Yang Stuns Geraei to Give China 1st Greco-Roman Gold Since 2012

By Ken Marantz

YANG Bin gave China its first Greco-Roman gold medal at an Asian Championships in six years with a stunning victory, while host Kyrgyzstan's vocal fans were twice denied a title to highlight the opening night of finals in Bishkek.

Yang surprised favorite and Paris 2017 world bronze medalist Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI) in the 77kg final by grinding out a hard-fought 7-6 win.

"I was very confident, and I thought I was the best in this category," said Yang, a bronze medalist a year ago in New Delhi.

The match that began and ended with flurries of action was decided when Yang scored with a step-out with :13 left in which Geraei went sprawling awkwardly into the referee.

That tied the match at 6-6 and would have given the Chinese the win on criteria, but he received another point when Geraei's challenge that Yang had grabbed his singlet was rejected.

"At the very end, I used my technique and got the point, and I believed that the referee would give a fair judgement," Yang said of the call.

That made Yang the first Chinese to win an Asian gold in Greco-Roman since Zheng Pan took the 66kg title at Gumi 2012.

"Actually we have been working so many years to get an Asian champion," Yang said. "Sometimes, we had second or third, we just need some luck, because they are similar levels. Today we are happy to see this result."

Kyrgyzstan had wrestlers in the first two finals of the night, and neither could come away victorious, much to the chagrin of the packed house of 3,000 at the Kozhomkul Sports Palace.

First, teenager Zholaman SHARSHENBAKOV's late rally in the 55kg came up just short in a 5-4 loss to Shota TANOKURA (JPN). Then Urmalbek AMATOV was overwhelmed by veteran Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB), who ended their 63kg final with an 8-0 technical fall with 1:49 remaining.

Despite Geraei's defeat, Iran still came away with two golds, as New Delhi 2017 champions Hossein NOURI (87kg) and Behnam MEHDIZADEH (130kg) both posted tepid yet solid victories. Mehdizadeh had also won in 2014.

Nouri, the Paris 2017 world bronze medalist, notched a 3-0 victory over unheralded Masato SUMI (JPN), while Mehdizadeh followed by beating Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) 3-1.

Japan's Tanokura took an unusual path to a continental crown. An Asian medalist in both 2012 and 2013, he struggled to find success when the 55kg weight class was eliminated and he had to face naturally bigger opponents. Two years ago, he retired to become a high school physical education teacher.

But when the lighter weight class was reinstated, his college coach and current Japan national team coach Shingo Matsumoto persuaded him to return during nights out for Korean barbecue.

His victory at the Japan championships in December vindicated his decision and put him on the team to Bishkek, where he added the gold medal to the silver and bronze medals he had previously won. It also makes him eye bigger things.

"Of course, my goal is to be world champion," Tanokura said. "In Asia, the level is high in the lighter weights, so to win the Asian title this time is a step ahead. There is still progress to be made."

Against Sharshenbekov, Tanokura used a front headlock throw and a penalty point to build up a 5-0 lead going into the second period. But the Krygyz wrestler gradually whittled away at the gap, cutting it to one with a takedown with :40 remaining. But with the deafening crowd urging his opponent on, Tanokura managed to hold on for the win.

"It was something else," Tanokura said of the crowd noise. "It's unusual for the Asian Championships to draw such a big crowd. I knew it wouldn't be easy to win. But I stayed aggressive and that led to coming away with the victory."

At 63kg, Rio 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Tasmuradov quieted the crowd with his one-sided win over Amatov, scoring with push-outs, rolls and a takedown for his fourth Asian title overall and first since 2015. He also has three world bronze medals.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan, which had been shut out of the finals, came away with three bronze medals from Khorian ZHAKANSHA (55kg), Mirambek AINAGULOV (63kg) and Maxat YEREZHEPOV (77kg).

It was the fifth Asian medal for Yerezhepov, who last year defeated Yang in the semifinals en route to the 75kg gold.

