Asian Schoolgirls

Rising Star Fujinami Leads Japan Gold Rush at Asian U-15 Girls

By Ken Marantz

FUJIMI, Japan---Having already surpassed her world medalist brother in one aspect, Akari FUJINAMI (JPN) continues to establish herself as a likely future star in Japan's women wrestling.

Fujinami, a junior high schooler who this summer became a world cadet champion, stormed to victory in the 54kg division to lead a gold rush by the host country at the Asian U-15 Girls Championships on Friday in Fujimi, north of Tokyo.

Fujinami was one of six Japanese who made it to the top of the medal podium in the 10 weight classes, with Miu OBATA (39kg),  Yu SAKAMOTO (46kg), Moe KIYOOKA (50kg), Kanami YAMANOUCHI (58kg) and Ayano MORO (62kg) also emerging victorious. Japan also won two silver medals.

India claimed three golds, including a victory at 42kg by world cadet bronze medalist SWEETY (IND), along with three silvers and a bronze, while Uzbekistan took the remaining title in the heaviest weight of 66kg as well as four bronzes. It was a bittersweet day for Mongolia, which had to settle for four silver medals to go with one bronze.

Japan, which did not have an entry in the lightest weight class of 33kg, easily won the team title with 202 points, followed by India (181),  Kazakhstan (125), Mongolia (114) and Uzbekistan (105).

As the tournament, the first for the continent in this age category, drew entries from just eight countries---China was noticeably missing---all of the weight classes featured round-robin groups. In divisions with six or more, there were two groups to determine semifinals spots, concluding with a gold-medal match.

Fujinami's weight class had just four entries, so the ranking was determined after each wrestler faced each other in a simple round-robin. Fujinami's domination was complete, as she needed less than a combined three minutes to vanquish her three opponents by fall or technical fall.

"Even if the matches are won easily, there are issues I want to address," Fujinami said. "Today, I wanted to work on going right into turning over [the opponent] after making a tackle. I achieved that up to an extent, but I'm not there yet."

Three of the six weight classes that had finals featured clashes between Japan and India, and none was a close as the victory by India's Sweety at 42kg.

Facing Miwa MAGARA (JPN), Sweety gave up a takedown and an exposure to fall behind 4-0 in the first of the two 2-minute periods. But using the counter-wrestling that Indian wrestlers have become so successful at, she gained a go-behind takedown to cut the lead to two points.

Magara stayed on the attack and, with the clock ticking down, Sweety managed to fend off a tackle and slip behind with :02 left in the match to win 4-4 on last-point criteria.

"I was thinking only about the gold medal," Sweety said of those tenuous final seconds.

In the next match, Sakamoto gained some payback for the hosts by pulling away in the second period to defeat ANTIM (IND), 10-2, in the 46kg final.

Sakamoto, who won a gold medal in the Klippan Lady Open cadet tournament in February, took a 2-2 lead into the second period, then used a cradle to tack on four points. She then added an exposure and a takedown to finish up the win.

"I was able to do what I practiced in the first match, second match and third match [semifinal]," said Sakamoto, who attends the Japan Olympic Committee's Elite Academy. "But I let [my opponent] get away in the fourth match which was for the title."

India's other golds came at 33kg, which had just two entries and saw Pooja RANI (IND) defeat Anna NAZARENKO (KAZ) by 11-0 technical fall, and at 36kg, in which KOMAL (IND) rallied from a 0-6 deficit to defeat Fuka KONDO (JPN) 6-6 on last-point criteria in the third of her four round-robin matches.

Uzbekistan broke up the Japan-India gold monopoly when Rushana ABDIRASULOVA (UZB) took the 66kg title, winning three of her four matches by fall. She beat runner-up Davaajargal ALTANSUKH (MGL), 8-2, in her third match of the round-robin.

For Fujinami, who turned 15 on Nov. 11, it was her eighth gold medal in eight domestic and international tournaments this year---four of which were at the cadet (16-17) level and which included the world 49kg title in July in Zagreb.

"I go in with the feeling of being the challenger," Fujinami said of taking on high school-aged opponents. "From now, I will be in the position of the one being followed, but I aim to win and become champion of Japan."

Fujinami, who hails from the same Mie Prefecture that produced Saori YOSHIDA, started wrestling at age 4 in the Inabe Wrestling Club coached by her father. The Inabe club also was the launching point for her brother Yuhi FUJINAMI (JPN), who won a bronze medal in freestyle 70kg at the 2017 Paris world championships (this year he failed to medal at 74kg), as well as Paris gold medalist Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN).

