Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! February 25, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

1. Otoguro Dominates in Rematch With Punia for 65kg Asian Gold
Former world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) came out on top quite convincingly in the rematch on his rival’s home soil. Whether he can repeat it back in his own country—when it would matter most---is a matter for another time.

Otoguro effectively used a low-single attack to grind out a 10-2 victory over Bajrang PUNIA (IND) in the freestyle 65kg final at the Asian Championships on Saturday night in New Delhi.

The victory in the highly anticipated rematch of the final at the 2018 World Championships, in which Otoguro rambled to with a wild 16-9 win, gives the young Japanese a confidence boost heading toward the Tokyo Olympics—particularly taking into consideration his disappointing fifth-place finish at last year’s worlds in Nur-Sultan.

“Last year, I feel like I was only losing and I went through various experiences,” Otoguro said. “From now, this is an Olympic year, and I feel I’ve gained some momentum. But I still have room to improve. How strong I can get from here, I’m also looking forward to finding out.”

Punia, a bronze medalist in Nur-Sultan, was looking to defend the Asian title he won last year in Xi’an, China. But he had no answer for Otoguro’s attacks and counters, as the Japanese put the match away with seven unanswered points in the second period.

Asked about his low-single approach, Otoguro replied, “When I shot for the low single, his leg was sweaty, so I went for his shoe so I wouldn’t slip off.”

Punia was not immediately available for comment, but his personal coach, Shako Bentinidis, said people should not read into the loss too much.

“I am happy with the silver medal today,” Bentinidis said. “Sometimes it is possible for him to lose, but not at Olympics. I think this is no problem. Better to lose now before Olympics.”

Bentinidis issued a warning to the Indian media, saying, “We must stay relaxed, and not so much ‘Bajrang, Bajrang.’”

For the 21-year-old Otoguro, it was his first continental championship since winning the Asian cadet crown in 2014. He said that heading into the Tokyo Olympics, he is undecided if he will enter an overseas tournament, and is leaning toward attending a training camp abroad.

One thing he knows is that since winning the 2018 world title, which made him Japan’s youngest-ever world freestyle champion, his rivals are looking for holes in his game to exploit. 

“Of course, I feel that others have been studying me,” he said. “I really felt it over the last year. Since then, I have been making adjustments looking ahead to the Olympics.”

Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day Five Freestyle wrap
Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day Six Freestyle wrap

57kg - Kumar RAVI (IND) df. Hikmatullo VOHIDOV (TJK), 10-0
61kg - Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) df. Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK), via fall
65kg - Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) df. Bajrang PUNIA (IND), 10-2
70kg - Ilyas BEKBULATOV (UZB) df. Amirhossein HOSSEINI (IRI), 10-6
74kg - Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Jitender JITENDER (IND), 3-1
79kg - Arsalan BUDAZHAPOV (KGZ) df. Baliyan GOURAV (IND), 7-5
86kg - Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10
92kg - Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Takuma OTSU (JPN), 11-0
97kg - Mojtaba GOLEIJ (IRI) df. Salywart KADIAN (IND), 10-0
125kg - Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL),10-0

Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB) turns SONG Jinseub (KOR) in the 63kg finals of the Asian Championships. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

2. Tasmuradov Puts Aside Pain, Korean Opponent to Chalk up 5th Asian Gold
How tough is Olympic bronze medalist Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB)? He just won a fifth gold medal at the Asian Championships two weeks after breaking a rib.

“It’s still healing,” Tasmuradov said after demolishing SONG Jinseub (KOR) in the Greco-Roman 63kg final on the opening day of this year’s continental tournament Tuesday in New Delhi. “I wanted to go for a fall so that I wouldn’t have to do the par terre.”

In regaining the Asian crown he last won in 2018, Tasmuradov wasn’t able to secure a fall, but got the next best thing, scoring a 9-0 technical fall in 1:33 that included a big 4-point lift and gave him an eighth career Asian medal overall.

