LIAO (TPE), via fall

GOLD: Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) df. Viktoria BORSOS (HUN), via fall

BRONZE: Ebru DAGBASI (TUR) df. Bhagyashree FAND (IND), 3-1 
BRONZE: Madina AMAN (KAZ) df. Aleksandra WITOS (POL), 4-1

GOLD: Ami ISHII (JPN) df. Nurzat NURTAEVA (KGZ), via fall

BRONZE: Nesrin BAS (TUR) df. ARJU (IND), 6-4
BRONZE: Sophia SCHAEFLE (GER) df. Luciana BEDA (MDA), 5-1

GOLD: Ayano MORO (JPN) df. Priya MALIK (IND), 3-1 

BRONZE: Veronika NYIKOS (HUN) df. Melisa SARITAC (TUR), 7-5
BRONZE: Tristan KELLY (USA) df. Daniela TKACHUK (POL), via fall



SF 1: ANTIM (IND) df. Nataliia KLIVCHUTSKA (UKR), 11-2
SF 2: Altyn SHAGAYEVA (KAZ) df. Shaimaa MOHAMED (EGY), via fall (7-1)


SF 1: Ruka NATAMI (JPN) df. Zeinep BAYANOVA (KAZ), 7-1
SF 2: Sofia MACALUSO (USA) df. Melda DERNEKCI (TUR), via fall (12-3)

GOLD: Sonam MALIK (IND) vs. Nonoka OZAKI (JPN)

SF 1: Sonam MALIK (IND) df. Bermet NURIDIN KYZY (KGZ), via fall (8-0)
SF 2: Nonoka OZAKI (JPN) df. Birgul SOLTANOVA (AZE), 10-0


SF 1: PRIYANKA (IND) df. Dilnaz SAZANOVA (KGZ), via fall (5-0)
SF 2: Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) df. Khadija JLASSI (TUN), 10-0

GOLD: Anastassiya PANASSOVICH (KAZ) vs. Amit ELOR (USA)

SF 1: Anastassiya PANASSOVICH (KAZ) df. Sumire NIIKURA (JPN), 8-6
SF 2: Amit ELOR (USA) df. REETIKA (IND), 12-1


Iran crowns trio of U20 world champs, wins team title

By Vinay Siwach

SOFIA, Bulgaria (August 21) -- When Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) was in Bulgaria last time, he was wrestling at his first senior tournament at the Dan Kolov in Sofia. Mohmadipiani finished with a bronze medal after losing the semifinal to European silver medalist Gela BOLKVADZE (GEO) in the semifinal.

Despite the loss, Mohmadipiani took home a lesson from the loss of being on the attack from the word go in a bout.

He used a similar strategy in the 82kg final against '21 U17 world champion Achiko BOLKVADZE (GEO) to win the gold medal at the U20 World Championships in Sofia.

Mohmadipiani was one of the three gold medalists for Iran on Sunday as the latest edition of the U20 World Championships came to an end with Iran winning the Greco-Roman title with 174 points. Azerbaijan finished second with 119 points while Ukraine managed to jump to third with 93 points.

The two other gold medals on Sunday were captured by wrestlers from Azerbaijan. A historic bronze medal was also won by Richard KARELSON (EST), becoming the first-ever medalist from the country at U20 Worlds.

For Iran, Mohmadipiani had the most convincing victory even though he faced one of the most accomplished wrestlers entered in the competition.

18-year-old Bolkvadze began aggressively against Mohmadipiani but lost some steam as the bout went on. He was called passive and Mohmadipiani failed to get a turn. But 20 seconds later, Mohmadipiani got him into a body lock and pushed him to the mat to get four points.

In the second period, Bolkvadze got the opportunity to level scores but he failed to get any points from par terre.

Bolkvadze struggled to keep up with the pace of the bout and the referee warned him for blocking. On the second warning, he was cautioned with two points. Mohmadipiani got the win when Bolkvadze received his second caution and two points.

"Bolkvadze is a good wrestler and he won a gold medal last year [at U17," Mohmadipiani said. "I won the Asian Championships. So great bout but I won against him at the end."

With the U20 title in the bag, the Iran youngster is hoping to quickly move to seniors from next year onwards. But he knows the challenge that comes with it.

"The weight class has many good wrestlers," he said. "We have Azerbaijan [Rafig HUSEYNOV] and Turkey [Burhan AKBUDAK] but I'm well trained and I think I can win.”

Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI)Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) defeated Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) in the 60kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

At 60kg, Saeid ESMAEILI (IRI) had all but lost the gold to Suren AGHAJANYAN (ARM) as he trailed 6-2 with 22 seconds left in the final. But Esmaeili got his hands around Aghajanyan’s waist before moving into a bearhug and he secured a four-point throw to win 6-6.

Aghajanyan scored exposure from par terre to lead 3-2 before Esmaeili scored a takedown on the edge just before the break.

In the second period, Esmaeili worked more but there was no passivity call as Aghajanyan scored two stepouts to lead 5-2.

Esmaeili tried going for a takedown but his hands moved below the Aghajanyan’s waist and the move was illegal. Iran challenged the call but lost. It seemed that the final was all locked up when the U20 Asian champion stunned Aghajanyan, and the crowd with the throw to take the criteria lead.

Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI)Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) scored six stepout points against Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ) in the 97kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

The third gold medal for Iran came in emphatic fashion as Ali ABEDIDARZI (IRI) won the 97kg weight class over Iussuf MATSIYEV (KAZ).

Matsiyev took a 4-0 lead with a stepout and turn from par terre and Abedidarzi was struggling to get going with his attacks. But just before the break, he scored two stepouts and Matsiyev was hit with caution for fleeing.

Abedidarzi scored three more stepouts in the second period to claim the lead 5-4. When Matsiyev was called passive, Abedidarzi continued the bout from standing and scored three points to win 9-4.

Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE)Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the gold at 67kg after beating Nika BROLADZE (GEO). (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Azerbaijan won the remaining two gold medals as Kanan ABDULLAZADE (AZE) won the 67kg weight class while Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) won at 72kg.

Abdullazade wrestled Nika BROLADZE (GEO) in the final and fell when the latter took the 1-1 criteria lead. Broladze planned to keep the lead until the end of the six minutes but Abdullazade scored a stepout with a minute and 13 seconds left.

Broladze, with time running out, tried to throw Abdullazade but both wrestlers fell with no control. But in the same sequence, Abdulladze managed to run around and score a go-behind to extend his lead to 4-1 for the win.

Gurban GURBANOV (AZE)Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) celebrates after emerging as the champion at 72kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Gurbanov had a similar script for his final as he defeated Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0, in the 72kg final. Perhaps he did not plan to get the first passivity point but Solovei was called passive and forced into par terre.

The former U17 world champion got the turn using a gut wrench to lead 3-0 at the break. He then continued to wrestle aggressively in the second period and Solovei was again called passive. This time Gurbanov did not get the turn but the score read 4-0.

Solovei got his chance to score when the third passivity was called against Gurbanov but Solovei had nothing left in him to turn the Azerbaijan wrestler.

Richard KARELSON (EST)Richard KARELSON (EST), blue, won Estonia's first-ever medal at U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

Estonia’s historic medal

No Estonia Greco-Roman wrestler even won a medal at the U20 Worlds but Richard KARELSON (EST) changed that on Sunday as he won a bronze medal in the 97kg weight class after beating Roman BALCHIVSCHII (MDA), 8-0, in the bronze medal bout.

In June, Karelson had become the first U20 European champion from Estonia in Greco-Roman. He was the second ever Estonian Greco-Roman wrestler to enter the final.

Incidentally, his father is also named Richard.

“It’s a great feeling,” Karelson said. “I hope I can work on this and win at the U23 Worlds as well. I know that the competition will be harder than this.

Karelson's father was the one who forced his son into wrestling after he was growing too fast.

In the previous two U20 Worlds, Karelson had finished 15th in Ufa and 12th in Tallin, his hometown. But with the bronze medal in Sofia, Karelson hopes he can lift his performance moving forward.

"The U20 European gold and this bronze medal will help me get some funds," he said. "Now I hope to continue this performance and train more."

With the U17 and U20 behind, the action now moves on to the World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia in two weeks. 

IranIran won the Greco-Roman team title at the U20 World Championships. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)



BRONZE: Nihat MAMMADLI (AZE) df. Koto GOMI (JPN), 3-3 


BRONZE: Seyed SOHRABI (IRI) df. Nestori MANNILA (FIN), 11-2

GOLD: Gurban GURBANOV (AZE) df. Alexandru SOLOVEI (MDA), 4-0

BRONZE: Irfan MIRZOIEV (UKR) df. Igor BOTEZ (ROU), 7-6




BRONZE: Rohit DAHIYA (IND) df. Ruslan ABDIIEV (UKR), 8-7 (via cautions)
BRONZE: Alperen BERBER (TUR) df. Fares GHALY (EGY), 9-1


BRONZE: Nurmanbet RAIMALY UULU (KGZ) df. Luka KATIC (SRB), 9-0