Host India Takes 3 Golds on Opening Day of Women’s Wrestling

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 20)—Going into this year’s Asian Championships, host India had had only one champion in women’s wrestling in the history of the tournament. In the space of one glorious day, they suddenly now have four.

Pinki PINKI (IND) and Sarita SARITA (IND) joined Divya KAKRAN (IND), who clinched her title in the afternoon session, as gold medalists with victories in the finals on the day three of the tournament Thursday in New Delhi.

Pinki won her first senior Asian title on the third try with a tense 2-1 victory over Dulguun BOLORMAA (MGL) in the 55kg final. A short time later, Sarita walked off with the 59kg crown with an equally close 3-2 win over Battsetseng ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), who was relegated to the silver medal for a second straight year.

“I feel fantastic,” Pinki said of the host nation’s success, albeit it came with powerhouses China and the DPR Korea absent due to circumstances related to the new coronavirus outbreak.

Earlier, Kakran clinched the 68kg gold by winning all four of her matches—all by fall—in the five-woman round-robin during the afternoon session, making her India’s first female Asian champion since Navjout KAUR (IND) won the 65kg title two years in Bishkek.

Japan won the other two golds at stake, as Miho IGARASHI (JPN) prevented India from gaining another title when she held on for a 3-2 victory over Devi NIRMALA (IND) in the 50kg final. 

World silver medalist Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) capped the night with a 4-1 victory in the 76kg final over world U-23 bronze medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) to pick up her third Asian gold and first since 2015. 

Sarita SARITA (IND) edged Battsetseng ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), 3-2, and claimed her first Asian title. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Sarita had joined the long list of Indians with Asian silver medals when she finished second at the 2017 tournament in New Delhi. 

“In 2017, I had a silver, so I knew the silver was not important,” said Sarita, who has also been on the Indian team to the senior World Championships five times, with a career-high finish of seventh in 2018. 

“From the first bout, I considered each one the final, because I can’t win if I don’t win every bout. There was no motivation for a silver, I just wanted to win the gold.”

Sarita said she didn’t feel pressure of performing in front of the home crowd at K.D. Jadrav Wrestling Stadium. “I just had to do what I have always learned on the mat, and this is what I did today and won the gold medal.”

In the final, Altantsetseg took the lead with a stepout, but Sarita came back with a takedown to take a 2-1 lead into the third period. With :21 left, Altantsetseg gained another stepout, meaning one more would give her the one. 

But Sarita was ready. As soon as Altantsetseg stepped forward, the Indian dipped down and shot for her legs. She ended up behind and gained a stepout herself with :11 to make it 3-2.

“I had watched some of her bouts before, I was just hoping to not give up a point,” Sarita said. “The moment she jumped, I thought I should flip her over, but I couldn’t get the hold and so it was like, let’s finish this with a one and win the match.”  

In the 55kg final, all of the points came on the activity clock, with Pinki going ahead 2-1 with :47 left. A late flurry of action at the end yielded no points, giving Pinki her first major senior title.

“I wasn’t feeling any kind of pressure, I was confident was I was going to win the match in the end,” she said.

Miho IGARASHI (JPN) stopped Indian from winning a fourth gold medal with a 3-2 win over Devi NIRMALA (IND) in the 50kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Igarashi, a two-time world champion at both the U-23 and junior levels, capped her senior national team debut by matching the exploit of her younger sister Saki, the 2018 Asian champion at 55kg.  

In the final, Igarashi scored with a double-leg takedown in the first period, to which a penalty point was added. In the second period, she continued to attack, but Nirmala was able to fend her off, nearly turning her over with a three-quarter nelson. 

With the seconds ticking down, Nirmala grabbed a foot and reeled in Igarashi for a 2-point takedown, but it was too little, too late. 

“She was really strong,” Igarashi said. “I didn’t really think about a strategy, but I thought to go on the attack first. It was good that I got points off that.

