To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

By William May
iJapan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee


TOKYO (December 23) - World silver medalist Makoto Sasamoto won his eighth straight national championships title and was awarded the Emperorfs Cup as Japanfs most valuable wrestler for a second straight year.

Wrestling on the final day of action at Yoyogi No. 2 Gymnasium, Sasamoto came from behind to defeat collegiate champion Ryutaro Matsumoto 2-1 in the 60-kg greco-roman championship final. gIt was a tough match,h Sasamoto said of the final. gIt shows me that I still have some work to do (in preparation for the Olympics). I want to take care of that in the upcoming training camp.h

The victory gave Sasamoto his eighth straight all-Japan title and the Emperorfs Cup for a second year in a row. The last wrestler to repeat as Emperorfs Cup winner is Takahiro Wada, who was awarded the trophy in 1994 and 1995. Sasamoto, as a medalist in this yearfs world championships, punched his ticket to the Beijing Games next August by weighing in for and competing in the meet.

Also in greco-roman, Kenzo Kato secured his place on the Japanese Olympic team with a victory over collegiate star Norikatsu Saikawa at 96 kg and Shingo Matsumoto reigned over the field at 84 kg for a ninth straight year.

Kato qualified Japan for the 2008 Olympics with a fifth-place finish in the world championships in September. The Japan Wrestling Federation decided before the meet that Kato would earn the trip to Beijing by winning the all-Japan title. gAfter the world championships, I knew I still had to win the national title,h Kato said. gItfs been a nerve-wracking three months.h

With his Olympic berth ensured, Kato added gThis will be my last competition in Japan. I will do my best to win a medal (in Beijing) and I want young Japanese wrestlers to know that even at the heavier weights, they can also aim for the Olympics.h

Meanwhile, in freestyle, 2006 world bronze medalist Noriyuki Takatsuka(the blue of left photo) waded through a tough field at 60 kg -- arguably the most competitive in Japan -- and defeated this yearfs world team member Kenichi Yumoto for his first all-Japan triumph.

On the way to the final, Takatsuka had to defeat collegiate champion Shigeki Osawa and Asia No. 2 Shinya Odate, while Yumoto met Athens Olympic bronze medalist Kenji Inoue in the semifinals.

Seeking to overturn Yumotofs 7-3 advantage in previous meetings, Takatsuka took away Yumoto offense with constant pressure that prevented the defending champion from attempting any meaningful techniques. gIfve been practicing hard the last six weeks to sharpen my style,h said Takatsuka, who now looks to the Asian championships in March and a chance to qualify for the Olympics.

Looking ahead to the Asian championships and Olympic trials next spring, national team director Hideaki Tomiyama said the JWF would select its entries in menfs freestyle and greco-roman from the all-Japan finalists on the basis of their performance in training camps over the next three months.

Meanwhile, in the final two womenfs weight categories, Saori Yoshida was virtually unchallenged at 55 kg as she ran her personal winning streak to 118 matches and won her sixth all-Japan senior title in a row.

At 72 kg, Kyoko Hamaguchi(the red of right photo) turned away Ayako Shoda, a former world champion at 59kg, for her 12th straight national championship title.

At the end of the meet, outstanding wrestler trophies went to Tomohiro Matsunaga (freestyle, 55 kg), Kenzo Kato (greco-roman, 96 kg) and Kaori Icho (women, 63 kg).

Results of championship final and semifinal bouts:

Menfs freestyle

60 kg
F1 - Noriyuki Takatsuka df. Kenichi Yumoto, 2-0 (3-0, 2-0=2:17)
SF - Takatsuka df. Shinya Odate, 2-1 (0-1=2:06, 1-0, 1-0)
SF - Yumoto df. Kenji Inoue, 2-0 (2-0=2:29, 5-2)


F1 - Makoto Sasamoto df. Ryutaro Matsumoto, 2-1 (1x-1, 0-2, 1x-1)
SF - Sasamoto df. Hideo Kitaoka, 2-0 (4-2, 5-0)
SF - Matsumoto df. Yuki Takeda, 2-0 (3-0, 2-1)

84 kg
F1 - Shingo Matsumoto df. Mitsuhiro Ota, 2-0 (2-1, 8-0=1:27)
SF - Matsumoto df. Masaaki Yano, 2-0 (5-0, 8-0=1:27)
SF - Ota df. Yasuhiro Naguchi, 2-0 (7-0=1:15, 3-0)

96 kg
F1 - Kenzo Kato df. Norikatsu Saikawa by fall, 2P=1:46 (4-0, 4-0)
SF - Kato df. Yuji Yamamoto, 2-0 (1x-1, 2-1)
SF - Saikawa df. Ken Sogabe, 2-0 (3-1, 5-4)

Womenfs freestyle

55 kg
F1 - Saori Yoshida df. Chikako Matsukawa by TF, 2-0 (6-0=1:54, 8-0=1:59)
SF - Yoshida df. Sachiko Hirata by fall, 1P=0:29 (3-0)
SF - Matsukawa df. Mizuho Shibata, 2-1 (4-0, 1-1x, 1-0)

72 kg
F1 - Kyoko Hamaguchi df. Ayako Shoda, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0)
SF - Hamaguchi df. Hiroe Suzuki, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0)
SF - Shoda df. Ayako Murashima, 2-0 (3-0, 1-0)