Snyder Takes Olympic Loss to Sadulaev in Stride

By Ken Marantz

CHIBA, Japan (August 7)---The competitor in Kyle SNYDER (USA) hated the defeat. The wrestler in him loved the battle.

Snyder took his loss to rival Abdurashid SADULAEV (ROC) in the final of the freestyle 97kg class on Saturday night at the Tokyo Olympics in stride, already looking forward to the next chance for the two titans to clash.

"It is still exciting," Snyder said. "I love competition, I love wrestling, and I'm thankful to be able to compete." About facing Sadulaev again, he said, "I'd love it."

In the third meeting between the two since they both won gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics in different weight classes, Sadulaev beat the American for the second time with a 6-3 victory at Makuhari Messe Hall A to add a second Olympic gold to his four world titles.

Sadulaev, who had an activity point and a stepout in the first period, built up a 6-0 lead with a pair of tilts in countering Snyder's single-leg takedown attempts. On the first one, the wrestler known as The Russian Tank at one point lifted a prone Snyder completely off the mat, but not enough for a throw and instead settled for angling him over.

"There are definitely some positions that I have got to get better in," Snyder said. "That is what I'm thinking about. I have got to finish those attacks, so that is what I'm going to do. We had an idea of what it would be like."

Snyder, a two-time world champion, never gave up the fight, and came back to score a takedown and stepout in the final minute before Sadulaev ran out the clock.

"I'm a competitor so I hate to lose," Snyder said. "It's the spirit of Jesus that is strong in me. I'm not that strong as a guy, but Jesus is really strong and his spirit keeps me moving forward."

In the series dubbed "Snyderlaev" that drew worldwide attention, Snyder came out on top in their first clash in the final at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, Sadulaev's first after moving up to 97kg. Sadulaev had won the gold in Rio at 86kg, while Snyder had triumphed at 97kg.

Sadulaev gained his revenge at "Snyderlaev II" at the World Championships the next year in Budapest. He has not tasted defeat on the mat since that loss in Paris.

While it is uncertain what Sadulaev's plans are at the moment, Snyder would welcome a "Snyderlaev IV" at this year's World Championships in Oslo in October. Anyway, he intends to be there.

"Lord willing, I will be at the world championships," he said.

Like all American wrestlers, Snyder needs to constantly earn his spot on the national team to major tournaments. Having set the record as the youngest-ever US champion at both the worlds and Olympics, he knows there are always new faces coming along ready to knock him off.

"Guys are getting better and better," he said of prospects for U.S. wrestling. "Everybody is doing the right stuff. We have great coaches, support staff and training environments.

"I'm really happy for all my teammates who did a great job here, and all the coaches because they work so hard. I think we're going to dominate and keep getting better."

With Snyder's silver, the United States finished the Olympic wrestling tournament with nine medals overall, the most of any nation, including three golds.


Otoguro, Susaki Give Host Japan Golden Ending to Olympic Wrestling

By Ken Marantz

CHIBA, Japan (August 7) -- While the wrestling world was anticipating the big showdown at 97kg, Japanese eyes were focused on the two other finals on Saturday night, and they provided a double thrill for the host country.

Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) and Yui SUSAKI (JPN), both 2018 world champions, captured gold medals in their Olympic debuts as Japan brought the curtain down on the wrestling competition at Makuhari Messe Hall A with a bang.

Otoguro gave the Japanese men their lone wrestling gold medal of the Tokyo Games with a masterful performance against Rio 2016 bronze medalist Haji ALIYEV (AZE), winning the stacked freestyle 65kg class with a 5-4 win in the final.

"I overcame a lot of difficulties, but because of the people around me, I made progress litle by little," said Otoguro, who finished fifth at the 2019 World Championships. "It's a dream come true, I'm really happy."

Takuto OtoguroTakuto OTOGURO (JPN) defeated Haji ALIYEV (AZE) in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Otoguro got the go-ahead points with 20 seconds left, as well as one for an unsuccessful challenge that made it 5-2, then survived being assessed a pair of penalty points for fleeing to hold off the ever-dangerous Aliyev.