Before making his mark on the senior level, Yuhi Fujinami was a world silver medalist as both a cadet and junior. By winning the first of possibly three world cadet golds, Akari has already bested her beloved brother, who is 7 years her senior but serves as a trusted coach and friend.

"Before tournaments, we exchange messages, and he teaches me techniques," Akari said. "If I have to say, right now he's a 'rival.' I'm like, I don't want to lose to him." She added that she respects what he has accomplished, saying, "I see with him, when you become a senior how tough it is to be third [in the world]."

Prior to her victory in Zagreb, her cadet titles came at Klippan Lady Open, the Japan Queen's Cup in April and the Asian Championships in Tashkent in May.

Fujinami, who will graduate from junior high school in March, will not be eligible to compete at the All-Japan Championships until she is 18. But that doesn't stop her from eyeing the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Off to a good start, time will tell if she can keep clearing the hurdles along the path to the ultimate goal of every wrestler.

33kg (2 entries)

Final: Pooja RANI (IND) df. Anna NAZARENKO (KAZ) by TF, 11-0, 1:39

36kg (5 entries)
1st place: KOMAL (IND), 4-0
2nd place: Fuka KONDO (JPN), 3-1
3rd place: Kumushai ZHOODANBEKOVA (KGZ), 2-2

Key Match: KOMAL (IND) df. Fuka KONDO (JPN) 6-6 in 4th round

39kg (5 entries)
1st place: Miu OBATA (JPN), 4-0
2nd place: PINKI (IND), 3-1
3rd place: Nigina SABIROVA (UZB), 2-2

Key Match: Miu OBATA (JPN) df. PINKI (IND), 12-5 in 5th round

42kg (6 entries)
Final: SWEETY (IND) df. Miwa MAGARA (JPN), 4-4

3rd Place: Shugyla OMIRBEK (KAZ) df. Mushtariy TOLIPBEKOVA (UZB), 4-2

46kg (7 entries)
Final: Yu SAKAMOTO (JPN) df. ANTIM (IND), 10-2

3rd Place: Dilshoda MATNAZAROVA (UZB) df. LIAO Pei-Ying (TPE), 8-0

50kg (7 entries)
Final: Moe KIYOOKA (JPN) df. Khulan BYAMBASUREN (MGL), 3-0

3rd Place: Ulmeken ESENBAEVA (UZB) df. Altyn SHAGAYEVA (KAZ), 2-2

54kg (4 entries)
1st place: Akari FUJINAMI (JPN), 3-0
2nd place: Altjin TOGTOKH (MGL), 2-1
3rd place: Pratibha JANGHU (IND), 1-2

Key match: Akari FUJINAMI (JPN) df. Altjin TOGTOKH (MGL) by Fall, 1:01 (6-0) in 2nd round

58kg (7 entries)
Final: Kanami YAMANOUCHI (JPN) df. Bhagyashree FAND (IND), 5-0

3rd place: Maral BATTSOOJ (MGL) df. WENG Hsing-Yao (TPE) by Fall, :57 (2-0)

62kg (7 entries)
Final: Ayano MORO (JPN) df. Odzaya ERDENEBAT (MGL) by TF, 10-0 (2:18)

3rd place: Laylokhon SOBIROVA (UZB) df. SITTU (IND) by Fall, 2:38 (6-0)

66kg (5 entries)
1st place: Rushana ABDIRASULOVA (UZB), 4-0
2nd place: Davaajargal ALTANSUKH (MGL), 3-1
3rd place: Ayazhan TOKTASH (KAZ), 2-2

Key match: Rushana ABDIRASULOVA (UZB) df. Davaajargal ALTANSUKH (MGL), 8-2 in 3rd round

Team Standings
1. Japan, 202 points; 2. India, 181; 3. Kazakhstan, 125; 4. Mongolia, 114; 5. Uzbekistan, 105; 6. Chinese Taipei, 54; 7. Thailand, 37; 8. Kyrgyzstan, 32.


World Champion Azizli Headlines Hungarian Grand Prix Entry List

By Eric Olanowski

GYOR, Hungary (February 14) - Azerbaijan's reigning world champion Eldaniz AZIZLI headlines a Hungarian Grand Prix field of 175 wrestlers from 25 different nations which boasts an impressive eight returning world medalists (listed in bold below).

Though they only enter three wrestlers, Azerbaijan has arguably the most successful team in the tournament. Their three entries are Azizli, Rasul CHUNAYEV, and Sabah SHARIATI. 

Azizli is coming off a run to his first world title and is the No. 1 ranked wrestler in the world at 55kg, while Chunayev and Shariati both hold Rio Olympic bronze medals. 

Chunayev, who's 25 points is good enough for the No. 4-ranking in the world at 72kg, has three world medals to go along with his Rio bronze-medal finish. In 2015, he won the world title and grabbed bronze medals at the 2014 and 2018 world championships.

