To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world
By William May
（Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public
Kyodo World Services, senior sports writer：email@example.com）
WORLD FS C’SHIPS - JAPANESE PROFILES
Profiles of Japan’s entries at the freestyle
wrestling world championships at Madison
Square Garden in New York, September 12-14:
55 kg - TANABE, Chikara (Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department)
Born: 1975 April 20, Hokkaido. Ht: 160
cm. Education: Iwamisawa high school (Hokkaido),
Nippon Sport Science University. Was high
school national champion two years in a row.
Wrestled in his first senior national championships
in 1996 and won the 54-kg title. Finished
10th at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Slowed
by injures in 2001, lost the national championship
crown but came back in 2002 to finish sixth
in the world championships and take the silver
medal at the Pusan Asian Games. Reclaimed
the national title in December. World championships
and Olympics: 1998 (11th), 1999 (12th), 2000
(10th), 2002 (6th)
60 kg - OTA, Ryosuke (Tokyo MPD)
Born: 1978 April 12, Shizuoka Prefecture.
Ht: 163 cm. Education: Tsuchiura Nichidai
high school (Ibaraki), Nihon University.
Won the junior high school national championship
twice and in 1996 won the four major freestyle
national titles for high school students.
Entered Nihon University in 1998 and won
the junior national championship crown. Ota
finished fourth at 1996 junior world championships
and 11th in 1998. Progress was slowed by
injuries, however, and did not become a senior
national team member until 2002 representing
Japan at the world championships (23rd) and
Asian Games (9th).
66 kg - IKEMATSU, Kazuhiko (NSSU instructor)
Born: 1979 December 26, Fukuoka Prefecture.
Ht: 171 cm. Education: Mii high school (Fukuoka
Prefecture), Nippon Sport Science University.
Largely unheralded in high school, came to
NSSU with only a second-place finish in the
high school division of the national sports
festival. As a second-year student at NSSU
in 1999, won the East Japan freshman-sophomore
meet and finished second in the collegiate
open. Won the collegiate open in 2000 and
finished third in the senior nationals. Won
the national team trials the following year
(2001) and competed in the world championships
(23rd). Second in the national championships
in 2001, but earned a national team spot
in 2002 to compete in the world championships
(15th) and Asian Games (12th). Third in the
2002 senior nationals, but reclaimed his
place on the national team at the national
invitational meet in May. Took second at
the 2003 Asia championships in New Delhi
in early June.
74 kg - OBATA, Kunihiko (Security company employee)
Born: 1980 October 17, Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Ht: 177 cm. Education: Kasumigaura high school
(Ibaraki), Yamanashi Gakuin University. Won
all four high school freestyle titles in
1997 and repeated in 1998 while adding the
high school greco-roman national championship
crown. As a first-year student at Yamanashi
Gakuin, won the bronze medal at the junior
world championships in 1999 and capped the
year with his first senior national crown.
Repeating as national champion in 2000, took
third at the 2001 East Asian Games and 3rd
in the Asian championships. Finished 7th
in the 2002 Asian Games. World championships:
2001 (29th), 2002 (24th).
84 kg - YOKOYAMA, Hidekazu (Akita Shogyo high school, teacher)
Born: 1971 April 7, Akita. Ht: 178 cm.
Education: Akita Keihodai high school, NSSU.
Won two national titles in high school and
became the first wrestler to win four collegiate
titles in one year in 1993. Also won the
senior nationals the same year and wrestled
in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Switching over
to greco-roman in 1997 and 1998, and won
the national championships but came up short
in his bid for a berth in the 2000 Sydney
Olympics. Returned to freestyle in 2002 and
reclaimed the national title. World championships
and Olympics: 1994 (11th), 1995 (11th), 1996
(11th), 1997 (GR, 14th), 1998 (GR, 22nd),
1999 (GR, 23rd).
96 kg - NAKAO, Yoshihiro (Company employee)
Born: 1972 June 25, Tokyo. Ht. 180 cm.
Education: Tokyo Kogyo high school, Toyo
University. Unheralded in high school, went
through his collegiate career always just
short of a national championship. After joining
the Japanese Self-Defense Forces, won the
1996 national sports festival crown at 82
kg, but could not do the same at the senior
nationals. Finally in 2001 -- at 29 years,
5 months and 28 days, became the fourth oldest
wrestler in Japanese history to win his first
senior national championship crown. Represented
Japan at the 2002 world championships (22nd)
and Pusan Asian Games (7th). Repeated as
national champion in December.
120 kg - SUWAMA, Kohei (Company employee)
Born: 1976 November 23, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Ht: 185 cm. Education: Fujimine Gakuen Fujisawa
high school (Kanagawa), Chuo University.
Did not win any national titles in high school.