Kyrgyzstan and China both claimed two bronzes, while India, South Korea, and Turkmenistan had one each.

55kg (10 entries)
Gold - Shota TANOKURA  (JPN) df. Zholaman SHARSENBEKOV (KGZ), 5-4

Bronze –  Khorian ZHAKANSHA (KAZ) df. CAO Liguo (CHN), 7-4
Bronze – Kumar RAJENDER (IND) df. Javokhir MIRAKHMEDOV (UZB), 3x-3

63kg (9 entries)
Gold - Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB) df.  Urmalbek AMATOV (KGZ) by TF, 8-0, 1:44

Bronze –  Mirambek AINAGULOV (KAZ) df. Vikram KURADE  (IND) by TF, 9-0, 3:39
Bronze –  JUNG Dokyung (KOR) df. Takayuki INOGUCHI (JPN), 2-0

77kg (12 entries)
Gold - YANG Bin (CHN) df.  Mohammadali GERAEI (IRI), 7-6

Bronze –  Shermet PERMANOV (TKM) df. Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB), 7-3
Bronze – Maxat YEREZHEPOV (KAZ) df. Shohei YABIKU (JPN), 3-2

87 kg (10 entries)
Gold - Hossein NOURI (IRI) df. Masato SUMI (JPN), 3-0

Bronze –  PENG Fei (CHN) df. Husham THAALEBI (IRQ), 3-0
Bronze – Azai BEISHEBEKOV (KGZ) df. Khussein MUTSOLGOV (KAZ), 5-2

130 kg (10 entries)
Gold - Behnam MEHDIZADEH (IRI) df. Muminjon ABDULLAEV (UZB), 3-1 

Bronze – Murat RAMONOV (KGZ) df. Anton SAVENKO (KAZ), by Fall, 4:24 (4-0)
Bronze – NIE Xiaoming (CHN) df. Naveen NAVEEN (IND) 3-1


Evloev Gives Host Country 74kg Freestyle Gold

By Ken Marantz

On the night the curtain came down on the Asian Championships in Bishkek, Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) provided the perfect final act.

Evloev gave the host country a gold medal in 74kg freestyle as the tournament wrapped up its well-supported six-day run at the Kozhomkul Sports Palace with finals in five weight divisions.

Evloev, riding an early 5-point lead, never let up in defeating Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by 11-1 technical fall with :24 remaining to give Kyrgyzstan its first Asian freestyle gold since 2015 and fourth in its history.

"It's a great feeling," Evloev said of winning at home to improve on his silver medal he won last year in New Delhi. "The crowd was really supporting me as much as they could and I couldn't fail them, so I did my best."

Iran finished up by capturing two golds, as reigning world and Olympic champion Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) cruised to his first Asian title with a victory at 86kg, and Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) followed by winning the 92kg crown.

In a duel between Georgian-born wrestlers for the 125kg title, Davit MODZMANASHVILI (UZB) defeated Giorgi SAKANDELIDZE (QAT), 5-0, in a tepid match that capped the tournament.

Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), 61kg champion looking for a gut wrench. Photo Max Rose-Fyne. 

The other gold at stake went to Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), a New Delhi 2017 bronze medalist who scored two takedowns in the second period of the 61kg final to top Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2.

Uzbekistan, which had won five medals, including two golds, on Saturday, added two bronzes to Modzmanashvili's gold to clinch the team title with 178 points. Iran finished second with 157 and Kazakhstan third with 146.

Evloev acknowledged he was heartened by the Greco victory of compatriot Akzhol MAKHMUDOV on the second day, one of the tournament's iconic moments for the thunderous ovation it elicited from the delirious crowd.

"Of course he did inspire me," Evloev said. "And I also want to say congratulations to Makhmudov because I haven't seen him yet."

In the final, Evloev used a single-leg lift to dump Ganzorig, a two-time world bronze medalist, backwards to the mat for a 4-point move, which became 5 when the Mongolian side's challenge was unsuccessful.

