japan national, yui susaki, susaki, dosho, higuchi, wrestling, Greco-Roman, ota, paris

Shock as Rio 2016 Silver-Medal Duo Fail to Make Japan Squad for Paris

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO (June 18) - Having an Olympic silver medal to one’s name is a remarkable accomplishment certainly worth being proud of. But as both Rei HIGUCHI and Shinobu OTA found out, it counts for little when the 2017 world team is being selected.

Both Higuchi and Ota, who won silver medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, failed to make Japan's team to this summer's World Championships in Paris after going down to defeat on the final day of the three-day Japan National Invitational Championships in Tokyo.

Higuchi, the freestyle runner-up at 57kg in Rio de Janeiro, lost in the 61kg final to longtime collegiate rival Rinya NAKAMURA, 14-5, and then blew an early lead and dropped a 9-5 decision in a special world team wrestle-off as Nakamura snatched the berth to Paris.

Asian champion Kenichiro FUMITA, having defeated Ota for the Greco-Roman 59kg crown at the National Championships in December, needed only one win over Ota on Sunday, which he wrapped up with a 6-2 victory in the featherweight final to punch his ticket to Paris. 

"I've been to a number of world championships as a warm-up partner and watched the competition right in front of my eyes, which was really hard to take," Fumita said.

"I thought I have to make it there myself and win a medal. That has now become a reality and I will be going as a competitor, so I'll aim for the top and get myself ready."

For the Japanese men, selection is based on the results from the two national competitions. The winners at the December championships, known as the Emperor's Cup, automatically clinched a world team berth by winning the invitational meet, called the Meiji Cup. 

Two more categories in the men’s disciplines on Sunday were also decided in playoff bouts. 

In freestyle, Yuhi FUJINAMI posted a pair of one-sided victories at 70kg over Emperor's Cup champion and Asian bronze medalist Momojiro NAKAMURA, rolling to a 10-0 technical fall in 1:14 of the semifinal, then repeating that score in 4:28 of the wrestle-off.

In between the two wins over Nakamura, Fujinami earned a place in the playoff by sweeping past defending champion Nobuyoshi TAKOJIMA, 10-2, in the final.

Atsushi MATSUMOTO continues to make progress in his transition from freestyle to Greco-Roman, although the Emperor's Cup champion at 85kg needed a hard-fought 4-1 victory over Kanta SHIOKAWA in the playoff to make the team to Paris.

Matsumoto, who won the Asian title in New Delhi in May, lost in the semifinals, 2-1, to Masato SUMI, who in turn fell 4-1 to Shiokawa in the final.

Matsumoto, whose brother Ryutaro was a London 2012 bronze medalist in Greco-Roman, won the last of his five Meiji Cup freestyle titles last year before switching to Greco-Roman after failing to qualify for Rio de Janeiro.

Fumita and Ota have been well aware of each other for years as former teammates at Nippon Sport Science University, where the 21-year-old Fumita is still a student. Ota and Fumita, currently ranked No.2 and No.3 by United World Wrestling, continue to train together at NSSU.

Fumita grabbed the spotlight when he knocked off the Rio 2016 silver medalist at the Emperor's Cup, then went on to win the gold medal at the Asian Championships. But Ota showed he was not ready to yield easily when he beat Fumita in the final of the Cerro Pelado International in Cuba.

"In February, I lost to him in the final in Cuba, that was really disappointing," Fumita said. "I took part in the Asian Championships and won, but was not satisfied with my performance. So I put everything into preparing for this tournament."

In the final, both wrestlers gained a point on the opponent's passivity when Ota was awarded a second to put him ahead with less than a minute left in the bout. But, at that precise moment, Fumita executed a back drop to regain the lead. He added a second a short time later to clinch the victory, which he celebrated with a back flip.

"I wasn't scared," Fumita said of falling behind late in the match. "I didn't feel the need to panic. If I don't make a mistake, one minute is enough time. Keeping calm led to my getting points."

