To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


TOKYO (December 21-23) - Newly crowned world champion Saori Yoshida needed only 25 seconds to flatten Hitomi Sakamoto, FILA's female wrestler of the year in 2000, and claim her first title in the Japanese national wrestling championships.

  Yoshida, recently named FILA's top female wrestler for 2002, dropped Sakamoto to her back with a quick double-leg takedown at Tokyo's Yoyogi No. 2 National Gymnasium, and then wrapped up the former two-time world champion with a cradle for the pin. Yoshida's third pin of the tournament put an exclamation mark at the end of a year that saw her dominate two-time world champion Seiko Yamamoto in the national team trials this summer on her way to gold medals in the Asian Games and the women's world championships in Greece.

  Sakamoto, a two-time world champion at 51 kg and a teammate of Yoshida's at Chukyo Women's University, was attempting a comeback from knee surgery last January with an eye on the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

  Meanwhile, the Japan Wrestling Federation's top award, the Emperor's Cup, went to Asian Games champion Shingo Matsumoto, who wrapped up challenger Hideki Kinoshita with a win by technical superiority in the 84-kg final in greco-roman.
Matsumoto turned Kinoshita over at will with a reverse waistlock for a quick 11-0 lead just 2:27 into the final.

  In other matches, Sakamoto's younger sister Makiko, a 17-year-old student at the CWU high school affiliate, capped her surprising run through the field at 48 kg with a 4-1 triumph over five-time former world champion Shoko Yoshimura. Sakamoto dropped Yoshimura to her back with a double leg takedown one minute into the second period to break a 1-1 tie with the 34-year-old veteran who was seeking her ninth national title.
On her way to the final, Sakamoto upended three-time world champion Miyu Yamamoto 9-6 in a quarterfinal bout and then outlasted national team member Mika Noguchi 3-2 in a semifinal match that lasted 8:24.

  At 72 kg, Kyoko Hamaguchi, who regained her world championship crown at the world championships last month, pinned challenger Ayako Murashima at 1:40 for her fourth pin of the five-wrestler round-robin competition.

  In the men's freestyle competition, Asian Games silver medalist Chikara Tanabe overcame an early two-point deficit and edged world university champion Tomohiro Matsunaga by referees' decision (2-2, 9:00) for his fourth title. Matsunaga of Nippon Sports Science University stepped over a fireman's carry and caught the Tokyo policeman on his back for two points. Tanabe, however, scored with an ankle pick at the buzzer ending regulation and then forced Matsunaga to break his grip in the overtime clinch.

In other bouts by style and weight category:

 At 60 kg, Ryosuke Ota scored with a single-leg takedown 1:56 into overtime and took a 3-2 win from three-time former national champion Hiroki Sekikawa for his first all-Japan title.

 At 66 kg, Sydney Olympic team member Kazuyuki Miyata emerged on top out of a pair of clinch situations and held on for a 2-0 win after nine minutes with Kokushikan University coach Yukihiro Toida.

 At 74 kg, Kunihiko Obata scored a late single-leg takedown to nail down his fourth straight national title with a 3-1 win over Waseda University rival Kazuyuki Nagashima.
Atlanta Olympic bronze medalist Takuya Ota, who coached Obata at Kasumigaura high school in the late 1990s, is now Nagashima's coach at Waseda and is trying to stop the burly YGU senior.

 At 84 kg, Hidekazu Yokoyama, who reigned as freestyle national champion at 82 kg from 1993 to 1995, had little trouble with Satoru Yamamoto, cranking over the NSSU student with gut wrenches and grapevines for a 10-0 win by technical superiority at 3:56.
Yokoyama, who also won a pair of greco-roman titles in 1997 and 1998, secured his sixth national championship title.

 Also of note, Takao Isokawa, a highly touted high school grappler from Oita Prefecture, came back for third place after falling 6-3 to Yokoyama in the semifinals.
Defending champion Tatsuo Kawai, the winner of seven straight national titles through 2001, sat out this year's championships.

 At 96 kg, defending champion Yoshihiro Nakao scored three points out of three separate clinches to claim a 3-0 overtime win over Kiyotaka Kodaira.

 At 120 kg, defending champion Akihito Tanaka, a second-year student at Senshu University, scored four points with a fireman's carry in the first period and held on for 5-3 victory over unheralded Kohei Suwama of the Clean-up wrestling club.

 In greco-roman at 55 kg, Masatoshi Toyoda scored with a quick lateral drop off the clinch to start overtime and claimed a hard-fought 3-2 win at 6:02 over Takashi Yasuhara of the Japan Self Defense Forces team.

 At 60 kg, Sydney Olympian Makoto Sasamoto hit a back-arching throw to open extra time and secure his third straight all-Japan title with a 5-0 win over stubborn Mitsuo Tomiya.

 At 66 kg, national team member Masaki Imuro ended the first period with four points out of the par terre position and held firm in the second period to earn a 4-0 win over SDF rival and former Takushoku University teammate Masanori Oi.

 At 74 kg, Sydney Olympic silver medalist Katsuhiko Nagata cranked two-time defending champion Taichi Suga over with a headlock 18 seconds into overtime and took a 5-1 win. Nagata, at 69 kg, and Suga, at 76 kg, were formerly teammates on the Japanese squad at the 2001 greco-roman world championships, but Nagata has posted wins over Suga twice this year since the introduction of FILA's new weight categories in January.

 At 96 kg, collegiate national champion Kenzo Kato scored with a early headlock and earned a 4-1 win over Shuhei Taniguchi of the Japan SDF.
Taniguchi upended world team member Yusuke Morikaku 3-2 in the semifinals. Morikaku rebounded for third place.

 At 120 kg, two-time defending champion Katsuaki Suzuki scored with a snap-down and go-behind at 5:30 of the title bout to claim a 3-2 win over Hirotoshi Segawa.

 In women's wrestling, world silver medalist Chiharu Icho of Chukyo Women's University blocked a pair of single-arm throws attempted by 2001 champion Ninako Hattori to grab a 3-1 win at 6:14 in overtime at 51 kg.

 At 59 kg, Rena Iwama, a world silver medalist in 2000, hammered out a 4-1 win over Mariko Shimizu, who has wrestled in every women's national championship tourney since the inaugural event in 1987.

 At 63 kg, reigning world champion Kaori Icho dominated 1999 world champion Ayako Shoda, but had to fight off her back at the end of the bout to be credited with a 12-2 win by technical superiority. Icho, a student at the CWU affiliate high school, turned Shoda over with a pair of leg grapevines, but was rolled over on her back after building up a 12-point lead. Icho scrambled off her back to bring an end to the match at 4:25.

 At 67 kg, national team member Norie Saito dropped upset-minded Eri Sakamoto to her back out of a clinch to start overtime and claim a 3-2 victory. Sakamoto started wrestling in Aomori at the urging of her cousins Hitomi and Makiko.