To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world

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


TOKYO (December 19) - A thumbnail preview by style and weight category of the 2008 All-Japan National Wrestling Championships at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 in Tokyo:


December 21 (Sunday) - Men’s freestyle 74kg, 84kg; Men’s greco-roman 84kg, 96kg, 120kg; Women’s freestyle 51kg, 59kg, 67kg. Matches begin 10 a.m. Semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Finals at 3:30 p.m.

December 22 (Monday) - Men’s freestyle 66kg, 96kg, 120kg; Men’s greco-roman 55kg, 60kg, 74kg; Women’s freestyle 63kg, 72kg. Matches begin 10 a.m. Semifinals at 2:30 p.m. Finals at 3:30 p.m.

December 23 (Tuesday - national holiday) - Men’s freestyle 55kg, 60kg; Men’s greco-roman 66kg; Women’s freestyle 48kg, 55kg. Matches begin 10 a.m. Semifinals at 2:50 p.m. Finals at 3:30 p.m.

Men’s freestyle

55kg - Beijing Olympic silver medalist Tomohiro Matsunaga is not entered. Expect a wide-open competition among former national team member Hideki Taoka, national invitational champion Shinichi Yumoto, and university world champion Yasuhiro Inaba among others.

60kg - Anticipate a showdown between Olympic bronze medalist Kenichi Yumoto and Noriyuki Takatsuka, 2006 world bronze medal winner and defending national champion. Challenges expected from collegiate stars Hiroyuki Oda, Yuta Horaguchi and Shogo Maeda as well as 2007 Asia champion at 55kg Masashi Saito.

66kg - Two-time Olympian Kazuhiro Ikematsu will likely face the challenge of 2006 Asian Games silver medalist Takafumi Kojima or world university champion Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu. Former national champion Tsukasa Sato (2005) may also be in the mix.

74kg - A repeat of last year’s final expected between winner Kazuyuki Nagashima and Takushoku University freshman Sosuke Takatani. Former national champion Hiroki Kayamori (2006) and national team member Takayuki Suzuki (2007, 66kg) could make things interesting.

84kg - Athens Olympian Kunihiko Obata will seek to reclaim the national title after moving up from 74kg and could possibly face 2006 national team member Shinya Matsumoto for the crown. Student champions Atsushi Matsumoto and Naoki Monma (96kg) could offer some surprises.

96kg - Five-time defending champion Kiyotaka Kodaira has hung up his shoes, leaving the door open for national invitational and sports festival champion Takao Isokawa to assume the mantle. Greco-roman veteran Shingo Matsumoto, meanwhile, will try his hand at freestyle for the first time in 10 years.

120kg - Junior world bronze medalist Nobuyoshi Arakida appears to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field. Invitational runner-up Norihiro Sakurai and collegiate runner-up Masato Aisawa will see what kind of challenge they can offer.


55kg - Veterans Masatoshi Toyoda and Shingo Hirai have retired, so defending champion Kohei Hasegawa will seek to tighten his grip on this crown. World university bronze medalist Ryo Minemura and collegiate national champ Tsubasa Ogata highlight the youthful promise in this category.

60kg - World silver medal winner and seven-time national champion Makoto Sasamoto has moved up to 66kg, leaving the category open for former sparring partners and national runners-up Ryutaro Matsumoto and Hideo Kitaoka to decide the new champion.

66kg - Three-time Olympian Sasamoto, 31, won the national shakaijin title for non-student senior-level wrestlers at 66kg in November, but will he experience the same success he enjoyed at 60kg in the national championships? Set to derail Sasamoto’s plans are Tsutomu Fujimura, Hiroyuki Shimizu and Noritomo Eto -- all from the Japan Self Defense Forces team.

74kg - Golden Grand Prix bronze medal winner Tsukasa Tsurumaki won his first national title in 2004 as a student at Kokushikan University. In his bid for a second, he will likely face the youthful challenge of Yuichi Tanaka, fifth at this year’s world university meet, and collegiate champions Takehiro Kanakubo and Shuhei Kuraya.

84kg - Eight-time national champion Shingo Matsumoto has gone over to freestyle, leaving the category to long-time challenger Mitsuhiro Ota or up-and-coming Norikatsu Saikawa. Shinnosuke Omagari of Aoyama Gakuin University will seek to build on his two collegiate titles he won this year.

96kg - Beijing Olympian Kenzo Kato has stepped down. Collegiate champion as well as the senior invitational winner in June, Yuji Yamamoto of Yamanashi Gakuin, will bid for his first senior national championship crown.

120kg - A repeat of last year’s final won by Hirokazu Shinjo 1-1, 1-1 over Atsushi Nakamura is expected. Junior world bronze medalist Shinichi Hirakawa and 2006 national champion Naoki Sawada will make their own bids for the final.

Women’s freestyle

48kg - Olympic silver medalist Chiharu Icho is sitting out this year’s championships, giving rival and world bronze medalist Makiko Sakamoto a chance to win her first national championship title since 2004. World university winner Nami Uchida and junior world champ Fuyuko Mimura will do what they can to stop Sakamoto.

51kg - Hitomi Sakamoto (Makiko’s older sister) retired after winning her sixth world title in October. But who will replace the former FILA female wrestler of the year -- last year’s runner-up Yuri Kai, junior world champion Yu Horiuchi or women’s open winner Yu Sekine?

55kg - Saori Yoshida, seeking her seventh straight senior national title.

59kg - Ayako Shoda won her fourth world title in October, but will face a spirited challenge from last year’s champion Mizuka Kajita, 2007 bronze medal winner Kayoko Shimada, and Kei Yamana, runner-up in the women’s national championship meet (formerly the Japan Queen’s Cup) in April.

63kg - With two-time Olympic gold medalist Kaori Icho on the sidelines, newly crowned world champion Mio Nishimaki appears to be the class of the competition.

67kg - World silver medalist Mami Shinkai has moved up to 72kg, so collegiate champion Yoshiko Inoue, a fifth-place finisher at the 2007 world meet, is the odds-on favorite against three high school wrestlers and collegiate runner-up Chiaki Kajimoto.

72kg - Olympic bronze medalist and 12-time defending champion national champ Kyoko Hamaguchi has decided to skip this year’s meet, throwing the door open for 67kg world runner-up and Asia champion Mami Shinkai, 2006 national runner-up Asuka Sano and Hiroe Suzuki, women’s national championships winner in April.