Ironically, both wrestlers cut it close in the semifinals. Fumita was trailing, 2-2, on criteria to Hayanobu SHIMIZU when he scored with a throw with 40 seconds left to win, 4-2. Likewise, Ota fell behind, 2-0, to Masuto KAWANA before grabbing a decisive takedown in a wild flurry with 4:20 left.

"I thought I was prepared," Ota said. "But I couldn't attack like I needed to."

Like Fumita and Ota, Nakamura and Higuchi are quite familiar with each other, having faced each other going back to their days in youth wrestling and more recently as collegiate rivals. Nakamura goes to Senshu University, while Higuchi is among the strong group at NSSU.

"We've had over 10 matches, but this is the first time since junior high school that I won in an individual tournament," said Nakamura, who won the Meiji Cup at 57kg last year. "So it makes me feel like I've gotten over a wall."

In the final, Nakamura scored big with counters to Higuchi's single-leg takedown attempts, gaining four points with one crotch lift and two with another. He led 8-2 after the first period before finishing up the 14-5 win.

Higuchi was more cautious in the playoff, and built up a 5-1 lead early in the second period. But Nakamura cut the gap with another lift to counter a takedown, then went ahead with a single-leg takedown followed by an ankle roll with 50 seconds left. 

"Today I was not good enough to win," said Higuchi, who suffered a surprise semifinal loss at New Delhi 2017 and had to settle for a bronze medal. "He (Nakamura) did his research on me very well. I wasn't strong enough."

Nakamura's victory capped his recovery from shoulder surgery which he underwent following last year's tournament. It was Higuchi's performance in Rio that motivated him.

"It was from the hospital bed that I saw Higuchi perform so well," Nakamura said. "I thought he looked so cool. The only things I could do while I was injured I went all out to do, and that paid off today."

No Stopping the Golden Girls

There were no surprises in the women's competition, in which Rio gold medalists Risako KAWAI (60kg) and Sara DOSHO (69kg) had little trouble winning titles after skipping last year’s tournament. 

Teen titan Yui SUSAKI picked up her second straight title at 48kg with Rio 2016 champion Eri TOSAKA still on the sidelines, scoring all of her points in the first period and holding on for 3-0 victory in the final over junior world champ Miho IGARASHI.

All three, who won gold medals at the Asian Championships, are all but certain to be on the team for Paris, but will have to wait for confirmation until a later date. Unlike the men, the women's team will be chosen by the Japan Wrestling Federation based on the results of the two national tournaments and other factors.

Kawai, who was awarded the Meiji Cup as the tournament MVP, had an early scare in the final against defending champion Yui SAKANO, giving up a four-point throw.

But she soon took control and stormed back to win by technical fall, 14-4, at 5:02. It was her third career title after winning in 2012 at 51kg and in 2015 at 63kg.

"I knew she was an opponent that likes to use that throw," Kawai said. "I was doing only what I wanted to do and wasn’t paying attention to what my opponent was doing."

Assuming she is selected for Paris, Kawai will aim for her first world gold after taking a silver medal at 63kg in 2015.

"I don't think I can win if I keep going like this," Kawai said. "I have to rethink what I am doing from the beginning."

Dosho, a three-time world medalist also looking for her first gold, jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the final against high school student Miwa MORIKAWA before finishing up a 12-1 technical fall in 4:35.

Dosho had a tougher time in her only other match, a 4-2 win the semifinals over Chiaki IIJIMA, en route to her fifth career title and first since 2015. 



61kg (12 entries)

Final - Rinya NAKAMURA df. Rei HIGUCHI, 14-5
3rd Place - Taishi NARIKUNI and Shoya SHIMAE

70kg (12 entries)

Final - Yuhi FUJINAMI df. Nobuyoshi TAKOJIMA, 10-2
3rd Place - Momojiro NAKAMURA and Shun ITO


59kg (13 entries)

Final - Kenichiro FUMITA df. Shinobu OTA, 6-2
3rd Place - Hayanobu SHIMIZU and Masuto KAWANA

85kg (8 entries)