The last Azeri entry is Sabah Shariati, who will be making his 2019 season debut at 130kg. 

Korea and Serbia are two other nations that enter stacked squads into the second Ranking Series event of the year.

Korea's team features Olympic champion KIM Hyeonwoo, two-time world champion RYU Hansu, and reigning 130kg world bronze medalist KIM Minseok. 

Kim Hyeonwoo brings 25 Ranking Series points into the Hungarian Grand Prix and is ranked third in the world after a bronze-medal finish at last weekend's Zagreb Open. 

Kim Minseok, the fifth-ranked wrestler in the world at 130kg, is looking to bounce back after failing to medal at the Zagreb Open, and two-time world champion Ryu Hansu will make his season debut at 67kg. 

Serbia's team will be led by 2017 world champion Viktor NEMES and reigning world bronze medalist Mihail KAJALA. Both wrestlers are ranked fourth in the world at 77kg and 97kg respectively. 

The Hungarian Grand Prix begins on February 23 at the Olimpiai Sportpark in Gyor, Hungary. 

Early Entries

55kg - Abdelkarim FERGAT
60kg - Abdennour LAOUNI
67kg - Ishak GHAIOU
72kg - Tarek Aziz BENAISSA
77kg - Akrem BOUDJEMLINE
87kg - Bachir SID AZARA
97kg - Hemza HALOUI

60kg - Eldaniz AZIZLI
72kg - Rasul CHUNAYEV
130kg - Sabah SHARIATI

60kg - Maksim KAZHARSKI
67kg - Soslan DAUROV
77kg - Pavel LIAKH
77kg - Tsimur BERDYIEU
82kg - Viktar SASUNOUSKI
87kg - Mikalai STADUB
87kg - Radzik KULIYEU
97kg - Aliaksandr HRABOVIK
130kg - Kiryl HRYSHCHANKA
130kg - Georgi CHUGOSHVILI

Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ, the 2017 world bronze medalists, moved up to No. 3 in this months world rankings after his bronze-medal performance at the first Greco-Roman Ranking Series event, the Zagreb Open. (Photo: Tony Rotundo )

67kg - Cristobal Alonso TORRES NUNEZ
130kg - Yasmani ACOSTA FERNANDEZ

60kg - WALIHAN Sailike

63kg - TUO Erbatu 
63kg - HU Di 
67kg - ZHANG Gaoquan
67kg - TIAN Qiye
72kg - ZHANG Hujun
77kg - ZHANG Ridong
82kg - QIAN Haitao
87kg - NA Junjie 
87kg - PENG Fei
97kg - ALIMUJIANG Abudourexiti
97kg - XIAO Di
97kg - ZHANG Gang
130kg - MENG Lingzhe

Czech Republic
72kg - Daniel VARGA
77kg - Petr NOVAK
77kg - Oldrich VARGA
97kg - Artur OMAROV
97kg - Ondrej DADAK
130kg - Stepan DAVID

67kg - Fredrik Holmquist BJERREHUUS
82kg - Rajbek BISULTANOV

Heiki NABI, the two-time world champion is set to make his 2019 Ranking Series debut at the Hungarian Grand Prix. (Photo: Martin Gabor )

60kg - Helary MAEGISALU
67kg - Denis BOLUNOV
130kg - Heiki NABI

60kg - Lauri Johannes MAEHOENEN
77kg - Niko Olavi Oskari ERKKOLA
77kg - Tero Antero Matias HALMESMAEKI
82kg - Jarno Krister AALANDER
87kg - Rami Antero HIETANIEMI
97kg - Antti Matias MAEKINEN
130kg - Tuomas Heikki Juhani LAHTI

60kg - Ramaz SURMANIDZE
60kg - Gizo MELADZE
72kg - Sachino DAVITAIA
77kg - Demuri KAVTARADZE
82kg - Lasha GOBADZE
82kg - Gela BOLKVADZE

72kg - Michael Felix WIDMAYER
82kg - Marius BRAUN
130kg - Jello KRAHMER

55kg - Reza Kheirollah KHEDRI
60kg - Shirzad Ali BEHESHTITALA
63kg - Meysam Karamali DALKHANI
63kg - Mohammad Naser NOURBAKHSH
67kg - Mohammad Hossein ELYASI
72kg - Mohammadreza Alireza AGHANIACHARI
77kg - Payam Abdeh Saleh BOVEYRI PAYANI
87kg - Yousef Ahmad GHADERIAN
97kg - Hassan Ali ARYANEZHAD
130kg - Shahab Morteza GHOUREHJILI