"It made me feel more confident, but I was going to wrestle until the last second," Evloev said of being staked to a big early lead. "That's why I won."

Photo of Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) by Max Rose-Fyne. 

Outside of the Kyrgyz wrestlers, the spotlight was squarely on superstar Yazdani Charati.

And he lived up to expectations by overwhelming Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) in the 86kg final, scoring with a takedown and roll combination right away, and then reeling off three takedowns for a 10-0 technical fall with 36 seconds still left in the first period.

Orgodol added the Asian silver to the one he won in 2016 and his bronze from 2013.

So popular is the Iranian that he had a phalanx of Kyrygz security guards whereever he went, and was whisked pass waiting media and fans without comment after his medal ceremony and completing doping procedures.

In the 92kg final, Ebrahimizivlaei built up a 5-1 lead through the first period against Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), then gave up a passivity point and nothing else to take the gold with a 5-2 victory.

The plodding end to the final bout of the tournament, the 125kg final, belied the historical significance of it.

Modzmanashvili, a London 2012 Olympic bronze medalist for Georgia, took a 4-0 lead with an early takedown to a roll, then gained a point when Sakandelidze was on the activity clock in the second period, when the two giants seemed to have little desire to expend further energy.  

By winning the silver medal, Sakandelidze became Qatar's first-ever medalist at the Asian Championships. The Gulf nation's best previous showing had been fifth place.

Although it took an import to gain a spot on the medal podium, Qatari officials were ecstatic with the result.

"After a long period, this is a big success for Qatar wrestling federation, for Qatar," said team leader Vardan Ghazaryan. "For the first time in senior championships, after more than 50 years, we take such success. Qatar is very proud and it will advertise wrestling to include more young schoolboys for developing wrestling in Qatar."

Ghazaryan said the federation has high expectations for Sakandelidze, who he said has lived in Qatar for two years.

"This is, of course, his first match for Qatar, but you will see his success and medals, gold medals, in the future."

Among the bronze-medal matches, Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) overcame an 8-3 deficit with 45 seconds remaining, scoring the winning takedown in the final seconds to defeat KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8, at 74kg.

Kim, who clearly ran out of gas down the stretch, is a 40-something high school wrestling coach who came out of retirement to make the national team, according to a South Korean federation official.

Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) also notched a last-second takedown to upend Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3, in their 92kg third-place match.

Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Iran and China all came away with two bronze medals on the night, while host Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia had one each.

61kg (12 entries)
Gold - Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ) df. Kazuya KOYANAGI (JPN), 6-2

Bronze - Abbos RAKHMONOV (UZB) df. Sharvan SHARVAN (IND), 6x-6

74kg (12 entries)
Gold - Muslim EVLOEV (KGZ) df. Mandakhnaran GANZORIG (MGL) by TF, 11-1, 0:24

Bronze - Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. KIM Daisung (KOR), 11-8
Bronze - Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Dovletmyrat ORAZGYLYJOV (TKM) by TF, 10-0, 4:12

86kg (12 entries)
Gold - Hassan YAZDANI CHARATI (IRI) df. Uitumen ORGODOL (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 3:24

Bronze - Azamat DAULETBEKOV (KAZ) df. Javrail SHAPIEV (UZB), 4-0
Bronze - BI Shengfeng (CHN) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND) by TF, 10-0, 3:41

92kg (10 entries)
Gold - Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Adilet DAVLUMBAYEV (KAZ), 5-2

Bronze - LIN Zushen (CHN) df. SUE Changjae (KOR), 2-1
Bronze - Azizbek SOLIEV (UZB) df. Turtogtokh LUVSANDORJ (MGL), 4-3

125kg (13 entries)

Bronze - Zolboo NATSAGSUREN (MGL) df. NAM Koungjin (KOR) by TF, 10-0, 4:43
Bronze - Amin TAHERI (IRI) df. Sohbet BELLIYEV (TKM) by TF, 14-4, 3:02