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.


Chamizo Closes Out Sassari With Gold in Home Country

By Eric Olanowski

SASSARI, Italy (May 25) – Frank CHAMIZO (ITA) capped off his run to a Sassari title in front of his home nation with a 6-4 come-from-behind win over tenth-ranked Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) in what was a battle of reigning 74kg continental champions. 

Chamizo used the support from the ruckus Italian crowd to push him past Kaisanov in the finals. “I’m so happy for (the fans). They support me; I needed that. I love the fans.” 

The Italian, who won the European Championships last month in Bucharest, Romania, found himself in a four-point hole against the reigning Asian champion after he surrendered a takedown and a leg lace -- but closed the Kazakh wrester’s lead to two points with a takedown of his own before the ending whistle of the first period sounded. 

In the second period, Chamizo picked up his offensive attack rate and gained the lead on criteria with an early two. The two-time world champion tacked on his second takedown of the period and third overall to take the 6-4 advantage into the final 30 seconds. The Italian fought off several attacks and hung on to win his first career Sassari gold medal, improving on his eighth-place finish from 2014. 

Chamizo also grabbed a massive come-from-behind win over 2014 world champion Khetik TSABOLOV (RUS) in the semifinals. The Italian erased a three-point second-period deficit by scoring a pair of takedowns to upend Russia's 2017 world runner-up, 5-4.

After the match, Chamizo said, “I’m focused. I’m not joking. That’s it, guys. I don’t want to talk about wins or loses. I want talk about training and staying focused.” 

Chamizo entered the Sassari as the fourth-ranked wrestler in the world with 56 points and will jump Avtandil KENTCHADZE (GEO) and Jordan Ernest BURROUGHS (USA) after collecting 16 points for his gold-medal performance on Saturday. “I think competing is important. The reason for me competing is I need the points for the rankings,” said Chamizo. The Italian superstar will be the No. 2-ranked wrestler at 74kg sits four points behind reigning world champion Zaurbek SIDKOV (RUS) who has 76 points. 

In his finals interview, Chamizo said he plans to wrestle at the final Ranking Series event of the year, the Yasar Dogu. Depending on if Sidakov shows up and Chamizo medals, the Italian could head into the World Championships as the No. 1 seeded wrestler in the world. 

Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ)  was one of two wrestlers from Kazakhstan who won a Sassari gold medal on Saturday night. (Photo: Gabor Martin) 

Kazakhstan Wins Team Titles with Seven Medalists 
Kazakhstan, who had seven medalists, won the team title 15 points ahead of second place Russia. Rassul KALIYEV and Nurkozha KAIPANOV were Kazakhstan’s two champions. They also won two silvers and three bronzes. 

Though he lost in the 61kg gold-medal bout, Rassul Kalyev was named champion after Iran’s Mohammadbagher YAKHKESHI got disqualified for failure to comply with United World Wrestling medal ceremony rules. In the 61kg Nordic-style bracket, Yakheshi closed out his day with a 4-1 record, including a 7-2 win over Rassul Kaliyev in the gold-medal bout – but the Iranian’s gold medal got revoked during the medal presentation ceremony for failure to cooperate with United World Wrestling’s medal ceremony procedures. 

Yakhkeshi took the podium not wearing the approved medal ceremony clothing. According to United World Wrestling’s rule book, wrestlers have to wear their countries tracksuit on the podium to receive their medal. Yakhkeshi, who was wearing short sleeves, was asked several times to comply with the rules but failed to do so, among many other things, which resulted in disqualification.

Therefore, Kalyev, Uladzislau ANDREYEU (BLR), and Rahul AWARE (IND) received bumps and finished in first through third, respectively. 

Kazakhstan's second champion came at the 70kg, where Nurkozha Kaipanov blanked George KOLIEV (BLR), 6-0 in the gold-medal match. Kaipanov scored two takedowns and a pair of stepouts to win his first career Ranking Series gold medal. 

Azamat TUSKAEV (RUS) only needed 77 seconds to pick up the fall over Canada's Darthe CAPELLAN’s (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Russia Wins Three Freestyle Golds; Finished Second in Team Race 
The Russian Federation finished in second place as a team with 147 points with three champions. Their three champions were Azamat TUSKAEV (RUS), Khalil AMINOV (RUS), and Pavel KRIVTSOV (RUS). 

The 57kg finals match was short lived and only lasted 77 seconds. Azamat Tuskaev scored a counter-offensive takedown off of Darthe CAPELLAN’s (CAN) double leg attempt, then quickly locked up a cradle and stuck the Canadian wrestler. 

Khalil Aminov gave Russia their second gold medal of the night with a 6-2 win over Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ). Aminov scored a pair of one-point stepouts and picked up a four-point double leg to win the 79kg gold-medal bout, 6-2. 

Russia’s third champion came at 125kg when Pavel Krivtsov scored a takedown with 1.7 seconds to defeat Daniel LIGETI (HUN). Krivtsov gained the 4-4 lead on criteria, then added a point for a failed Hungarian challenge and counter-offensive takedown as time expired to beat Ligeti, 7-4. 

Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI) was one of the three Iranian champions. (Photo: Gabor Martin) 

Karami Leads Iran To Third-Place Finish  
Had it not been for Mohammadbagher Yakheshi's 61kg gold medal getting revoked while he was on the podium, Iran would have had won four gold medals on Saturday. Either way, Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI), Hamed TALEBIZARRINKAMAR (IRI), won back-to-back-to-back titles at 86kg, 92kg, and 97kg respectively and helped Iran finish third as a team. 

In the 86kg finals, Ahmad Bazrighaleh pulled off the most improbable comebacks of the tournament, defeating Kazakhstan’s Azamat DAULETBEKOV in a 29-point shootout. Bazrighaleh was in danger of giving up a technical superiority win when his Kazakh opponent led 10-2 after the first period –- but the Iranian fought back and scored 17 unanswered points, outlasting Dauletbekov, 19-10.  

In the 92kg finals, returning world bronze medalist Alireza Karimimachiani muscled around Russia’s Batyrbek TCAKULOV (RUS) and captured the gold medal with a 7-2 victory. Karimimachiani scored his seven points off an exposure, three stepouts and a pair of brutality points. 

Hamed Talebizarrinkamar efficiently handled fellow Iranian Abbas Ali FOROUTANRAMI (IRI), 8-0 in the 97kg finals and won his first international gold medals since the 2011 Junior World Championships. 

Sonba GONGANE (IND) was down 6-1 and came back to beat No. 16 Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 9-8. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

Gongane Wins 65kg Title After Being Down 6-1
In one of the most exciting matches of the night, India’s Sonba GONGANE (IND) scored the 9-8 come-from-behind win over Russian Ivan Yariguin champion and 16th-ranked Magomedrasul IDRISOV in the 65kg gold-medal bout. 

Gongane trailed 6-1 at one point in the match, but continued to claw back, and ultimately gained the 7-6 outright lead with 120 seconds left. The Indian again found himself behind when the Russian picked up a takedown - but Gongane stayed on the attack and picked up a pair of one-point exchanges to win the match, 9-8.

Wrestling resumes tomorrow with the Sardinia Beach Wrestling Matteo Pellicone Memorial. 


GOLD – Kazakhstan (162 points)
SILVER – Russia (147 points)
BRONZE – Iran (111 points)
Fourth - India (90 points) 
Fifth – Canada (73 points)

GOLD - Azamat TUSKAEV (RUS) df. Darthe CAPELLAN (CAN), via fall 
BRONZE - Givi DAVIDOVI (ITA) df. Patrick James HEBREARD (USA), 10-0 


GOLD – Sonba Tanaji GONGANE (IND) df. Magomedrasul IDRISOV (RUS), 9-8 
BRONZE – Sayatbek OKASSOV (KAZ) df. Harphool HARPHOOL (IND), 14-3 
BRONZE - Junsik YUN (KOR) df. Quentin Jean-René STICKER (FRA), 5-0 

GOLD - Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) df. George KOLIEV (BLR), 6-0 
BRONZE - Yones Aliakbar EMAMICHOGHAEI (IRI) df. Mihail Iliev GEORGIEV (BUL), 10-0 
BRONZE - Batyr BORJAKOV (TKM) df. Fares LAKEL (ALG), 9-4 

BRONZE - Miroslav Stefanov KIROV (BUL) df. Amit Kumar DHANKHAR (IND), 11-0
BRONZE - Khetik TSABOLOV (RUS) df. Andrei KARPACH (BLR), 12-6 

GOLD - Khalil AMINOV (RUS) df. Galymzhan USSERBAYEV (KAZ), 6-2 
BRONZE - Fateh BENFERDJALLAH (ALG) df. Parveen RANA (IND), via fall 
BRONZE - Dmytrii TKACHENKO (UKR) df. Sahergeldi SAPARMYRADOV (TKM), via fall

GOLD - Ahmad Yousef BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) vs. Azamat DAULETBEKOV (KAZ), 19-10 
BRONZE -  Akhmed AIBUEV (FRA) df. Dovletmyrat ORAZGYLYJOV (TKM), 14 - 4
BRONZE - Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Boris MAKOEV (SVK)

92kg (Single Bronze) 
GOLD - Alireza KARIMIMACHIANI (IRI) df. Batyrbek TCAKULOV (RUS), 8-4
BRONZE -  Arashk Mohammadkazem MOHEBI (IRI) vs. Nurgali NURGAIPULY (KAZ), 7-3  

BRONZE - Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA) df. Bakdaulet ALMENTAY (KAZ), 2 - 0

GOLD - Pavel KRIVTSOV (RUS) df. Daniel LIGETI (HUN), 7-4 
BRONZE - Oleg BOLTIN (KAZ) df. Grant Michael ROBINSON (USA), 12-0 
BRONZE - Frédérick CHOQUETTE (CAN) df. Aly BARGHOUT (CAN), 3-0