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By William May
(Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation, Public Information Committee:wmay52@hotmail.com


GUANGZHOU, China (November 25) – Hitomi Sakamoto was saddled with her first international loss in more than 10 years, but the reigning world champion rebounded for a bronze medal on the first day of women's freestyle competition at the 16th Asian Games.

Takao Isokawa, meanwhile, added a bronze medal to the Japanese men's tally with a with a pair of wins af 96kg as the men's freestyle events came to a close. It was the first time since the 1994 Asian Games in Hiroshima that a Japanese wrestler has won a medal in a category over 90kg.

The eyes of most Japanese wrestling fans in Huagong Gymnasium, however, were on Sakamoto as she wrapped up world bronze medalist Zhao Shasha (CHN) in first match at 48kg. Those sames fans,however, were stunned when Sakamoto fell to Asia No. 3 and 2009 world bronze medal winner So Sim-Hyang (PRK) in the semifinals
It was the first time since the Schaub International in 1999 that Sakamoto had lost in an international competition. Since the Asian championships in 2000, Sakamoto had put together a winning streak of 70 – most by fall or technical fall at 51kg – before losing to So.

Also on the fifth day of Asian Games wrestling, Nobuyoshi Arakida dropped a hard-fought battle with Beijing Olympian Liang Lei (CHN) in the first round and did not have a chance to advance to the medals when Liang lost in the semfinals.

Women's freestyle
48kg – SAKAMOTO, Hitomi (Bronze, 12 entries)
R1 – bye
R2 – df. Zhao Shasha (CHN) by fall, 1P=1:43 (F6-3)
Sakamoto gives up an arm throw midway through the period, but comes back with a hip toss to level the score. She then holds the world bronze medalist down for the fall.
SF – lost to So Sim-Hyang (PRK), 0-2 (0-1, 2-5)
Sakamoto gives up a single-leg takedown midway through the period to the 18-year-old former world bronze medalist and drops the first. Sakamoto grabs the lead early in the second, but gives up another single and a pair of gut wrenches for five points. A late point for Sakamoto is too little, too late.

F3 – df. Mikhrnico Nurmatova (KGZ) by fall, 1P=1:03 (F4-0)
Sakamoto comes out firing and takes the Asia junior bronze medalist down with a double-leg takedown. She quickly converts to a body press and holds for the fall.

Men's freestyle
96kg – ISOKAWA, Takao (Bronze, 12 entries)
R1 – bye
R2 – df. Faisal al Ketbi (UAE), 2-0 (2-0, 2-0)
Isokawa takes the first period with a go-behind point and gut wrench, then secure the win with another go-behind and a force-out in the second.

SF – lost to Kurban Kurbanov (UZB), 0-2 (0-4, 0-1)
Isokawa gives up a quick point on a go-behind, then surrenders a takedown and gut wrench to decided the first period. Kurbanov, the 2008 Asia champ, slows the pace down in the second, settling for a force-out at 1:36 to secure the win.

F3 – df. Farkhod Anakulov (TJK), 2-0 (3-0, 1-0)
Isokawa opens with a go-behind and adds a gut wrench to take the first period. In the second, Isokawa and Anakulov struggle to get the advantage until the final seconds when Isokawa gets a front headlock and spins behind for the winning point at the buzzer.

120kg – ARAKIDA, Nobuyoshi (11th,13 entries)
R1 – lost to Liang Lei (CHN), 0-2 (0-1, 1-2)
Arakida gives up a point on a spin-behind in the first period, but grabs the lead to start the second. Arakida, however, cannot hold the lead, giving up a go-behind and another late point to the eventual bronze medal winner.
Arakida is eliminated from medal contention when Liang loses in the semifinals.

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