Final - Kanta SHIOKAWA df. Masato SUMI, 4-1
3rd Place - Atsushi MATSUMOTO and Taichi OKA

Women's Wrestling

48kg (9 entries)

Final - Yui SUSAKI df. Miho IGARASHI, 3-0
3rd Place -Yuki IRIE and Miyu NAKAMURA 

60kg (7 entries)

Final - Risako KAWAI df. Yui SAKANO by TF, 14-4, 5:02
3rd Place - Atena KODAMA and Miki KAWAUCHI

69kg (6 entries)

Final - Sara DOSHO df. Miwa MORIKAWA by TF, 12-1, 4:35
3rd Place - Chiaki IIJIMA and Yuka KAGAMI

Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! January 21, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Reviewing Mohammadian's magical Matteo Pellicone run, Lorincz winning his sixth Ranking Series title and Zhou's eight-point comeback on Mensah-Stock. Also looking at the Russian Greco-Roman National Championships and results from Sweden's Klippan Lady Open.

1. Mohammadian Has Magical Run at Matteo Pellicone; Dake Wins in Debut at 74kg 
Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) had a magical run to the 97kg title at the Matteo Pellicone. Mohammadian’s five victories included a fall over an Olympic champion, and wins over a U23 world champion, a world bronze medalist, a world fifth-place finisher and a European runner-up.

Mohammadian kickstarted his day by crushing Alisher YERGALI (KAZ), a fifth-place finish in Nur-Sultan. The Iranian downed the man who qualified Kazakhstan for the 2020 Olympic Games, 11-0. He followed up that hot start with a second technical superiority victory. This time, he thumped reigning U23 world champion Bo NICKAL (USA), 10-0.

In the quarterfinals, Mohammadian picked up arguably the biggest win of his career when he flattened Olympian champion, Kyle Snyder while commanding an 8-0 lead. An 11-0 showing against 2018 world bronze-medal finisher Abraham de Jesus CONYEDO RUANO (ITA) inserted the Iranian into the finals, where he met Aliaksandr HUSHTYN (BLR) for the 97kg title. He capped off his dominant run to a Matteo Pellicone gold medal, where he outscored his five opponents 41-0, with a 9-0 blanking of Hushtyn and brought home his first career Rankings Series title.

Kyle DAKE (USA) dismantled a world and Olympic bronze medalist in 35 seconds in the gold-medal match of his debut at 74kg. Dake, who was one of three American freestyle champions, defeated Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR) in his debut down at the Olympic weight of 74kg and joined Thomas GILMAN (USA) and Zahid VALENCIA (USA) on their way to the top of the freestyle podium at the Matteo Pellicone.

In the finals, Dake led 7-0, 16 seconds into the first period, and after his Turkish opponent was hit with a fleeing-the-hold call, the American went back on top in par terre. A pair of gut wrenches less than 20 seconds left gave Dake the 11-0 technical superiority victory and a second Ranking Series title.

Matteo Pellicone Freestyle Recaps:
RECAP: Mohammadian Mauls Snyder En Route to Matteo Pellicone Title
RECAP: Dake Dismantles Demirtas in Debut at 74kg; USA Wins Trio of Day Four Golds

Post-Match Interviews with the Freestyle Champions 

57kg - Thomas Patrick GILMAN (USA) df. Joseph Daniel COLON (USA), 4-3
61kg - (Nordic Style) - Kumar RAVI (IND) df. Nurislam SANAYEV (KAZ), 6-0
65kg - Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) df. Jordan Michael OLIVER (USA), 4-3
74kg - Kyle Douglas DAKE (USA) df. Soner DEMIRTAS (TUR), 11-0 
86kg - Zahid VALENCIA (USA) df. Alexander David DIERINGER (USA), 7-5 
97kg - Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) df. Aliaksandr HUSHTYN (BLR), 9-0 
125kg - Amir Hossein Abbas ZARE (IRI) df. Bilial MAKHOV (RUS), 5-3 

Viktor LORINCZ (HUN) edged Kumar SUNIL (IND), 2-1, at 87kg and became the first wrestler to win six Ranking Series titles. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

2. Lorincz Becomes First Wrestler to win Six Ranking Series Golds 
Coming into the Matteo Pellicone, Viktor LORINCZ (HUN) already owned a Ranking Series title for every finger on one hand. The 2019 Greco-Roman Wrestler of the Year now has to move to a second hand to count his Ranking Series gold medals after he captured his sixth career Ranking Series title on Wednesday night in the Roman seaside town of Ostia.