Tasmuradov was back at his regular weight at 63kg, where he said he felt more “comfortable,” after qualifying for this year’s Tokyo Olympics at 60kg by placing fifth at last year’s World Championships in Nur-Sultan. 

The 2018 world silver medalist said missing out on a medal in Nur-Sultan was irrelevant, given that he achieved what he had set out to do.

“I planned to go and just qualify for Tokyo,” he said. “I didn’t aim to take a medal, because I’m not a young wrestler. So I went to just qualify and I did it.”

Asked to comment on earning his fifth Asian gold in the Indian capital, site of his first title in 2013 with a last-second win over Abdol PAPI (IRI), he replied, “I don’t feel anything,” he said. “My mind is just on the Tokyo Olympics.”

Tasmuradov lost a shot at winning his fifth title last May in Xi’an, China, when he suffered a severe back injury and had to default in the final to TUO Erbatu (CHN). The fact that he continued to wrestle until the pain became so intense he had to be helped off the mat showed the tenacity that has made him so successful – and allows him to shrug off a mere broken rib.

Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day One Greco-Roman wrap
Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day Two Greco-Roman wrap

55kg - Pouya NASERPOUR (IRI) df. Jasurbek ORTIKBOEV (UZB), 8-0
60kg - Kenichiro FUMITA (JPN) df. Zholaman SHARSHENBEKOV (KGZ), 4-0
63kg - Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB) df. SONG Jinseub (KOR), 9-0
67kg - RYU Hansu (KOR) df. Makhmud BAKHSHILLOEV (UZB), 4-1
72kg - Almin KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) df. Ibragim MAGOMADOV (KAZ), 8-0
77kg - Tamerlan SHADUKAYEV (KAZ) df. Pejman POSHTAM (IRI), 10-1
82kg - Mahdi EBRAHIMI (IRI) df. CHOI Junhyeong (KOR), 3-1
87kg - Kumar SUNIL (IND) df. Azat SALIDINOV (KGZ), 5-0
97kg - Mohammadhadi SARAVI (IRI) df. LEE Seyeol (KOR), 5-2
130kg - Amin MIRZAZADEH (IRI) df. KIM Minseok (KOR), 9-0

3. Akhmetova Amanzhol Snatches Victory From Jaws of Defeat to Stun Mukaida for 53kg Title
Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ) has been around long enough to know anything can happen in wrestling. But the miracle victory she pulled off left her as stunned as anyone.

Akhmetova Amanzhol was on the verge of losing by technical fall in the women’s 53kg final against world silver medalist Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) when, on what would have been a decisive gut wrench, she stepped over and instead snatched a victory by fall and the gold medal on Friday at the Asian Championships.

“Still now, I can’t believe it because I was losing 8-0 and I could make a fall, so I’m happy,” said Akhmetova Amanzhol, who won her fourth career Asian title and first since winning back-to-back golds in 2013 and 2014.

“It’s the same as in 2013, the final was here in New Delhi,” said the 34-year-old mother of two young boys. “And also in that final match I was losing and I used the same technique, but the opponent was Chinese.” 

Akhmetova Amanzhol’s gold was one of two captured by Kazakhstan as the final five titles in women’s wrestling were decided.

For Mukaida, the loss added to a history of squandered opportunities in major events. She lost in the final seconds of the final at the 2017 World Championships in Paris, then again in the final at last year’s Asian Championships. 

What makes this loss doubly disappointing is that the 2018 world 55kg champion was an absolute dynamo in ripping through the competition in New Delhi. But it all came apart with one sudden lapse that she can only look at as a lesson learned heading to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

“From my first match, I kept my feet moving, and I feel my mobility was really good this tournament,” Mukaida said. “Even in [the final], I felt I was moving like I want to. But in the end, I was lax in trying to finish off the roll and it ended up as a fall.” 

Up to that moment, Akhmetova Amanzhol had no answer as Mukaida used her trademark low single to score a takedown, then added a roll for a 4-0 lead. She then repeated the process to put her within two points of a technical fall.

