To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

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


TOKYO (December 21) - Freestyle veteran Kunihiko Obata
(photo) recorded three falls, including a pin over collegiate champion Atsushi Matsumoto in the final, and won the 84kg title at the all-Japan national wrestling championships. Obata’s triumph at Yoyogi National Gymnasium was his first at 84kg and eighth all-Japan title overall after dominating the early part of the decade at 76kg and 74kg, and representing Japan at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

But the 28-year-old graduate of Yamanashi Gakuin University hinted that he was planning to retire from wrestling to become a coach at his alma mater in April, leaving open the possibility that he may not take part in any international training tours or competitions in 2009. “I will decide about tours (and competition) after I have had a chance to sit down and talk things over with some people,” Obata said after the final.

Meanwhile at 74kg, Obata’s long-time rival Kazuyuki Nagashima defeated former Japanese national team members Hiroki Kayamori and Takayuki Suzuki for his third straight all-Japan title.

And, as Obata was collecting his eighth all-Japan crown and Nagashima his third, five of the other six weight categories being contested on the first day of the championships saw first-time champions being crowned.

All three winners in greco-roman -- Norikatsu Saikawa (84kg), Katsuya Kitamura (96kg) and Atsushi Nakamura (120kg) -- were first-time all-Japan champions, although Kitamura represented Japan at the 2006 freestyle world championships at 120kg.

In the women’s events, 17-year-old junior world champion Yu Horiuchi caught 2007 World Cup champion Yuri Kai on her back late in the second period to win the 51kg title by fall -- and usher in the post-Hitomi Sakamoto era with a bang.

Kei Yamana also won her first all-Japan title at 59kg by fall over Eriko Nakata, after reigning world champion Ayako Shoda pulled out of the competition right before weigh-ins the previous day.

Yoshiko Inoue, who won the 67kg title as a high school student two years ago, defeated another high school student Chiaki Iijima for her second all-Japan crown. Inoue, who finished in fifth place at the 2007 world championships, later told reporters that she hopes to win a world title at 67kg and then see if she can challenge two-time Olympic gold medalist Kaori Icho for the 63kg berth in 2012.

Men’s freestyle

74 kg (14 entries)
F1 - Kazuyuki Nagashima df. Hiroki Kayamori, 2-0 (1-0, 1-0)
SF - Kayamori df. Koji Ohara, 2-1 (0-3=2:03, 1-0, 1-0)
SF - Nagashima df. Takayuki Suzuki, 2-0 (2-1, 2-0)

84 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Kunihiko Obata df. Atsushi Matsumoto by fall, 2P=0:50 (3-0, F3-1)
SF - Obata df. Takuya Ito by fall, 2P=0:23 (4-2, F3-0)
SF - Matsumoto df. Naoki Monma, 2-1 (2-0, 0-3, 4-3)

Men’s greco-roman

84 kg (13 entries)
F1 - Norikatsu Saikawa df. Ryo Ito, 2-0 (3-0, 2-0)
SF - Ito df. Hirokazu Oka, 2-1 (1-4, 1x-1, 1x-1)
SF - Saikawa df. Daisuke Sugihira, 2-0 (3-0, 3-0)

96 kg (16 entries)
F1 - Katsuya Kitamura df. Yasuhiro Mori, 2-1 (1x-1, 0-3, 1x-1)
SF - Kitamura df. Yuji Yamamoto, 2-1 (2-4, 1x-1, 2-0)
SF - Mori df. Takashi Matsunaga, 2-0 (3-0, 6-2)

120 kg (7 entries)
F1 - Atsushi Nakamura df. Hirokazu Shinjo, 2-1 (1-1x, 1x-1, 1x-1)
SF - Shinjo df. Naoki Sawada, 2-0 (1x-1, 1x-1)
SF - Nakamura df. Takahiro Kawano by fall, 1P=0:43 (F3-0)

Women’s freestyle

51 kg (11 entries)
F1 - Yu Horiuchi df. Yuri Kai by fall, 2P=1:48 (1-0, F3-1)
SF - Kai df. Yu Sekine, 2-0 (2-1, 6-1)
SF - Horiuchi df. Arisa Tanaka, 2-0 (7-0=1:13, 2-0)

59 kg (13 entries)
F1 - Kei Yamana df. Eriko Nakata by fall, 2P=1:21 (4-2, F5-0)
SF - Nakata df. Mizuka Kajita, 2-1 (2L-2, 2-6, 5-1)
SF - Yamana df. Ayaka Sato, 2-1 (4-0, 0-5=0:30, 1-0)

67 kg (5 entries)
F1 - Yoshiko Inoue df. Chiaki Iijima, 2-0 (2-0, 3-1)
SF - Inoue df. Chihiro Hashimoto, 2-0 (7-0=0:42, 6-0=0:56)
SF - Iijima df. Akie Arai by fall, 1P=1:38 (F7-1)