To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  NEW DELHI (June 7) - Kazuhiko Ikematsu wrestled well enough for the gold medal at the 16th Asian Wrestling Championships and had it in his grasp after building up a 2-0 lead in the first six minutes of the freestyle 66-kg championship final.

  But wrestling rules require at least three points to end a bout and in the overtime, Iran's Hassan Tahmasebi threw Ikematsu to his back off the whistle for a 3-2 come-from-behind triumph at Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium.

  Ikematsu, who rebounded from an opening day loss to advance to the finals through the repechage field, continued his inspired wrestling in the final against Tahmasebi. An ankle lace and a counter to a single-leg takedown put the Nippon Sports Science University coach in control of the match and he fought off Tahmasebi's chances to score in the par terre position as the final seconds of regulation ticked away.

  Forced to start overtime in a clinch since the wrestlers did not have the required three points, Tahmasebi took advantage of the opportunity by taking Ikematsu off his feet and then twisting him to his back for three points and the win. "I guess I have to wrestle harder for three points over the first six minutes since you never know what's going to happen out of the clinch," Ikematsu said.

  Despite the loss, it was the first medal for Ikematsu in an international meet and provided Japanese wrestling with a glimmer of hope heading into this year's world championships.

  The world freestye meet, to be held in New York in September, will serve as the first qualifying meet for the wrestling competition at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

  In the semifinals, Ikematsu, who normally relies on quick double-leg takedowns and singles, used a headlock against Asian Games bronze medalist Bayarmagnaj Norjin of Mongolia for a 4-2 win. Bayarmagnaj came back for a 4-1 win over Korea's Kim Sung Sil in the match for third place. Also on the third day of competition, Japan collected a pair of gold medals and another silver in the women's competition.

  Two-time defending champion Ayako Shoda was all business as she picked away at Geetika Jakhar of India with snap downs and tilts to forge a 10-0 technical fall win in 4:11 of the women's 63-kg final.

  Earlier, Mika Noguchi did not let a painful knee get in the way of her gold medal hopes at 48 kg as she dumped Kao Wei-chien of Chinese Taipei onto her back with a fireman's carry and secured the pin at 1:41 with a bar arm and upper-body press.

  Japan's third entry in the women's finals, however, Sayuri Tatemoto was struck with a bad case of stage fright as she wrestled tentatively against Otgonjarjal Naidan of Mongolia.

  The Asian Games bronze medalist stepped over a gut wrench attempt by Tatemoto early in the 55-kg final for a near-fall and three points and then cruised to a 9-0 victory.

  Meanwhile, the Japanese men failed to win a single bout on the final day of preliminary pool action. Daishi Matsuo took former world No. 3 Damir Zakhartinov of Uzbekistan into overtime in their freestyle 60-kg match-up, only to give up a high crotch takedown and tumble 4-3.

  Although he qualified for the repechage pool, Fujita gave up eight quick points to Kyrgyzstan's Asian Games bronze medalist Ulan Nadyrbek Ulu and eventually to a 9-4 loss.

  At 74 kg, Kazuyuki Nagashima, a runner-up in the Asian junior championships two years ago, had his hands full with Sujeet Maan at 74 kg. The Waseda University senior could not stop the Indian veteran's single-leg attack and lost a one-sided 4-0 decision.