Mukaida was on the verge of wrapping it up when she launched a gut wrench. But midway through the roll, Akhmetova Amanzhol managed to loosen the grip and step over Mukaida, who was stopped firmly on her back. The Kazakh only needed to clamp down to end the match at 1:48.

“I couldn’t think about what to do,” Akhmetova Amanzhol said of what her thought process was at 8-0 down. “But it’s wrestling. In wrestling, anything can happen.”

Even more amazing is that Akhmetova Amanzhol was competing despite nursing a right knee injury. “I was wrestling carefully because of my knee,” she said. “It might be because of this that the score was 8-0.”

Akhmetova Amanzhol, who took time off over the years for childbirth, was motivated to return by the desire to get back to the Olympics. She appeared at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, placing fifth at 48kg, and will try to earn a spot at the Tokyo Olympics at the Asian Olympic qualifier next month in neighboring Kyrgyzstan. 

“My motivation is to wrestle in the Olympic Games because once I was in it before,” she said. “The Tokyo Olympics is motivation for me to return to wrestling and win the gold medal for my family, and dedicate it to my children and country.”

Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day Three women’s wrestling wrap
Click HERE to read Ken Marantz’ Day Four women’s wrestling wrap

Women’s Wrestling
50kg - Miho IGARASHI (JPN) df. Devi NIRMALA (IND), 3-2
53kg - Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ) df. Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN), via fall
55kg - Pinki PINKI (IND) df. Dulguun BOLORMAA (MGL), 2-1
57kg - Risako KAWAI (JPN) df. Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL), 10-0
59kg - Sarita SARITA (IND) df. Battsetseng ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), 3-2
62kg - Yukako KAWAI (JPN) df. Ayaulym KASSYMOVA (KAZ), 5-1
65kg - Naomi RUIKE (JPN) df. Sakshi MALIK (IND), 2-0
68kg - Divya KAKRAN (IND) df. Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN), via fall 
72kg - Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) df. Mei SHINDO (JPN), 2-1
76kg - Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) df. Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), 4-1

Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) is one of three returning champions entered into the Pan-American Championships. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

4. Pan-American Championships Closeout Continental Championship Season
After a full slate of continental championships in February, the party rolls on into March. The Pan-American Championships kick off March 6-9 in Ottawa, Canada, and will feature 192 athletes from 19 different nations wrestling -- including 16 returning gold medalists. 

Olympic champion Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) leads a list of eight returning Greco-Roman champions into Ottawa.

America’s pair of reigning world champions Tamyra MENSAH (USA) and Adeline GRAY (USA) are two of the five 2019 gold medalists that highlight the women’s wrestling part of the competition. 

And In freestyle, Anthony James ASHNAULT (USA), Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) and Kyle Frederick SNYDER (USA) return to the Pan-American championships looking to retain the titles they claimed a year ago. 

Thursday (March 5) 
17:00 - Draw GR – All weight categories

Friday (March 6) 
08:30 - Medical examination & weigh-in GR – 55-60-63-67-72-97-130kg
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage GR – 55-60-63-67-72-97-130kg
14:00 - Technical conference – all WW teams
16:00 - Opening Ceremony 
17:00 - Finals / Finales GR – 55-60-63-67-72-97-130kg Award ceremonies

Saturday (March 7) 
8:30 - Medical examination & weigh-in GR – 77-82-87kg & WW – 55-59-65-72kg 
10:30-13:30 Qualification rounds & repechage GR – 77-82-87kg & WW – 55-59-65-72kg page6image407655344 page6image407655760
13:30 - Technical conference – all FS teams
17:00 - Finals - 77-82-87kg & WW – 55-59-65-72kg Award ceremonies

Sunday (March 8) 
08:30 - Medical examination & weigh-in WW – 50-53-57-62-68-76kg & FS – 79-92kg
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage WW – 50-53-57-62-68-76kg & FS – 79-92kg
17:00 - Finals / Finales WW – 50-53-57-62-68-76kg & FS – 79-92kg Award ceremonies

Monday (March 9) 
08:30 - Medical examination & weigh-in FS – 57-61-65-70-74-86-97-125kg
10:30 - Qualification rounds & repechage FS – 57-61-65-70-74-86-97-125kg
17:00 - Finals / Finales FS – 57-61-65-70-74-86-97-125kg Award ceremonies

5. Cox Claims Cerro Pelado Gold in Debut at 97kg 
A week after making his highly publicized announcement about moving up to 97kg, J’den COX (USA) debuted at his new Olympic weight for the first time at the 
Cerro Pelado International in Havana, Cuba. The two-time world champion went 3-0 in the round-robin competition, defeating two Cuban opponents and a fellow American en route to winning the gold medal.

