To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


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


  TASHKENT (March 14) - Masatoshi Toyota and Shingo Matsumoto upended a pair of former world champions Sunday to earn berths in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens this summer.Toyota defeated 1992 Olympic champion Oleg Kutscherenko in the quarterfinals, 3-2, at 55 kg while Matsumoto stopped 1999 world champion Luis Mendez of Cuba, 5-3, in the quarters at 84 kg.

  At Yunus Abad Sports Center in Tashkent, Toyota gave up an early two points on a gut wrench to Kutscherenko, who won the gold medal in Barcelona for the Unified Team (EUN) made up of former republics of the SovietUnion.Kutscherenko has wrestled for Germany since Barcelona. Toyota, however, came back with a pair of go-behind takedowns to level the score 2-2 at the end of regulation.

  In the overtime clinch, Kutscherenko gripped first and also released his grip first as wrestling continued. The wily veteran attempted to drive Toyota out of the ring, by the Tokyo police officer got around behind for the deciding point.

  "Even though I lost the toss (for the overtime clinch), I got a reasonably good grip and felt like I could do it," said Toyota. "Thefore I locked up I saw Mr. Fukuda (JWF president Tomiaki Fukuda) and he gave me this look like 'You can do it!' It gave me the feeling I would," the 27-year-old Tokushima native added.

  At 84 kg, Matsumoto faced an opponent who had defeated him only two weeks earlier in the Olympic qualifier in Novi Sad, Serbia and Montenegro. Matsumoto got the first chance to score with a passivity call, but Mendez snuck around behind for the first point when Matsumoto attempted a reverse waistlock.

  Matsumoto fell behind further when the three-time Pan America champion got around behind and executed a gut wrench for a 3-0 lead at the intermission.
Matsumoto got another chance in the second period, however, on another passivity call. He succeeded with the reverse waistlock and lift for three points plus the bonus to grab a 4-3 lead.

  The 2002 Asian Games champion could not pull the trigger on another waistlock, but received a point for the lift as time expired on a 5-3 upset victory. "This is fantastic! I'm keeping up with Sasamoto," exclaimed Matsumoto, referring to Makoto Sasamoto, a teammate of Matsumoto's at Nippon Sports Science University who qualified for the Olympics at 60 kg two weeks ago.

  By advancing to the semifinals, Toyota and Matsumoto gave Japan four entries in the greco-roman event at the Athens Games in August. The top four wrestlers in each weight category at qualified for the greco-roman event in Athens.

  Katsuhiko Nagata qualified Japan at 74 kg by finishing 10th at the world championships last October and Sasamoto finished second at the first Olympic qualifier two weeks ago.

  Along with the four entries in greco-roman, Japan is also sending five wrestlers in freestyle and four in women's wrestling, which is making its debut on the Olympic program.

  The wrestlers who qualified Japan in freestyle and greco-roman will have to defend their Olympic berth by winning the national invitational tourney on April 12-13. If any of the wrestlers are unable to win the invitational title, a special wrestle-off will be held between the invitational winner and the Athens qualifier to determine the Olympic team member.