Aliyev took a 2-2 lead into the second period after scoring a takedown with 8 seconds left in the first. Otoguro appeared to have a chance to score early in the second period, but Aliyev forced a stalemate.

But Otoguro was not to be denied, and got in deep with a single-leg. As he did in the first period, he got 2 points by rolling through and keeping his own back unexposed when Aliyev rolled back in an attempted counter lift.

"When the Olympics were postponed, my coach said that there might not be an Olympics, but to believe that there will be and stay prepared," Otoguro said. "I put that preparation to use in the last 30 seconds and was able to get it in the end."

Otoguro burst upon the international scene at the 2018 World Championships in Budapest where, at age 19 years 10 months, he became the youngest-ever Japanese to win a men's world title. That broke the previous record held by 1976 Olympic champion Yuki TAKADA (JPN), who became his mentor at Yamanashi Gakuin University.

65kg podiumTokyo Olympics 65kg medal winners. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

After graduating in March, Otoguro followed his older brother into the sports division of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Among his coaches is London 2012 champion Tatsuhiro YONEMITSU (JPN), who, until Otoguro's victory Friday night, had been the last Japanese male to win an Olympic wrestling title.

"I spar with coach Yonemitsu every day, I admire him and learn so much from him," Otoguro said. "All those that I so admire, like Mr. Takada, I'm really happy to win the same gold medal as them."

Otoguro acknowledged that he felt under the gun to give the Japanese men a gold, after the host nation won a silver and bronze in Greco and the three others in freestyle, including brother Keisuke at 74kg, came up empty-handed.

"There was pressure," Otoguro said. "In other sports, [Japanese] athletes were winning gold medals. But freestyle had none and my turn came up on the last day. It was a really tough  tournament. But everyone came together as one, and helped me get this win."

YUI SUSAKIYui SUSAKI (JPN) is the Olympic champion at 50kg. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Susaki gave Japan its fourth gold medal of the Games in women's wrestling--matching the total won at Rio--with a 10-0 technical fall over Rio 2016 bronze medalist Yanan SUN (CHN) in the 50kg final.

"The person I am here now is because of the support of everyone around me," said Susaki, who grew up about 30 kilometers away from the wrestling venue in Matsudo city. "I feel so grateful. Their power became my power."

Susaki, who had beaten Sun in all three of their previous meetings, posted her most one-sided victory over the 2013 world champion by spinning behind for a takedown, then ripping off two lace locks.

Sun temporarily broke the hold, but Susaki reapplied the ankle hold and rolled two more times for a 10-0 technical fall in 1:36.

For the 21-year-old Susaki, who won the first of her two senior world titles in 2017, the year after taking her third world cadet gold, the Olympic gold was the fulfillment of a dream that seemed all but ended two years ago.

In fact, it was Sun who indirectly reopened the door to the Tokyo Olympics for Susaki, who hardly seemed grateful when she manhandled Sun in the last match of the wrestling competition at Makuhari Messe.

YUI SUSAKIYui SUSAKI (JPN) defeated Yanan SUN (CHN) to win the 50kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Dating back to junior high school, Susaki has lost just three times in her life -- all to compatriot Yuki IRIE (JPN). One loss came at the domestic qualifying tournament for the 2019 World Championships, where winning a medal would mean an automatic place on Japan's team to
Tokyo 2020.

But Irie was dealt a stunning 13-12 loss in the quarterfinals in Nur-Sultan by Sun, who then lost in the semifinals, thus keeping Irie out of the repechage. With Japan failing to earn an Olympic berth at 50kg, the process started all over again, and Susaki made the most of the second chance.

She beat Irie for the right to represent Japan at the Asian Olympic qualifier, which she won easily to earn her ticket to the Tokyo Games.

Susaki, who was one of Japan's flag-bearers at the opening ceremony, remained unbeaten against foreign foes by blasting through the Olympic tournament with four straight technical falls, all without conceding a point.

"It's like a dream," Susaki said. "My family, friends and others believed in me. That I can show them my gold medal makes me so happy."

