Susaki storms to third world gold at 50kg

By Ken Marantz

BELGRADE, Serbia (Sept. 14)--Yui SUSAKI (JPN), taking the international stage for the first time since her Olympic triumph last year, picked up right where she left off. Confident, cat-like quick and as dominant as ever.

Susaki stormed to her third world title with a first-period fall over Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL) in the 50kg final on Wednesday, the first of four women's finals on the fifth day of the World Championships in Belgrade.

"I'm really happy I could be at a tournament again on this stage," said Susaki, who added to the world golds she won in 2017 and 2018. "This is a tournament where I knew I could become the world champion if I went into each and every match looking to have fun and give my all while doing my wrestling. I think I achieved my objective, so I have a good feeling."

Powerhouse Japan got a second gold later in the night when Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) upgraded the silver medal at 65kg that she won a year ago in Oslo, while Olympic bronze medalist Yasemin ADAR (TUR) won her second world title at 76kg and unheralded Dominique PARRISH (USA) emerged victorious from a wide-open field at 53kg in her senior world debut.

Yui SUSAKI (JPN)Yui SUSAKI (JPN) pinned Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL) in the 50kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andoonov)

Susaki, who has yet to lose to a non-Japanese opponent in her career, ravaged the field with four wins by either fall or technical fall, naturally without conceding a point. Showing her ability to adjust on the fly, she prevailed in the final despite not being able to secure a tackle or her trademark lace lock.

Susaki gained two points against 2021 bronze medalist Dolgorjav with a front headlock roll, which she then transitioned into an exposure situation that put the Mongolian onto her back. Applying the pressure, the fall came in 1:24.

"I summoned my courage and wanted to go on the offensive, so it was good that I was able to do that," Susaki said.

Susaki takes her most recent triumph with a grain of salt, as some of her fiercest rivals were missing from the competition, most notably four-time Olympic medalist Mariya STADNIK (AZE) and Asian rival Yanan SUN (CHN).

"Stadnik, Sun Yanan, the ones I faced in the Olympics didn't enter, so I definitely wanted to win in a dominant way and take the title," she said. "The fact that I achieved that, it was a good tournament leading to the Paris Olympics."

As much as fans have come to expect Susaki to be dominant, she again claimed that she can achieve an even higher level. "I realized several things here, and I want to get back to Japan soon and start practicing to get stronger," she said.

Asked what part of her game she needs to address, Susaki replied: "Tackling is my strong point. I need to find a way to break through when the opponent ties up, so I can get in on more tackles and that will lead to more points. So I want to work on that."

Having graduated from Waseda University last March, Susaki was presented with an ideal environment that allows her to pursue the sport full-time in her bid for an Olympic repeat in Paris in 2024.

Susaki became an "employee" of Kitz Corporation, a major valve-maker located in her home prefecture of Chiba. That allows her to train full-time, mostly at the National Training Center, where she was a product of the JOC Elite Academy. It has also expanded her already swollen fan base.

"This time, I was supported by my company Kitz," Susaki said. "Since finishing college and joining Kitz, the number of people supporting me has increased. That has given me energy and gives me a reason to work hard. I am even more motivated to get stronger."

For those who can't get enough of the 23-year-old dynamo, they won't have to wait long to see her in action. She plans to enter the World U23 Championships next month in Spain, with the mission of securing a historical victory.

"The U23 title is one I don't have yet," she said. "I'm not sure, but I think I would be the first to win the five titles of world cadet, junior, U23 and senior and the Olympics. I want to do that. Next month, I will prepare earnestly to get stronger and win it."

Susaki has been beaten only three times since junior high school, and all by the same opponent, Yuki IRIE (JPN). One of those losses kept her from defending her world title in 2019, and she, like all of Japan's Olympic medalists, skipped the 2021 tournament.

Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN)Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) shoots for Jia LONG (CHN) leg in the 65kg final. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Morikawa picked up Japan's fourth women's gold of the tournament by holding on for a 2-0 victory over Jia LONG (CHN) in a 65kg final that left her a mixture of happy and disappointed.