“After that I got a bit scared and I didn’t stay aggressive. But I really wanted to win the championship, I was obsessed, so I think I took the title by emotions.”

Igarashi came to New Delhi coming off a disappointing showing at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in January, where she lost in the quarterfinals.

“I was really disappointed by my performance at last month’s tournament,” she said. “With only one month before a big tournament, I had to regroup. But my desire to win was so strong,”

Igarashi felt a sense of responsibility after being handed the place on the national team in a weight class in which Japan has so much depth. She placed third at the Japan Championships, but with winner Yui SUSAKI (JPN) heading to the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament and runner-up Yuki IRIE (JPN) opting out, she was next in line for the assignment.

“I thought, I can’t wrestle poorly or lose easily,” she said. “There was some pressure, but in the end, I had a good result.”

Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) downed Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) and won her third Asian gold medal, but first since 2015. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Minagawa’s win over Medet Kyzy was her second of the day. The two had met in their preliminary group, with the Japanese winning 3-0 before both won their semifinal matches to advance to a rematch in the final.

As she did earlier, Minagawa scored with stepouts, although this time she added in a 2-point title off a counter, from which Medet Kyzy gained a reversal to account for her point.

Minagawa said she was helped by recently training with sumo wrestlers on working in the arms to more effectively lock up in the standing position, a technique which is vital in Japan’s national sport.

“I think what I learned there was effective,” she said. 

In the final round of matches at 68kg, world junior champion Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN) defeated Delgermaa ENKHSAIKHAN (MGL) by 11-0 technical fall in a bout that decided the silver and bronze medals. Both had lost to Kakran in the afternoon session and went into their clash with 2-1 records.

Kazakhstan, shut out of the finals, came away with four bronze medals from Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ) at 50kg, Marina ZUYEVA (KAZ) at 55kg, Madina BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) at 59kg and Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) at 76kg. 

Syzdykova, a 2016 Rio Olympic bronze medalist, won her fifth career Asian medal. She qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by placing fifth at last year’s World Championships.

Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) will square off with Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) in an opening-round top-three matchup. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

4th day to renew 2 major rivalries
The fireworks will start early on the fourth day of action Friday, as high-profile rivals in two weight classes were drawn to face each other in their opening bouts  as women’s wrestling finishes up. In both cases, it will be the third time the foes will face each other at a major tournament.

At 53kg, world silver medalist Mayu MUKAIDA (JPN) was drawn to face local star Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) as they begin their quest for gold at the quarterfinal stage.

Last May at the Asian Championships in Xi’an, China, Mukaida also faced Phogat in the round of 8, winning by 10-0 technical fall before going on to take the silver medal. Then, at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Mukaida ousted Phogat in the second round with a 7-0 win. 

Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) will wrestle Yukako KAWAI (JPN) on Friday morning in a rematch of last year's Asian finals. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

The quarterfinals at 62kg will see the latest clash between world champion Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) and world bronze medalist Yukako KAWAI (JPN). Like the other two, they also met at both the World and Asian Championships, with Tynybekova winning both.

Tynybekova took the Asian gold with an 8-6 win over Kawai in the final, then beat her again by fall in the second round at Nur-Sultan.  

Day 3 Results

Women’s Wrestling

50kg (8 entries)
GOLD – Miho IGARASHI (JPN) df. Devi NIRMALA (IND), 3-2
BRONZE - Valentina ISLAMOVA BRIK (KAZ) df. Thi Xuan NGUYEN (VIE) by TF, 10-0, :39

55kg (6 entries)
GOLD – Pinki PINKI (IND) df. Dulguun BOLORMAA (MGL), 2-1
BRONZE - Marina ZUYEVA (KAZ) df. Kana Higashikawa (JPN) by Fall, :52 (8-0)

59kg (7 entries)
GOLD – Sarita SARITA (IND) df. Battsetseng ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), 3-2
BRONZE - Madina BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) df. Yuumi KON (JPN) by Fall, 1:58 (2-0)