60kg - Jacopo SANDRON
67kg - Ignazio SANFILIPPO
77kg - Riccardo Vito ABBRESCIA
87kg - Fabio PARISI
87kg - Mirco MINGUZZI
97kg - Daigoro TIMONCINI

Rio Olympic silver medalist Shinobu OTA (JPN) will compete at 63kg at the Hungarian Grand Prix. (Photo: Martin Gabor )

63kg - Shinobu OTA
67kg - Katsuaki ENDO
67kg - Shogo TAKAHASHI
67kg - Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA
72kg - Tomohiro INOUE
77kg - Naotsugu SHOJI
77kg - Masato SUMI
77kg - Kodai SAKURABA
87kg - Takahiro TSURUDA
97kg - Masaaki SHIKIYA
130kg - Arata SONODA

60kg - KIM Seunghak
60kg - LEE Jungbaik
67kg - KIM Dohyeong
67kg - RYU Hansu
77kg - KIM Hyeonwoo
87kg - PARK Heageun
97kg - LEE Seyeol
130kg - KIM Seungjun
130kg - KIM Minseok

63kg - Alexandru BICIU
63kg - Donior ISLAMOV
77kg - Daniel CATARAGA
77kg - Igor BESLEAGA

63kg - Stig-Andre BERGE
67kg - Haavard JOERGENSEN
130kg - Oskar MARVIK

55kg - Alexandru Vasile BOTEZ
60kg - Virgil MUNTEANU
63kg - Mihai Radu MIHUT
72kg - Ilie COJOCARI
130kg - Constantin HUTULEAC

Viktor NEMES, the 2017 world champion confirmed that he'll be wrestling in Hungary next weekend. (Photo: Tony Rotundo) 

63kg - Tamas NAD
67kg - Mate NEMES
77kg - Viktor NEMES
87kg - Nikolaj Georgiev DOBREV
87kg - Vladimir STANKIC
97kg - Mihail KAJALA

77kg - Leos DRMOLA
97kg - Tamas SOOS

67kg - Danielo Giuseppe DI FEOLA
72kg - Oskar Simon ERLANDSSON
77kg - Alex Michel BJURBERG KESSIDIS
97kg - Pontus Johan LUND
97kg - Kristoffer Zakarias BERG

60kg - Viktor PETRYK
67kg - Ruslan KUDRYNETS
67kg - Bohdan KOVERNYUK
72kg - Artur POLITAIEV
77kg - Volodymyr YAKOVLIEV
77kg - Dmytro PYSHKOV
82kg - Yaroslav FILCHAKOV
82kg - Oleksandr BELOTSKYI
87kg - Andrii ANTONIUK
87kg - Iurii SHKRIUBA
97kg - Yevhenii SAVETA
97kg - Mykola KRYSOV
97kg - Zielimkhan DZIHASOV
130kg - Vladyslav VORONYI
130kg - Mykola KUCHMII

Kamal BEY, the United States' 2017 junior world champion, is looking to rebound after being disqualified from the Zagreb Open. (Photo: Kadir Kaliskan) 

60kg - Dalton ROBERTS
63kg - Travis RICE
72kg - Patrick SMITH
77kg - Ravaughn PERKINS
77kg - Kamal BEY
87kg - Patrick MARTINEZ
87kg - Kevin RADFORD JR
87kg - Benjamin PROVISOR
97kg - Nicholas BOYKIN
97kg - Tracy HANCOCK
130kg - Robert SMITH


Friday (February 22) 
Till 12:00 - Final entries for GR cat. 55, 63, 72, 82, 97 kg
15:00 - Referee meeting
16:00 - Technical conference – all teams 
17:00 - Draw – GR cat. 55, 63, 72, 82, 97 kg

page3image1443946080Saturday (February 23) 
08:00 - Medical examination & Weigh-in for GR cat. 55, 63, 72, 82, 97kg
10:00 - Qualification rounds and repechage for GR cat. 55, 63, 72, 82, 97kg
Till 12:00 - Final entries/ Inscriptions définitives pour GR cat. 60, 67, 77, 87, 130kg
16:30 - Draw – GR cat. 60, 67, 77, 87, 130kg
17:00 - Opening Ceremony 
18:00 - Finals for GR cat. 55, 63, 72, 82, 97kg Award ceremonies 

Sunday (February 24) 
8.30- Medical examination & Weigh-in for GR cat. 60, 67, 77, 87, 130kg
10.00-15.00- Qualification rounds and repechage for GR cat. 60, 67, 77, 87, 130kg
16.00-19.15- Finals for GR cat. 60, 67, 77, 87, 130kg and Award ceremonies

Monday (February 25) 
Departure of the delegations