The Hungarian tallied 19 wins in his previous five Ranking Series appearances. With his quartet of wins on Wednesday, Lorincz improved his Ranking Series record to a perfect 23-0 with a 2-1 win over last year’s Asian silver medalist Kumar SUNIL (IND) in the 87kg finals.

“I am very happy to win this tournament. I want to continue this very good series for me. I want to win the last two qualifications (European Championships and Poland Open) because it helps my seed for the Olympic Games,” said Lorincz.

In the finals, Lorincz, last year's world runner-up, picked up an inactivity point and a stepout in the first period. He had his lead cut to a single point when he was dinged for an inactivity point himself. But the Hungarian Hammer relied on his world-renowned defensive skills and hung on to win an unprecedented sixth Ranking Series title, 2-1.

“I came here to win. I had some hard matches, and I’m not where I want to be. I want to (build) my strength and power for the other tournaments.”

Matteo Pellicone Greco-Roman Recap:
RECAP: Lorincz Locks up Sixth Career Ranking Series Gold Medal

Post-Match Interviews with the Greco-Roman Champions 

55kg - (Nordic Style) - Dogus AYAZCI (TUR) df. Max Emiliano NOWRY (USA), 9-0 
60kg - Sailike WALIHAN (CHN) df. Islomjon BAKHRAMOV (UZB), 4-3 
63kg - (Nordic Style) -  Andres MONTANO ARROYO (VEN) df. Stig-Andre BERGE (NOR), 11-0 
67kg -  Makhmud BAKHSHILLOEV (UZB) df. Abouhalima ABOUHALIMA (EGY), 3-1
72kg -  Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed Ibrahi ELSAYED (EGY) df. Selcuk CAN (TUR), via fall 
77kg - Zotlan LEVAI (HUN) df. Yunus Emre BASAR (TUR), via fall 
82kg - Singh GURPREET (IND) df. Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR), 8-5 
87kg - Viktor LORINCZ (HUN) df. Kumar SUNIL (IND), 2-1 
97kg - Nikoloz KAKHELASHVILI (ITA) df. Felix BALDAUF (NOR), 5-4 
130kg - Abdellatif MOHAMED (EGY) df. Moises PEREZ HELLBURG (VEN), via fall 

3. Zhou Shocks Mensah with Eight-Point Comback
It's no secret that ZHOU Feng (CHN) was the underdog coming into her Matteo Pellicone finals against reigning world champion Tamyra MENSAH (USA), and though she fell behind by eight points, she remained composed enough to erase an 8-0 second-period deficit to win the 68kg gold medal. Zhou’s shocking win stopped Mensah, the 2019 Women's Wrestler of the Year, from winning her fourth consecutive Ranking Series title.

“For the first period, I didn’t feel prepared or ready, but I didn’t give up,” said Zhou. At that point of the match, Zhou surrendered three takedowns and a trapped arm gut and trailed 8-0. “I was thinking the match is not finished and I didn’t give up.” 

Zhou, a two-time world medalist, kickstarted her unexpected comeback with two points from a defensive stop, which ended in a takedown. She tacked on six additional points from three gut wrenches and closed out the match on top, 8-8. 

After her remarkable come-from-behind win, Zhou said, “I’m happy and excited. From this competition, most of (these wrestlers) will participate in the Olympic Games, so to get the gold medal makes me very happy.”

Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) dropped down from 53kg to 50kg and won the Matteo Pellicone title with a 4-2 come-from-behind win over reigning world silver medalist Emilia VUC (ROU). (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

If there were any questions surrounding Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) moving down to 50kg coming into Rome – they’ve been answered on Friday night. Hildebrandt scored a takedown with two seconds left and stole the gold medal from Emilia VUC (ROU) in the 50kg finals battle that featured a pair of past world silver medalists. With a smile on her face from ear-to-ear, Hildebrandt said, “I like the sound of that, 50kg champ!” 

The American, who was down 2-1 with under 10 seconds left, said she told herself, “You’re not going to win because I'm not going to lose.” And that’s exactly what happened. 

The 2018 world silver medalist used an underhook throw by with under ten seconds left to get to the body of her Romanian opponent. Then, she snaked her left arm out, and barley scored the takedown as time expired to win her second Ranking Series title, 4-2.

Matteo Pellicone Women's Wrestling Recaps:
Zhou Erases Eight-Point Deficit, Downs World Champ Mensah

Post-Match Interviews with the Women's Wrestling Champions 

50kg - Sarah HILDEBRANDT (USA) df. Emilia Alina VUC (ROU), 4-2 
53kg -  Vinesh VINESH (IND) df. Luisa Elizabeth VALVERDE MELENDRES (ECU), 4-0 
55kg - (Nordic Style) - Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BLR) df. Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR), 10-0 
57kg - Odunayo Folasade ADEKUOROYE (NGR) df. Anshu ANSHU (IND), 10-0 
59kg - (Nordic Style) -  Anhelina LYSAK (UKR) df. Yuliya PISARENKA (BLR), via fall 
62kg - Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) df. Liubov OVCHAROVA (RUS), via injury default 
65kg - (Nordic Style) - Inna TRAZHUKOVA (RUS) df. Oksana KUKHTA HERHEL (UKR), 5-0 
68kg - Feng ZHOU (CHN) df. Tamyra Mariama MENSAH (USA), 8-8 
72kg - (Nordic Style) - Maria SELMAIER (GER) df. Anastasiya ZIMIANKOVA (BLR), 8-6 
76kg -  Erica Elizabeth WIEBE (CAN) df. Qian ZHOU (CHN), 10-0 

Davit CHAKVETADZE defeated Alexander KOMAROV, 4-2, in the 87kg Greco-Roman Russian National fInals. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

4. Russian Greco-Roman National Championships Wrap up in Novosibirsk
The southwestern Siberian city Novosibirsk, known for breeding two of the most feared Greco-Roman wrestlers in Olympic history, Aleksandr KARELIN (RUS) and Roman VLASOV (RUS), hosted the 2020 Russian Greco-Roman National Championships over the weekend.

Rio Olympic champion Davit CHAKVETADZE reemerged as the favorite to represent Russia at the continental representative at 87kg, while Sergey SEMENOV showed that he’s back to his winning ways after a disappointing 2019 campaign.

Chakvetadze, who defeated Alexander KOMAROV, 4-2, in the finals, was triumphant in his quest to win a second 87kg national title in the last three years and may have cemented himself as Russia’s European Championship representative. And though Chakvetadze was the reigning 87kg national champion, he finished behind Komarov at the 2019 Grand Prix of Germany, which kept him off of Russia’s 2019 Nur-Sultan team. And after Komarov’s 11th-place finish in Kazakhstan, whoever Russia elects to roll with moving forward, whether it’ll be Chakvetadze or Komarov, will have to qualify their nation for the 2020 Olympic Games at 87kg.

At 130kg, 2018 world champion Sergey Semenov sealed up at 3-0 win over Zurabi GEDEHAURI and got back to his winning ways after he failed to lock up an Olympic qualification spot with a disappointing 17th-place in Nur-Sultan.

According to www.wrestrus.ru ’s correspondent Tigran AVANIAN, Russia’s lineup for the 2020 European Championships is scheduled to be released on February 6.