Cox's win came days after announcing he’s moving up from the non-Olympic weight of 92kg to 97kg, where he’ll look to improve on his Rio Olympic bronze medal. “I have to make the decision between 86kg and 97kg. Where I am in my career right now, I need a fight; I need a test," said Cox. "This fight that I’m looking for, this drive, this test that I need is also why I have decided to go 97kg for the 2020 Olympics.”

Cox passed his first test at the weight, defeating Jacob KASPER (USA) and U23 world bronze medalist Yonger BASTIDA (CUB), but his biggest win of the weekend came against the three-time world medalist, Reineris SALAS PEREZ (CUB). He edged his Rio Olympic bronze-medal match opponent, 5-3. 

Cox won't compete at the Pan-American Championships but will return to the mat April 4-5 at the Olympic Trials, where he'll look to dethrone reigning Olympic champion, Kyle SNYDER (USA), for USA’s Tokyo Olympic spot.

Weekly Five In Social Media!
1. Big Move Monday -- Winchester J. @jacarra016(USA) -- Senior Worlds 2019
2. #WrestleNewDelhi Top Performer: Kumar RAVI (IND)
3. Happy Jordan Burroughs Day! (2/22) 
4. Otoguro (JPN) Takes the GOLD! 
5. Fumita (JPN) gets GOLD 

Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March 17, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Discussing Valencia Escoto and Destribats' historic performances at the Pan-Am Olympic Qualifiers. Also looking at Cuba's GR team qualifying every weight for #Tokyo2020 and Olympic champs Maroulis and Wiebe qualifying their nation's for the Tokyo Games.

1. Valencia Escoto First Mexican Woman to Qualify for Olympic Games
Alma Jane VALENCIA ESCOTO (MEX) became the first-ever Mexican women's wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games after winning the 57kg gold medal at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. She won all four of her bouts in Ottawa – including a win by fall over world champion Linda MORAIS (CAN) and a victory via forfeit over Helen MAROULIS (USA).

Valencia Escoto opened her day up with a pair of decisive wins over Betzabeth SARCO COLMENAREZ (VEN) and Nes RODRIGUEZ TIRADO (PUR), which inserted her into the semifinals against Canada's reigning world champion, Linda Morais. 

In her semifinals meeting with the current 59kg world-title holder, Valencia Escoto stopped an early open double-leg attempt with a counter-offensive throw. She snuck in an underhook on the Canadian's right side during her shot attempt and tossed her to her back for the early 4-0 lead. 

Valencia Escoto's opponenet fought off her back and nearly scored a takedown of a slide by attempt. Still, somehow, the newly-minted Olympian had the world champion fighting off her back for the second time in the opening period. 

The tides turned quickly, and Valencia Escoto was the one fighting off her back. She got saved by the period-ending whistle and carried the 6-2 lead into the closing period.

In the final period, Valencia Escoto halted a left side high crotch attempt and flattened Morais for the fall – becoming the first-ever Mexican women to wrestle at the Olympic Games.

Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) finished in second place at 65kg at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier and qualified Argentina for the Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

2. Destribats Ends 24-year Argentinean Freestyle Olympic Drought
Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) ended a 24-year Argentinean freestyle Olympic drought and qualified his nation for the Tokyo Olympics after he pinned American Zain RETHERFORD (USA) in the 65kg semifinals. With his semifinal victory via fall, Destribats became the first Argentinean freestyle wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games since Paulo IBIRE (ARG) did so at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

In his meeting with the Retherford, Destribats conceded an open double leg and nearly gave up an ankle lace but was able to fend off the turn and catch the American on his back. He held Retherford on his back for 25 seconds before picking up the opening period fall to secure his spot at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Helen MAROULIS (USA) qualified the United States for the Olympic Games at 57kg with her silver-medal finish at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

3. Olympic Champs Maroulis and Wiebe Qualify Nation's for Olympic Games 
Olympic champions Helen MAROULIS (USA) and Erica WIEBE (CAN) qualified their nations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after finishing in the top-two of their respective weights at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. The pair remained on course to defend their gold medals from the Rio Olympic Games. 

Maroulis, who was wrestling in her first international competition since the 2018 World Championships, won four matches before injury defaulting out of the finals after locking up the United States' spot at 57kg for the Olympics.

In her first match, Maroulis easily handled Canada's Linda Morias, 10-2, in the battle of Olympic champion and world champion. 

Maroulis defeated Giullia RODRIGUES (BRA) and Lissette ANTES (ECU) in the next two rounds and was one win away from earning a second berth to the Olympic Games for the United States. 

In the semifinals, Maroulis crushed Nes RODRIGUEZ (PUR), 10-0, and qualified the Stars and Stripes for the Olympic Games at 57kg. 

She'll now have to win the Olympic Trials to become the United States' Olympic representative at 57kg.

Canada's Erica Wiebe was the second Olympic champion who qualified for the Olympic Games over the weekend. Wiebe, who was wrestling in her hometown of Ottawa, won the 76kg bracket and locked up her shot at repeating as Olympic champion. 

She opened up her day with a narrow 2-1 win over Aline DA SILVA FERREIRA (BRA). She tacked on dominant wins over Milaimys de la Caridad MARIN POTRILLE (CUB) and Andrimar LAZARO (VEN), setting up a semifinals match with Genesis REASCO (ECU).

Wiebe shutout Reasco Valdez, 6-0, in their semifinals meeting and earned her berth to the Olympic Games. She injury defaulted out of the gold-medal match against Aline Da Silva Ferreira and finished with a silver medal.

Wiebe won the Canadian Wrestling Trails in December and will represent Canada at 76kg at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) is one of six Cuban Greco-Roman wrestlers who will wrestle at the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo) 

4. Cuba Sending All Six GR Wrestlers to Olympics 
Cuba’s Greco-Roman team came into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier searching for four qualification spots after earning two Olympic berths from the Nur-Sultan World Championships from Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB). Over the weekend, they had three wrestlers win gold medals and one individual finish in second place at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier – which took their qualification total to all six weight categories. 

Their three champions were Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB), Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) and Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB), while Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) finished in second place.

In addition to their Greco-Roman success, Cuba's women's wrestling team also shined in Ottawa. 

Coming into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, Katherine VIDIAUX (CUB) was the lone Cuban woman who ever wrestled at the Olympic Games. She'll now be joined in the history books by Lianna MONTERO (CUB) and Yusneylis GUZMAN (CUB), who won gold medals at 50kg and 53kg, respectively, and qualified for the Olympic Games. 

Greco-Roman Qualifying Weights/Athletes
60kg - Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold 
67kg - Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) – World Championships gold 
77kg - Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
87kg - Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier silver
97kg - Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
130kg - Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB) World Championships silver

5. European, World 'Last Chance' Olympic Qualifiers Postponed
The European Qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled for March 19-22 in Budapest, along with the World "Last Chance" Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, scheduled for April 30-May 3, have been postponed.

The events will be rescheduled, with the European Qualifier expected to take place in mid-May and the World "Last Chance" Qualifier held at the beginning of June.

"We are closely monitoring the governmental response to COVID-19 and will continue to provide updates to our wrestlers, coaches, and fans with more information as it becomes available," said United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic.

"The process for determining our Olympic participants will happen on the field of play, but we need to remain patient and vigilant as the worldwide community battles this pandemic. The health and well-being of the athletes is an absolute priority."