To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  NEW YORK (September 12) - Many wrestlers would rather not have to face a former world champion in their opening bout of the world championships. But, this was the situation facing Chikara Tanabe as he drew 2001 world champion German Kontoev of Belarus for his first opponent at 55 kg in the freestyle wrestling world championships.

  Further, given Japan’s record at the world championships the last decade, the coaches also would likely be lying if they said they were not concerned about Tanabe’s chances. That feeling, however, could not have been very strong as the coaches told the Japanese team that they believed Tanabe, who finished sixth in the world meet a year ago and won the Beloglazov International this summer, could come away with a win.

  Tanabe himself appeared undaunted as he squared off with Kontoev and quickly scored a takedown for the opening points. Kontoev, however, countered to make it 2-2. The Tokyo police officer forced a passivity call on Kontev and converted
to grab a 4-2 lead. The officiating crew hit Tanabe with a fleeing the mat call right before the intermission, making the score 4-3. The Japanese coaches argued, but were ignored.

  Tanabe appeared defensive to open the second period and was called for passivity. Kontoev took advantage of his chance in par terre, lifting Tanabe off the mat and coming down with a firmly locked Turk. With the nearfall bonus point, the former world champ grabbed an 8-5 lead. Then, in a flurry, Tanabe hit a double-leg takedown for three points but gave up two points when he was flopped onto his back. He followed up quickly, however, with a tilt to make the score 10-10.

  With 30 seconds remaining, Tanabe locked up an ankle lace and struggled to make the turn. Urged on by the coaches, he finally got the exposure and then held on for the win. Tanabe, who normally does not surrender many points in his bouts, laughed painfully after his victory “I thought it was going to be easier to
win. Kontoev had a nice counter throw (to the double-leg), didn’t he.”

  With the victory over Kontoev, Tanabe can secure a berth in next year’s Olympic Games in Athens with a win over Canada’s Mikhail Japaridze on Saturday (September 13). But, Tanabe’s goal is not just a berth in the quarterfinals. He wants the gold medal.

  After his win over Kontoev, Japanese coaches and wrestling fans are now thinking that it is entirely possible that Tanabe may be the one next year that other wrestlers will not want to draw.