It should be noted that the following wrestlers were released from the 2020 Russian National Championships:  
60kg – Sergey EMELIN (2018 world champion, 2019 world silver)
60kg – Stepan MARYANYAN (2018 world champion, 2019 world silver)
67kg – Artem SURKOV (2018 world champion, 2019 world silver)
77kg – Roman VLASOV (Two-time Olympic champion)
97kg – Musa EVLOEV (2019 and ‘18 world champion)

55kg - Vitaly KABALOEV df. Emin SEFERSAEV, 3-2 
60kg – Zambolat LOKIYAEV df. Artur PETROSYAN, 7-0 
63kg – Ibrahim LABAZANOV df. Marat MARIPOV, 5-5
67kg - Alain MIRZOYAN df. Nazir ABDULAEV - 5: 6
72kg - Adam KURAK df. Magomed YARILBOV, 3-0 
77kg - Alexander CHEKHIRKIN df. Islam OPIEV, 7-0 
82kg - Shamil OZHAEV df. Ruslan VARDANYAN, 6-2 
87kg - Davit CHAKVETADZE df. Alexander KOMAROV, 4-2 
97kg - Alexander GOLOVIN df. Nikita MELNIKOV, 3-1 
130kg - Sergey SEMENOV df. Zurabi GEDEHAURI, 3-0

5. Japan Wins Five Klippan Lady Open Golds; Bullen Wrestles in Italy and Sweden Days Apart
Japan won five of nine gold medals at the Klippan Lady Open, while Grace BULLEN (NOR) grabbed gold in Sweden days after competing in Italy at the Matteo Pellicone.

Umi ITO (JPN), Rino KATAOKA (JPN), Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) and Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) won their respective traditional brackets as Ami ISHII (JPN) won the 65kg Nordic style bracket. 

Ita and Kataoka, who won the 50kg and 53kg titles, respectively, each ended their matches early with 10-0 shutout wins. Ito blanked Felicia GALLO (FRA) and Kataoka shutout Ellen RIESTERER (GER). 

Sakurai scored the biggest win for Japan when she snuck past seven-time world and Olympic medalist, Sofia MATTSSON (SWE), 4-2, for the gold at 55kg. 

Japan’s final gold medalist was Yuka Kagami, who edged Dymond GUILFORD (USA), 2-1, in the 76kg gold medal bout. 

Meanwhile, Norway’s Grace Bullen won gold at 59kg at the Klippan Lady Open days after going wrestling in Italy at the Matteo Pellicone. In Italy, Bullen went 2-2 but fell to eventual 57kg silver and bronze medalists, respectively, Anshu ANSHU (IND) and Linda MORAIS (CAN). In Sweden, the 2018 U23 world champion throttled Abigail NETTE (USA), 10-0, in the finals at 59kg. 

50kg - Umi ITO (JPN) df. Felicia GALLO (FRA), 10-0 
53kg - Rino KATAOKA (JPN) df. Ellen RIESTERER (GER), 10-0 
55kg - Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) df. Sofia MATTSSON (SWE), 4-2 
57kg - (Nordic Style) - Lauren LOUIVE (USA) df.  Cameron GUERIN (USA), 8-0 
59kg - Grace BULLEN (NOR) df. Abigail NETTE (USA), 10-0 
62kg - Jennifer PAGE (USA) df. Emma JOHANSSON (SWE), via fall 
65 kg - (Nordic Style) - Ami ISHII (JPN) df. Rin TERAMOTO (JPN), 8-3 
72 kg - (Nordic Style) - Danuté DOMIKAITYE (LTU) df. Mizuki NAGASHIMA (JPN), 13-3
76kg - Yuka KAGAMI (JPN) df. Dymond GUILFORD (USA), 2-1

Weekly FIVE In Social Media

1. Big Move Monday -- Temirtassova A. (KAZ) -- Senior Worlds 2019 #WrestleNursultan
2. We want to thank all 400k wrestling fans for the continued support. 👏 🌟 #unitedworldwrestling
3. Behind the scenes at #wrestlerome
4. @frankchamizo92 talks about why he's sitting out of Matteo Pellicone and potential matchups with Dake, Burroughs and Sidakov 🇮🇹🔥 // Full interview on our Instagram bio
5. Big Move Of Day 3 at #WrestleRome Ranking Series Matteo Pellicone!