To Our Friends in Wrestling Around the world


By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee
Kyodo World Services, senior sports


TOKYO (December 19) - Five Olympic medalists will be vying for the medals and the inside track to a berth on next year's world championships team when the All-Japan wrestling national championships are held at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on December 21-23.

Two-time Olympic gold medalists Saori Yoshida and Kaori Icho will be featured along with silver medalist Chiharu Icho and bronze medal winner Kyoko Hamaguchi in the women's competition while bronze medalist Kenichi Yumoto leads the way in men's freestyle.

The schedule of competition is:

December 21, Monday - greco-roman 96kg, 120kg; men's freestyle 84kg, 96kg, 120kg; women's freestyle 59kg, 67kg
December 22, Tuesday - greco-roman 66kg, 74kg, 84kg; men's freestyle 60kg, 74kg; women's freestyle 48kg, 51kg
December 23, Wednesday - greco-roman 55kg, 60kg; men's freestyle 55kg, 66kg; women's freestyle 55kg, 63kg, 72kg

A thumbnail sketch of the competition in each weight category:


55kg - Asia champion Kohei Hasegawa is the odds-on favorite for a third straight ll-Japan crown after a break-out year in 2009 with four titles in international competition, including the FILA Golden Grand Prix.

60kg - Ryutaro Matsumoto, an eighth-place finisher at the world meet in Denmark, owns a win over three-time Olympian Makoto Sasamoto at the national invitational in June. Can he make it two in a row-

66kg - Tsutomu Fujimura will be seeking his second straight all-Japan title, but faces challenges from last year's runner-up Hiroyuki Shimizu and collegiate champion Yuji Okamoto.

74kg - Asia No. 3 Tsukasa Tsurumaki defeated Beijing Olympic gold medalist Manuchar Kvirkvelia of Georgia in Denmark but had to settle for 12th place overall. A second straight all-Japan title will get Tsurumaki back on track for the worlds in 2010.

84kg - World team member Norikatsu Saikawa will be seeking to defend his all-Japan title, but will face a host of challengers led by national invitational runner-up Ryo Ito.

96kg - Defending champion Katsuya Kitamura looks to repeat but last year's runner-up Yasuhiro Mori and collegiate champion Kenji Fujimoto will challenge.

120kg - Defending champion Atsushi Nakamura and world team member Hiroyuki Shinjo continue their rivalry with former junior world bronze medalist Shinichi Hirakawa trying to break into the final.

Men's freestyle

55kg - Wrestling fans expect a battle royal for the crown here led by defending champion Shinichi Yumoto, 2006 world team member Hideki Taoka and FILA Golden Grand Prix runner-up Yasuhiro Inaba. A handful of collegians add to the mix.

60kg - Olympic bronze medal winner Kenichi Yumoto is back after a year of rest and rehabilitation. Challengers are lining up behind 2006 world bronze medalist Noriyuki Takatsuka and collegiate champ Hiroyuki Oda.

66kg - World bronze medalist Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu will miss this year's All-Japan because of an injury to his left shoulder, leaving the weight wide open to a field including two-time Olympian Kazuhiko Ikematsu, invitational runner-up Tsukasa Sato and student champion Kazuki Morikawa.

74kg - Defending champion and world team member Kazuyuki Nagashima and invitational runner-up Takayuki Suzuki are co-favorites. How far will collegiate champion Sosuke Takatani and high school phenom Kohei Kitamura be able to advance-

84kg - World team member Shinya Matsumoto is the clear favorite with student champ Takeshi Yamaguchi leading the list of challengers. Another high school student Shotaro Hosokawa is expected to grab some attention.

96kg - World team member Takao Isokawa will be seeking his first All-Japan title at this weight after losing to former greco-roman standout Shingo Matsumoto in last year's final.

120kg - Defending champion Nobuyoshi Arakida will be seeking a second straight All-Japan title after claiming the student crown in November with a win over Russian rival Boris Mujikov.

Women's freestyle

48kg - Defending champ Makiko Sakamoto will try to make it two in a row while junior world champion Fuyuko Mimura is expected to challenge along with Ayano Suzuki, a third-place winner at the FILA Golden Grand Prix.

51kg - Two-time Olympic silver medalist at 48kg Chiharu Icho returns to the home mats after a year off. How much of a challenge will world bronze medal winner Yuri Kai be able to mount-

55kg - Can anyone break the stranglehold Saori Yoshida, winner of the last nine world and Olympic titles, has on the women's 55kg category- FILA Golden Grand Prix winner Chikako Matsukawa will try again to unseat Yoshida.

59kg - Kei Yamana defeated four-time world champion Ayako Shoda for her first trip to the world meet, so Shoda will be looking to avenge her loss and reclaim her spot on the world team. Asia champion Yurika Ito will make things interesting.

63kg - The battle of three world champions. Reigning world champ Mio Nishimaki will try to make it two All-Japan crowns in a row. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Kaori Icho aims to make a triumphant return to the mats after a year off, while four-time world champ Seiko Yamamoto-Nagashima pursues her Olympic dream.

67kg - Mami Shinkai, runner-up in the 2008 world meet, returns to 67kg after a bid for a world team berth at 72kg and is the favorite. Student champion Chiaki Iijima, however, will try to improve on her runner-up showing a year ago.

72kg - Kyoko Hamaguchi returns to the All-Japan meet in an effort to win a 13th All-Japan championship. Yoshiko Inoue finished fifth at 67kg in the world meet in September and has moved up to challenge the two-time Olympic bronze medalist.