During the medal ceremony, the presenter of the floral bouquet was Japanese legend Kaori ICHO, the lone wrestler in history with four Olympic gold medals.

Asked if Icho said anything to her, Susaki replied, "She said, 'Good luck for the next one also.' It gives me a stong feeling to go for the next [Olympics]."

With Susaki's victory, Japanese had now won 15 of the 24 gold medals awarded since women's wrestling was added to the Olympic program in 2004.

Stadnik secures 4th Olympic medal

Mariya STADNIK AZEMariya STADNIK (AZE), right, won a bronze medal. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)

In the bronze-medal matches, reigning world champion Mariya STADNIK (AZE) joined an elite group of four-time Olympic medalists -- albeit none of hers are gold--when she manhandled Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL) at 50kg.

The 33-year-old Stadnik struck early and often, rolling to a 10-0 technical fall in 1:47 to add to her silver medals from London 2012 and Rio 2016 and bronze at Beijing 2008. Her world title in 2019 came a decade after her first and only other one.

American Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA), the 2018 world silver medalist at 53kg who was dealt a last-second loss in the semifinals by Sun, came away with the other 50kg bronze.

Hildebrandt broke open a close match in the second period and finished off a 12-1 technical fall in 5:49 over 2018 world bronze medalist Oksana LIVACH (UKR) with three lace locks.

At freestyle 97kg, London 2012 champion Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE) was denied a third Olympic medal when Reineris SALAS PEREZ (CUB) scored a stepout with 30 seconds left for a 3-3 victory.

Sharifov, who also owns a bronze medal from the Rio Olympics, led 2-0 in the second period when he gave up a counter lift that put the Cuban ahead 2-2, but regained the lead with a stepout on the same scramble.

The 34-year-old Salas Perez, who announced he would retire after the Tokyo Games, adds the Olympic bronze to two world silver medals he won back in 2014 and 2015.

The other bronze went to Abraham CONYEDO RUANO (ITA), who pulled off a desperation counter back trip for 4 points late in the second period to defeat Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR) 6-2 and give Italy its lone wrestling medal in Tokyo.

At freestyle 65kg, Bajrang PUNIA (IND) avenged a semifinal loss to Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ) from the 2019 worlds by scoring three takedowns in the second period for an 8-0 victory.

The two had a tempestuous battle in the third-place match at the 2019 worlds, which Niyazbekov barely won 9-9 on criteria after squadering a 9-2 lead. Among Punia's points during his comeback was a penalty point for an eye gouge.

Reigning world champion Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (ROC) scored three of his points on stepouts in outlasting Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN) 5-0 for the other bronze in a battle of two wrestlers who had both beaten Otoguro at the 2019 worlds but lost to him in Tokyo.

Rashidov had also beaten Muszukajev 3-2 in the semifinals in Nur-Sultan en route to his first world title after winning consecutive silvers at 61kg.

With the conclusion of eight days of competition, host Japan finished with the most golds with five, while the United States had the most overall medals with nine, one more than the Russian Olympic Committee.

A total of 26 countries won at least one medal, with Nigeria and San Marino winning their first- ever in Olympic wrestling.

Day 7 Results


GOLD - Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) df. Haji ALIYEV (AZE), 5-4

BRONZE - Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (ROC) df. Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN), 5-0
BRONZE - Bajrang PUNIA (IND) df. Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ), 8-0

GOLD - Abdulrashid SADULAEV (ROC) df. Kyle SNYDER (USA), 6-3

BRONZE - Reineris SALAS PEREZ (CUB) df. Sharif SHARIFOV (AZE), 3-3
BRONZE - Abraham CONYEDO RUANO (ITA) df. Suleyman KARADENIZ (TUR), 6-2

Women's Wrestling

GOLD - Yui SUSAKI (JPN) df. Yunan SUN (CHN) by TF, 10-0, 1:36

BRONZE - Mariya STADNIK (AZE) df. Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:47
BRONZE - Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) df. Oksana LIVACH (UKR) by TF, 12-1, 5:49