68kg (5 entries)
Final Group Standings 
GOLD – Divya KAKRAN (IND), 4-0
Key Match: Divya KAKRAN (IND) df. Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN) by Fall, 4:21 (6-4) in Round 4

76kg (7 entries)
GOLD – Hiroe MINAGAWA (JPN) df. Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), 4-1
BRONZE - Elmira SYZDYKOVA (KAZ) df. Arlunjargal GANBAT (MGL) by Fall, 1:58 (7-0)


Kaisanov Caps Eventful Week by Repeating as Asian 74kg Champ

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 23)—It’s been a good week for Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ). Five days after he was upgraded to the world bronze medal that he felt should have been his all along, he clinched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by successfully defending his freestyle 74kg title at the Asian Championships.

Kaisanov edged local favorite Jitender JITENDER (IND) 3-1 in the final as Kazakhstan captured two of the remaining five gold medals at stake on the final day of action at New Delhi’s K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Stadium.

“I believed I could win the Asian championship a second time,” Kaisanov said. “This gold medal was very important to me.”

It’s value was enhanced because the Kazakhstan federation informed him that a gold medal in New Delhi would automatically clinch the Olympic spot that he earned at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, where he lost a contentious bronze-medal match to Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA). 

A loss and he would have had to enter a playoff for the ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Even though he recently suffered a knee injury, the incentive of sewing up the place in New Delhi led him to make the decision to participate. 

“I participated because it was part of the Kazakhstan process for qualifying for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had to win.”

Kaisanov had faced Jitender last month at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series event in Rome, handily winning 9-2 in a repechage match before winning a bronze.

“One month ago I beat him with a big score [in Rome],” Naisanov said. “But this match was different because he was at home in front of his fans. It was mentally different, that’s why it was difficult.”

In the final, Kaisanov was on the clock when he scored with an exposure off a counter, before Jitender gained a stepout point. In the second period, Naisanov gained an insurance point with a stepout and held on for the win.

The victory came after UWW announced that Khadiev had failed a doping test, which moved Naisanov up to the world bronze. Khadiev had won their third-place match 4-3, but there was contention whether a late stepout by Naisanov should have been scored a takedown.

“I am very happy because after the World Championships I was so sad because I thought I won that match,” Naisanov said. “The referees made some mistakes. When I first heard the news of the doping by the French wrestler, I waited for the official news. I am so very happy. “

In other finals, world U-23 champion Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) picked up his first senior Asia gold after winning bronzes in 2016 and 2018 when he decked Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) in 2:44.

Zholdoshbekov, who had an eye poked in his opening match by an Iranian foe that bothered him throughout the day, scored a stepout while on the activity clock, then stuffed an arm drag attempt to put Ikromov into a headlock and secure the fall.

“All of the wrestlers want to take the gold in tournaments,” Zholdoshbekov said of gaining the elusive gold. “I worked very hard and I’m very happy.”

Ikromov was denied in his bid to become just the second Tajikstan wrestler in history to win an Asian gold. The only other came in 2003.

Zholdoshbekov said he will drop down to 57kg for the Asian Olympic qualifier to be held in his home country next month.

Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) defeated Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 in the 86kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The biggest surprise of the evening came in the 86kg final, in which unheralded Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) uncorked a pair of 4-point throws and held on to defeat 2019 Asian U-23 champion Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) 10-10 on big-point criteria.

Yamada was third at the Japan Championships, but got the chance to make his international senior debut as national champ Sosuke TAKATANI (JPN) will enter the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament. 

“The chance came to me and to be honest, I thought I wouldn’t win a medal, much less the championship,” said Yamada, who knocked off world silver medalist Deepak PUNIA (IND) in the semifinals. “To get the gold, I’m extremely happy.

“After the semifinal, I went back to the hotel and looked at videos of my opponent in the final. He had high finishes in various tournaments. He’s a strong wrestler. This time, more than skills, I won with guts and patience.”

