To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  HALKIDA, Greece (November 2-3) - Japanese veteran Kyoko Hamaguchi won the title at 72 kg, regaining the heavyweight crown that had eluded her for three years, and Japan rolled to its 10th team title at the women's wrestling world championships. Hamaguchi won her fourth career world championship title while national team debutantes Saori Yoshida (55 kg) and Kaori Icho (63 kg) were victors in their first world meet as Japan regained the team trophy it lost in 2001 to China.

  Chiharu Icho, Kaori's older sister, also making her debut with the national squad, took home the silver medal at 51 kg while Mika Noguchi, who claimed an early win over eventual champion Brigitte Wagner of Germany, had to settle for 14th overall at 48 kg. Rena Iwama (59 kg) and Norie Saito (67) both finished in seventh place in their respective weight categories.


  NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (November 8-9) - Former Olympic silver medalist Katsuhiko Nagata fell to U.S. world team member T.C. Dantzler 6-3 in overtime in a 74-kg greco-roman pairing at the Kurt Angle Classic wrestling competition. Nagata, who took the silver medal at 69 kg at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, was the only wrestler from Japan invited to the prize-money event that pitted the top wrestlers in the United States against some of the world's leading competitors.

  In the match, Nagata held the dynamic Dantzler to a 3-3 draw after regulation, but gave up a three-point lift and throw 1:16 into overtime to take the loss.


  HIGASHI IZU, Shizuoka (November 16-17) - Yamanashi Gakuin University senior Kunihiko Obata closed out his collegiate career by winning his fourth straight title in the national collegiate freestyle wrestling championships. Obata, who took the 84-kg title after winning the 74-kg division crown three years in a row, became the third wrestler in the history of the meet to win four championships after Tamon Honda (1981-1984) and Kosei Akaishi (1985-1988), both of Nihon University.

  Obata joined Honda and Akaishi as the only wrestlers to prevail in both the collegiate open and collegiate national championship meets four years straight. Over his four years at YGU, Obata lost only three matches of any kind to Japanese wrestlers -- twice to Atlanta Olympic bronze medalist Takuya Ota and once in a greco-roman match with one-time national team member Taichi Suga.

  Obata has twice represented Japan in the world championships, but in both cases found himself paired with the eventual world champion in his preliminary group. Still, the rugged Obata said he did not feel like he was entirely over-matched facing the top wrestlers in the world and Japanese wrestling officials are hoping he will be able to climb into the upper ranks. "I'm going to aim for a finish in the top 10 at next year's world championships and I believe I'm strong enough to reach that level," Obata
said. The top 10 wrestlers at each weight at next year's world championships in freestyle and greco-roman will qualify their countries for the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

  And while Obata led YGU to its second national championship crown, it was the first time in the history of the meet that no school claimed more than one champion.

 Championship results:

55 kg - Tomohiro Matsunaga, Nippon Sport Science University defeated Atsushi Yamamoto, Yamanashi Gakuin University 4-0

60 kg - Kazunori Tani, Nihon University def. Masaki Wakayama, NSSU 3-1

66 kg - Masahiko Nagashima, Aoyama Gakuin University def. Toshio Shimazaki, NU 5-0, 6:15

74 kg - Kazuyuki Nagashima, Waseda University def. Ayumu Kobayashi, YGU 5-0

84 kg - Kunihiko Obata, YGU def. Satoru Yamamoto, NSSU 5-0

96 kg - Kenzo Kato, Daito Bunka University def. Kenji Shida, Senshu University by fall, 1:26 (5-3)

120 kg - Naoki Sawada, Takushoku University def. Yoshihisa Hirata, Tokuyama University 5-1

Team scores: (1) YGU, 53 points; (2) NSSU, 42 pts; (3) NU, 33 pts; (4) Takushoku, 27 pts; (5) Tokuyama, 21 pts; (6) AGU, 18 pts


  NAGOYA (November 22) - Former pro wrestler Tsuneharu "Thunder" Sugiyama, a member of the Japanese national team for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, died of heart failure at a Nagoya hospital as a result of complications resulting from diabetes. Sugiyama won his first national championship crown as a student at Meiji University when he took the greco-roman heavyweight title at the 1960 all-Japan meet.
He took the freestyle championship the following year and represented Japan at heavyweight at the 1964 Olympics, where he was eliminated in the third round.

  After the Olympics, Sugiyama became a popular pro wrestler and after 1976 while he wrestled with Antonio Inoki's New Japan Pro Wrestling organization, he also worked at building up his own business. Later, while he was troubled by diabetes, he kept up with his business even though he suffered an accident that resulted in both feet and one hand being cut off.


  TOKYO (November 26) - A total of 294 wrestlers have submitted entries for the 2002 national championships to be held December 21-23 at Yoyogi National No. 2 Gymnasium in Tokyo, the Japan Wrestling Federation has announced. A total of 113 wrestlers are entered in freestyle along with 91 in greco-roman and 90 in the women's competition.

  All three of Japan's recently crowned world champions in women's wrestling -- Kyoko Hamaguchi, Saori Yoshida, Kaori Icho -- will seek to add national titles to their collection tournament hardware this year. The most interesting match-up may come at 55 kg, where Yoshida will face the challenge of former two-time world champion at 51 kg Hitomi Sakamoto. Sakamoto, a member of the Chukyo Women's University team along with Yoshida, will be attempting a comeback after knee surgery last January. Three-time world champion Seiko Yamamoto, however, will sit out this year's championships with a foot injury.

  At the same time, Yamamoto's older sister, Miyu, is entered at 48 kg and will be making her first appearance in the national championships in three years. In the men's competition, all 14 members of the national team who competed in this fall's Asian Games are entered at their respective weights.

  Tatsuo Kawai, however, who won his seventh straight national championship at 84 kg last year, is sitting out this year's tourney.