To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

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


    TOKYO (January 28) - Greco-roman ace Makoto Sasamoto(left photo) breezed to his seventh straight national title on the final day of the all-Japan meet and was named the winner of the Emperor's Cup as Japan's most outstanding wrestler in 2006. Sasamoto scored easy wins in his first two bouts and the rolled to a 3-0, 4-1 win over collegiate challenger Ryutaro Matsumoto in the 60-kg final at Komazawa Gymnasium.

   ・If you can't dominate at home, you can't expect to win at the worlds,・said Sasamoto, who won the gold medal at the Asian Games in December. ・I'm looking forward to competing in my third straight Olympics, and I made a very good start here,・Sasamoto said after his victory.

   ・I hope to win at the world championships this fall. And, with that feeling, go on to win at the Beijing Olympics in 2008,・the 29-year-old Kanagawa native said.

   Another 29-year-old native of Kanagawa, however, did not fare as well in the 60-kg freestyle competition. Norifumi ・Kid・Yamamoto
(right photos), who has made a name for himself in the mixed martial arts, returned to the mats for the first time in over seven years in his own bid for a berth in Beijing. Yamamoto, however, was eliminated in the quarterfinals by 2004 Olympic bronze medal-winner Kenji Inoue. Inoue eventually lost in the 60-kg final to collegiate champion Kenichi Yumoto(right photos), who won for a second straight year.

   Also in the crowded 60-kg freestyle category, 2006 world bronze medalist Noriyuki Takatsuka lost in the quarterfinals to Shigeki Osawa, a bronze medal winner at last year's junior world championships.

   At 55 kg, Tomohiro Matsunaga
(left photo) defeated Asian Games bronze medalist Hidenori Taoka for his third straight all-Japan crown. ・Winning at the national championships is fine, but it means little if you don't win at the national team trials later,・Matsunaga said after regaining his No. 1 position in Japan. Matsunaga lost to Taoka in the national invitational meet last June and again in a special wrestle-off for the national team berth.

   In a showdown of reigning world champions in the women's competition, Saori Yoshida
(right photo) defended her 55-kg crown against 51-kg challenger Hitomi Sakamoto. Sakamoto is seeking a chance at an Olympic berth by moving up a weight since 51 kg will not be contested in Beijing. Sakamoto, wrestling more defensively than usual, was able to shut down Yoshida's high-powered attack most of the time -- but, it was not enough.

   Yoshida took the first period on a late takedown and then sealed victory with a bodylock takedown to nearfall in the second period for her fifth straight all-Japan triumph. Yoshida was named the outstanding wrestler of the women's competition, while the men's award went to Yumoto in freestyle and Shingo Matsumoto (84 kg) in greco-roman.

Results of the championship final and semifinal matches:

55 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Tomohiro Matsunaga df. Hidenori Taoka, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0=2:30)
SF - Taoka df. Kazuhide Tomita, 2-0 (1-0, 4-1)
SF - Matsunaga df. Masashi Saito, 2-0 (1-0, 7-0=1:22)

60 kg (17 entries)
F1 - Kenichi Yumoto df. Kenji Inoue, 2-0 (4-0, 4-0)
SF - Yumoto df. Shigeki Osawa, 2-1 (2-3, 2-0, 3-0)
SF - Inoue df. Shinya Odate, 2-0

60 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Makoto Sasamoto df. Ryutaro Matsumoto, 2-0 (3-0, 4-1)
SF - Sasamoto df. Yasuyuki Tanioka, 2-0 (5-1, 5-0)
SF - Matsumoto df. Hideo Kitaoka, 2-1 (6-0=1:30, 1-1x, 2-0)

55 kg (8 entries)
F1 - Saori Yoshida df. Hitomi Sakamoto, 2-0 (2-0, 4-0)
SF - Yoshida df. Ayaka Kurumaya by fall, 1P=0:43 (7-0)
SF - Sakamoto df. Chikako Matsukawa, 2-0 (1-0, 4-3)