Bazrighaleh took a 3-0 lead on a takedown and stepout, before Yamada cut the lead with a nifty back trip for a takedown. But the Iranian added another stepout and a takedown to go ahead 6-2 heading into the second period.

That’s when Yamada put to good use his occasional training in Greco, as he locked up Bazrighaleh and executed a picture-perfect lateral drop, not once but twice. That put him up 10-6, and a takedown and 2-point counter were not enough to give Bazrighaleh the win.

“When I was in high school and sometimes in college, I entered Greco competitions,” said Yamada, a second-year student at powerhouse Yamanashi Gakuin University. “We often practice Greco style. Even though the styles are different, I’m glad I didn’t just limit myself to freestyle. 

“I used it in situations where I was both winning and losing. I just had to give it a shot and see what happens.”

Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) crushed Takuma OTSU (JPN),11-0, and claimed the 92kg gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Another final that featured a clash between Iran and Japan went the Middle East nation’s way, as Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) stormed to an 11-0 technical fall of Takuma OTSU (JPN) for the 92kg gold. 

That helped Iran capture the team title with 168 points, just 9 ahead of host India in second. Kazakhstan finished third with 146 points, 6 ahead of Japan.

Ironically, had Yamanashi Gakuin University entered the team competition on its own, it would have placed sixth with 100 points. The school located 120 kilometers west of Tokyo in Kofu city got gold medals from Yamada and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) at 65kg, a silver from Otsu, and bronzes from Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) at 61kg and alumnus Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) at 57kg.

“We expected at least third places from the lower weights,” Yamanashi coach Kunihiko OBATA said. “The guys in the upper weights far exceeded our expectations. It’s a good experience and gives them confidence.”

The final gold of the night went to world U-23 bronze medalist Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ), who executed three gut wreches in dominating Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) for a 10-0 technical fall in 1:32.

In the bronze-medal matches, host India’s two world medalists came away with hardware, as Rahul AWARE (IND) topped Majid DASTAN (IRI) 5-2 at 57kg and Punia rolled to a 10-0 technical fall of Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) at 86kg.

Japan and Iran had two bronze medalists each, while Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Korea had one each.

Daichi TAKATANI (JPN), a silver medalist at both the Asian Championships and Asian Games in 2018 at 65kg, picked up a bronze medal in his debut at the next Olympic weight of 74kg with a 15-4 technical fall of Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ).

Takatani had unsuccessfully tried to dislodge 2018 world champion Otoguro at 65kg in the battle to make Japan’s Olympic team, then made the drastic jump up two weight classes to 74kg. He came up short of grabbing the Tokyo 2020 spot, but his second place at the Japan Championships earned him a ticket to New Delhi.

While conceding little in terms of technique, Takatani still feels the gap in size, and allowed Mahmood to pull off a 4-point counter to start their bronze-medal match. But his superior skills came to the forefront and he piled up the points before finishing the match in 5:28.

Day 6 Results


61kg (13 entries)
GOLD – Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) df. Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) by Fall, 2:44 (3-0)
BRONZE – Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) df. YUN Jihoon (KOR), 4-2
BRONZE – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Majid DASTAN (IRI), 5-2

74kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Jitender JITENDER (IND), 3-1
BRONZE – Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) df. Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ) by TF, 15-4, 5:28
BRONZE – Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), 5-0 

86kg (9 entries)
GOLD – Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 
BRONZE – Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) by TF, 10-0, 2:43

92kg (8 entries)
GOLD – Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Takuma OTSU (JPN) by TF, 11-0, 5:31 
BRONZE – Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) df. Chyngyz KERIMULOV (KGZ) by TF, 11-1, 4:30
BRONZE – Iliskhan CHILAYEV (KAZ) df. Ajiniyaz SAPARNIYAZOV (UZB), 4-4

125kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:32
BRONZE – NAM Koungjin (KOR) df. Zaman ANWAR (PAK) by TF, 10-0, 3:23
BRONZE – Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI) df. Farkhod ANAKULOV (TJK) by TF, 10-0, 2:04