To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee


  WUHAN, China (May 24-29) - Olympic champions Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho snared gold medals as Japan edged host China for the women's team title at the Asian wrestling championships. Former world champion Hitomi Sakamoto also won her first Asia title since 2000 while younger sister Makiko and cousin Eri brought home silver medals for Japan.

  Japan and China each scored 61 points with three gold medalists, but Japan was named the team champion by virtue of its three silver medals to China's one.

  The Japanese men, meanwhile, were unable to win a gold medal in either freestyle or greco-roman, but nevertheless, turned in their best team performances in recent years, finishing second and third respectively.

  On the opening day of the female competition, it was business as usual for Icho and Yoshida, who ran her undefeated streak against international competition to 85. Yoshida pinned last year's 59-kg World Cup champion Li Suhui of China in the 55-kg final, while Icho stopped 2001 world champion Meng Lili, also of China, in the semifinals at 63 kg. Sakamoto's march to the title included a 2-0 victory over defending champion Enkhjargal Tsogtbazar of Mongolia in the semifinals at 51 kg.

  In men's freestyle, Japan won a silver and three bronze medals to finish second to Iran (64-49) in the team standings. It was the first time since the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games that Japan finished second in a continental competition and the first time since 1987 for Japan to finish as high as second in the Asia championships.

  Takushoku University student Takao Isokawa turned in Japan's best effort with a second at 84 kg on the first day of competition, breezing into the final but unable to score effectively against Saeed Ebrahimi of Iran. National team newcomer at 55 kg Tomohiro Matsunaga fell to 2003 world champion Dishod Mansurov of Uzbekistan in the semifinals and had to settle for a bronze medal.

  Kazuhiko Ikematsu, a world bronze medalist in 2003, also stumbled in the semifinals, losing to 2002 Asian Games champion Baek Jin-Kuk of Korea. Ikematsu rebounded for third place with a full sets win over B. Buyanjav of Mongolia 0-3, 4-1, 3-1.

  On the second day of freestyle, Nippon Sports Science University's Takafumi Kojima lost his opening bout at 60 kg to S.M.P. Kalki of Iran, but qualified for the bronze medal match in which he defeated India's Y. Duh 2-1.

  In the greco-roman competition, Japan took third place to Korea (54) and Kazakhstan (51). Japan also had 51 points, but Kazakhstan had one gold medal to win the tie-breaker for the team runner-up trophy. Japan most recently finished third place in greco-roman at the 2002 Asian Games in Pusan, Korea. In the Asian championships, however, Japan has
not finished as high as third since the 1993 meet.

  Japan got off to a promising start in greco-roman with Masaki Imuro and Shingo Matsumoto taking silver medals on the opening day of the championships. In the 84-kg final, Matsumoto fell to Korean rival Kim Jung-Sub in a rematch of the 2002 Asian Games gold medal match won by the Japanese ace. Matsumoto, however, could not stop Kim痴 lifts under the new clinch rules and had to settle for a silver medal 0-8, 2-1, 2-5.

  Imuro, meanwhile, had even more difficulties with the new clinch against Korea's Jung Tae-Kyun, who put together two 5-point lifts for the gold medal at 66 kg.

  At 55 kg, converted freestyler Shingo Hirai fell to 2003 world silver medalist Im Dae-Won of Korea, but came back for the bronze medal. On the second day of greco-roman, Makoto Sasamoto and Tsukasa Tsurumaki added bronze medals to the Japanese tally. Sasamoto injured a rib in his opening match at 60 kg and considered withdrawing from the competition. In the semifinals, the injury plagued Sasamoto as he went down to veteran Ali Ashkani of Iran 0-2 in the
semifinals. In the bronze medal match, however, Sasamoto forged a 2-1 win over Asian Games champion Kan Kyung-Il of Korea.