In what could be regarded as a de facto Asian final -- China skipped this year's Asian Championships, where Morikawa won the gold -- the Japanese prevailed by scoring a stepout and an activity point in the first period.

"As far as the way the match went, I’m not very satisfied," Morikawa said. "To win the gold and not give up a point was good. But overall, it was really poor. I feel I'm still lacking ability. I give myself a 50 [out of 100]."

Morikawa will also be in Pontevedra, Spain, for the World U23, where she will bid farewell to the 65kg class as she decides which Olympic weight class to move into, most likely 68kg.

"My goal is to take a lap [on the mat] with the Japanese flag at the Paris Olympics," she said.

Morikawa certainly has a positive support system. She trains at her alma mater of Nippon Sports Science University, from which she graduated in March and often practices with men and one of her coaches is four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO (JPN).

Yasemin ADAR (TUR)Yasemin ADAR (TUR) won her second world title at 76kg. (Photo: UWW / Kostadin Andonov)

In the 76kg final, Adar was holding her own against a tough Samar HAMZA (EGY) when she unleashed a 4-point front headlock with :10 left to put an exclamation point on a 6-0 victory.

"I am very, very happy, I can not put it into words," said Adar, who won her fifth European title earlier this year. "I am an idol in women's wrestling in Turkey and that makes me proud, there will be many good wrestlers after me and if I can be an example, it makes me proud. This is my second world title, I had promised my family that I will bring the belt home."

Adar received an activity point in the first period, then scored a stepout in the second. As Hamza went in for a desperate tackle, Adar hit her big move. Hamza, who became Egypt's first-ever female to make a world final, will take home the silver to go with the bronze she won last year in Oslo.

Dominique PARRISH (USA)Dominique PARRISH (USA) celebrates after winning the 53kg world title. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

At 53kg, Parrish was trailing 2-2 on criteria when she avoided a trip by Asian silver medalist Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL) and slipped around the back for a takedown and a 4-2 victory.

"I know that nobody is going to outgas me," said Parrish, who was at the Tokyo Olympics as a training partner. "Before the finals, I was telling myself, no fear, fast feet, active hands. Definitely, when I stepped on that mat, I was not scared. I knew it was going to be tough but having the freedom to let myself go."

In the mixed zone, Pan Am champion Parrish addressed the elephant in the room -- the absence of 2021 world champion Akari FUJINAMI (JPN), who was a late withdrawal from the tournament after suffering a foot injury in practice.

"The next two years, she is the target," Parrish said. " They [Japan] are always the target for the women's team. Not that any country is not, but Japan is always disciplined in its stance and techniques. We are going to pick them apart and beat them."

Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA)Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) wrestles Emilia VUC (ROU) in the 50kg bronze medal bout. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)

Hildebrandt survives mat scare to take bronze

In the bronze-medal matches, Olympic bronze medalist Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) had a scary incident that seemed to leave her momentarily unconscious but managed to come back to defeat Emilia VUC (ROU) by a 10-0 technical fall in 5:40.

Hildebrandt, the 2021 silver medalist, scored all of her points with takedowns. It was after the second one that Vuc applied a vicious front headlock and turned Hildebrandt over. But when the American was unresponsive, the referee stopped the match as her coach leaped to the mat to assist her, bringing a hush to the Stark Arena crowd.

After a few tense minutes, Hildebrandt said she was alright to continue. Vuc lost her points for the dangerous hold, and Hildebrandt gained another takedown before the break. She then got two more in the second period to end the match and add to her two world silvers.

The other 50kg bronze went to Anna LUKASIAK (POL), who came up with a 2-point exposure as she was receiving an activity point with :20 left to edge Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) 3-2.

Ecuador had two chances to win its first-ever world medal, but both Lucia YEPEZ GUZMAN (ECU) at 53kg and Genesis REASCO (ECU) at 76kg were denied.

Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) gave up two quick-fire takedowns to Yepez Guzman, but after stopping a roll attempt for two, she locked onto the laces and three rolls one way and two more the other gave her a 14-4 technical fall in 1:44.

Vinesh PHOGAT (IND)Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) defeated European champion Jonna MALMGREN (SWE) to win the 53kg bronze medal. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

The other 53kg bronze went to eight-time Asian medalist Vinesh PHOGAT (IND), who put up a stiff wall of defense and scored on counters against European champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE). Phogat also scored on the two occasions when she went on the offensive to notch an 8-0 victory to add to the world bronze she won in 2019.

Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) spoiled the Ecuadorian party when she scraped out a 4-0 victory over Reasco. Kagami, the 2019 world junior champion making her senior debut, got a stepout, activity point and a defensive takedown in the first period, then held off Reasco to add another medal to the Japanese tally.

The other 76kg bronze went to Epp MAE (EST), who scored a stepout with :27 left to defeat 2018 world champion Justina DI STASIO (CAN) and secure her fifth career world medal.

At 65kg, the United States got another bronze when Mallory VELTE (USA) routed Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL) 11-2 for her second world medal, while Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) edged Elis MANOLOVA (AZE) 3-2 for her third.

Amit ELOR (USA)Amit ELOR (USA) reached the 72kg final in her first senior appearance. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)

Teen Elor joins elite American compatriots in finals

In the semifinals held earlier in the night session, teenager Amit ELOR (USA) stunned defending champion Masako FURUICHI (JPN) 3-2 to join two of her highly decorated compatriots in the finals held Thursday night.

The 18-year-old Elor, coming off winning a second straight world U20 title a month ago in Sofia, scored a first-period takedown, then added a second-period activity point. Furuichi finally got the takedown she so desperately sought with :05 left but had insufficient time to turn her.

"I was just like, is this real?" Elor said. "I was waiting for this, but it’s not over until tomorrow night."

Elor said she stuck with the game plan that gave her wins in her first two matches by technical fall and fall. "My style is putting a lot of pressure and not giving my opponents any space," she said. "It was close but in the end, it worked out."

In the final, Elor will face last year's runner-up to Furuichi, Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), who had a pair of 4-point moves in powering to a 12-2 technical fall over Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) in 3:55.

Elor's victory came after current and former world champions Helen MAROULIS (USA) at 57kg and Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA) at 68kg booked their spots in the finals by bringing their bouts to early ends.

"It’s really inspirational, but it’s also very stressful that I am on their level," Elor said.

Japan had wrestlers in all four semifinals, but only prevailed twice -- and those two face the daunting task of taking on Maroulis and Mensah Stock in the finals.

At 57kg, defending champion Maroulis will aim for a fourth world gold when she takes on Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN), the 55kg champion a year ago in Oslo. She moved up to the Olympic weight class to get an early start on challenging Tokyo champion Risako KAWAI (JPN) for a spot at Paris 2024.

In the semifinals, Maroulis used an ankle pick to send 2021 bronze medalist Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) to her back and secure a fall at 5:20. Sakurai, this year's Asian champion, had little trouble in disposing of Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE) by 10-0 technical fall in 4:47.

Maroulis has a long history of facing the Japanese in big matches. She shocked three-time Olympic champion Saori YOSHIDA (JPN) in the final at the 2016 Rio Olympics in what proved to be Yoshida's final match of her career. Five years later at the Tokyo Olympics, she fell to Kawai in the semifinals and had to settle for a bronze medal.

At 68kg, Olympic champion Mensah Stock swept away 2021 world 65kg champion Irina RINGACI (MDA) and will next face teenager Ami ISHII (JPN) in a bid to add to the world title she won in 2019.

Mensah Stock scored three takedowns, getting between the legs on the second one to add a pair of exposures, and cruised to a 10-0 technical fall in 2:29. Ishii, like Elor a gold medalist at the world U20 last month, needed a late takedown to edge Nisha DAHIYA (IND) 5-4.

At 59kg, Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) failed to join Ikuei University teammates Ishii and Sakurai in the finals when she dropped a 7-5 nail-biter to Anastasia NICHITA (MDA), who used her long limbs to her advantage.