Finished third at the 1998 national collegiate
championships and was fourth in the senior
nationals. Began to challenge the leading
heavyweights in Japan after graduating from
Chuo. Won the 2002 nationals for non-student
senior wrestlers and the national sports
festival, but had to settle for second in
the national championships last December.
48 kg - SAKAMOTO, Makiko (Chukyo Women’s University high school)
Born: 1985 November 20, Aomori Prefecture.
Began wrestling with the Hachinohe Kids club
and after a number of achievements including
the junior high school national championship
in 2000, followed her older sister, Hitomi,
to the high school affiliate of Chukyo Women’s
University near Nagoya. At the senior national
championships in 2001, took fifth place at
46 kg. She won the cadet national title in
2002 at 49 kg and the high school national
crown at 50 kg. Capped 2002 by winning the
senior national championship and secured
her position on the Japanese team for world
championships with a triumph in the Japan
Queens Cup meet in April.
51 kg - ICHO, Chiharu (Chukyo Women's University)
Born: 1981 October 9, Aomori Prefecture.
Education: Amino high school (Kyoto). Started
wrestling at the schoolboy/schoolgirl level
and won the high school national championship
in 1998. The following year she won the senior
nationals at 51 kg and the wrapped up the
junior national crown at 50 kg in 2000. She
won the junior world championship in 2000
and 2001. The older sister of world champion
Kaori Icho, won the 2002 world university
title at 51 kg and took the silver medal
in the senior world meet in Halkida, Greece.
55 kg - YOSHIDA, Saori (Chukyu Women's University)
Born: 1982 October 5, Mie Prefecture.
Ht: 156 cm. Education: Hisai high school
(Mie). Quickly built a reputation throughout
Japan as an unrivaled schoolgirl wrestler.
Won the world cadet crown at 56 kg in 1999,
added the junior world title at 58 kg in
2000 and 2001. In 2002, cruised to the senior
world title at 55 kg, being named FILA’s
female wrestler of the year, and won the
gold medal at the Pusan Asian Games. Has
yet to lose a match to a non-Japanese wrestler.
59 kg - YAMAMOTO, Seiko (Japan Beverage employee)
Born: 1980 August 22, Kanagawa Prefecture.
Ht: 150 cm. Education: Tokiwamatsu Gakuen
high school (Kanagawa), Nihon University.
Won the Japan Women's Open at 51 kg in 1998
and followed the next year by winning the
junior world championship at 54 kg and the
senior world title at 51 kg. She repeated
in both the junior world meet (54) and senior
world tourney (56) in 2000. Won her third
world championship in 2001 and received the
Emperor's Cup at the national championships
as the most valuable wrestler for the year
in Japan -- male or female. Was bumped off
the national team in 2002 by Saori Yoshida,
but won titles at the world university tourney
and World Cup meet. Father is Ikuei Yamamoto,
former Japanese national team member who
wrestled in the 1972 Olympics and older sister
is Miyu Yamamoto (“Ikeda” in the FILA Database),
also a three-time world champion for Japan.
63 kg - ICHO, Kaori (Chukyo Women's University)
Born: 1984 June 13, Aomori Prefecture.
Ht: 165 cm. Education: Chukyo Women's University
high school (Aichi). Won the schoolgirls
championship in 1996 and won the junior high
school girls crown at 52 kg in 1998. In 2001,
won the Japan Queen's Cup crown at 56 kg
with a pin over reigning world champion Seiko
Yamamoto and finished fourth in the national
championships that year. Making her international
debut at the Pusan Asian Games last October,
won the silver medal at 63 kg and then stormed
to the world championship crown in Greece.
67 kg - SAITO, Norie (Japan Beverage)
Born: 1978 October 24, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Education: Tsuchiura Nichidai high school
(Ibaraki), Teikyo University. Practiced judo
in high school, but also entered wrestling
competitions, winning the national championship
title at 70 kg in 1995. Devoted herself to
judo as a student at Teikyo, but switched
her attention to wrestling after graduation.
Represented Japan in the 2001 world championships
(12th) and again in 2002 (7th). Won the Asia
championship at 67 kg in 2003 for her first
72 kg - HAMAGUCHI, Kyoko (Japan Beverage)
Born: 1978 January 11, Tokyo. The daughter
of former pro wrestler, Heigo "Animal"
Hamaguchi, began her sports career in bodybuilding
and switched to wrestling. Won the Asian
championship at 70 kg in 1996 and claimed
her first world championship crown in 1997
at 75 kg. Added world titles in 1998 and
1999 and was named FILA's female wrestler
of the year in 1998. Fell to third in the
2000 world championships and fourth a year
later. Found herself again in 2002 to win
the gold medal at 72 kg in the debut of women’s
wrestling at the Asian Games and to claim
her fourth world championship crown.