Nichita led 4-1 when Motoki, another world U20 champion last month, roared back with a takedown and roll to go ahead. But Nichita managed to reverse Motoki to her back at the end of the roll, putting her ahead 6-4. An unsuccessful challenge of a last-second stepout attempt added the final point.

At the Tokyo Olympics, Nichita suffered a heartbreaking loss in the quarterfinals, when Evelina NIKOLOVA (BUL) hit a last-second 4-point lateral drop for a 6-3 victory.

In the final, Nichita will face Grace BULLEN (NOR), who assured herself a first world medal in four attempts when she forged out a 5-3 win over Jowita WRZESIEN (POL).


Day 5 Results

Women's Wrestling

50kg (22 entries)
Gold - Yui SUSAKI (JPN) df. Otgonjargal DOLGORJAV (MGL) by Fall, 1:24 (4-0)

Bronze - Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) df. Emilia VUC (ROU) by TF, 10-0, 5:40
Bronze - Anna LUKASIAK (POL) df. Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR), 3-2

53kg (23 entries)
Gold - Dominique PARRISH (USA) df. Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL), 4-2

Bronze - Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) df. Emma MALMGREN (SWE), 8-0
Bronze - Maria PREVOLARAKI (GRE) df. Lucia YEPEZ GUZMAN (ECU) by TF, 14-4, 1:44

57kg (19 entries)
Semifinal - Helen MAROULIS (USA) df. Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) by Fall, 5:20 (7-1)
Semifinal - Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) df. Zhala ALIYEVA (AZE) by TF, 10-0, 4:47

59kg (14 entries)
Semifinal - Grace BULLEN (NOR) df. Jowita WRZESIEN (POL), 5-3
Semifinal - Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) df. Sakura MOTOKI (JPN), 7-5

65kg (14 entries)
Gold - Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) df. Jia LONG (CHN), 2-0

Bronze - Mallory VELTE (USA) df. Mimi HRISTOVA (BUL), 11-2
Bronze - Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) df. Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), 3-2

68kg (23 entries)
Semifinal - Ami ISHII (JPN) df. Nisha DAHIYA (IND), 5-4
Semifinal - Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA) df. Irina RINGACI (MDA) by TF, 10-0, 2:29

72kg (14 entries)
Semifinal - Amit ELOR (USA) df. Masako FURUICHI (JPN), 3-2
Semifinal - Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) df. Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) by TF, 12-2, 3:55

76kg (25 entries)
Gold - Yasemin ADAR (TUR) df. Samar HAMZA (EGY), 6-0

Bronze - Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) df. Genesis REASCO (ECU), 4-0
Bronze - Epp MAE (EST) df. Justina DI STASIO (CAN), 2-1


Belgrade to host 2023 World Championships

By United World Wrestling Press

CORSIER-SUR-VEVEY (November 14) -- The World Championships will return to Belgrade, Serbia for the second straight year as it was elected as the host for the 2023 edition on Monday.

United World Wrestling Bureau met Monday to pick the host for the World Championships and locked in Belgrade. Azerbaijan and Turkey also expressed their interest in hosting the mega event but fell short. UWW will continue to work with the national federations of these nations for future events.

UWW President Nenad LALOVIC (SRB) and Bureau members Rodica YAKSI (TUR) and Namig ALIYEV (AZE) did not participate in the voting due to a conflict of interest.

Belgrade, which hosted the 2022 World Championships with grand success, will host the tournament at the beginning of September 2023.

The dates for the tournament are subject to change from the original September 16 to 24 as it clashes with the Asian Games which are scheduled to begin on September 23 in Hangzhou, China.

The World Championships were scheduled to be held in Russia but since International Olympic Committee recommended sanctions on the nation, it became ineligible to host.

Wrestlers will get a chance to win 90 quotas for the 2024 Paris Olympics from the Belgrade Worlds. Any nation which participated in the 2023 continental championships will be eligible to participate in the World Championships.