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


TOKYO (April 28) – Thumbnail previews of the weight categories for the Meiji Nyugyo Cup All-Japan Wrestling Invitational at Tokyo's Yoyogi National Gymnasium complex May 1-3.

The invitational will serve as world team trials for the world championships in Moscow in September. Winners at the All-Japan Championships in December can secure a world team berth by winning the MNC crown.

If, however, another wrestler wins the invitational title, a special one-match wrestle-off for the world team will be held after that day's competition.

Since national champion Makiko Sakamoto is not entered at 48kg in the women's competition, the winner in this category will be named to the world team outright.

Men's freestyle

55kg (12 entries) – Yasuhiro Inaba is the reigning national champion but Olympic silver medalist Tomohiro Matsunaga makes a bid to return to the world team. Add to the mix last year's world team entry Shinichi Yumoto and 2006 world team rep Hidenori Taoka.

60kg (11 entries) – Japan's most competitive weight category internationally led by Olympic bronze medalist Kenichi Yumoto, world bronze medalist Noriyuki Takatsuka and current national champ Hiroyuki Oda, a runner-up at the prestigious Yarygin International in January.

66kg (11 entries) – A showdown looms between world bronze medalists Kazuhiko Ikematsu (2003) and Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu (2009). Ikematsu is the current national champ while Yonemitsu sat out the All-Japan meet in December to nurse an injured right shoulder. Asia silver medal winner Takafumi Kojima could be a surprise.

74kg (12 entries) – Kazuyuki Nagashima continues to lead the pack, but challenges will come from All-Japan runner-up Ryuta Takahashi, national sports festival champion Takayuki Suzuki and 2007 world team rep Hiroka Kayamori.

84kg (11 entries) – National champ Shinya Matsumoto is a two-time world team member (2006, 2009), but will be challenged by All-Japan runner-up Satoru Yamamoto and student champ Atsushi Matsumoto.

96kg (12 entries) – Former high school teammates Takao Isokawa and Kenzo Sakamoto square off again in a repeat of the All-Japan finals, won by Isokawa. Sports festival champ and Asia rep Yoshitaka Shimoyashiki will try to break into the final.

120kg (9 entries) – Takahiro Shimonaka upset Nobuyoshi Arakida for the national title in December. Can Shimonaka repeat for his first trip to the worlds? Or, will Arakida avenge his loss and reclaim his national team berth?


55kg (10 entries) – Kohei Hasegawa stands head and shoulders above the field. Can Ryo Minemura step up to finally defeat his nemesis? Will up-and-coming Hayanobu Shimizu or veteran Tomoya Murata be a factor?

60kg (12 entries) – Reigning national champ Ryutaro Matsumoto tries to complete the changing of the guard with three-time Olympian Makoto Sasamoto. Sasamoto will try to reverse last December's loss to Matsumoto and make his 10th overall world-level team.

66kg (12 entries) – Hiroyuki Shimizu upended world No. 8 Tsutomu Fujimura for the national title in December, but Fujimura rebounded to win the Hungarian Grand Prix event in March. Collegiate champ Yuji Okamoto, a bronze medal winner at Nikola Petrov in February, could be a surprise.

74kg (12 entries) – National champ Tsukasa Tsurumaki sat out the winter tour to Europe to nurse some bothersome injuries, raising concerns about his readiness for the world team trials. All-Japan runner-up Kosuke Kaku and last year's MNC winner Takeo Kanakubo will be seeking their first world team berth.

84kg (9 entries) – Norikatsu Saikawa has owned this class since Shingo Matsumoto retired from competition two years ago. Potential challengers include All-Japan runner-up Ryo Ito and collegiate champion Masayuki Amano.

96kg (11 entries) – Katsuya Kitamura is the reigning national champ and faces the challenge of last year's silver medal winner Yuji Yamamoto and 2008 runner-up Yasuhiro Mori.

120kg (9 entries) – Hirokazu Shinjo and Atsushi Nakamura will continue their back-and-forth battle for a berth on the world team. Naoki Sawada or Shinichi Hirakawa could step in to break up this super heavy two-step.

Women's freestyle

48kg (12 entries) – Six-time world champ Hitomi Sakamoto is lacing up the shoes again and should be the favorite with the recent retirement of younger sister, Makiko. Junior world champ Fuyuko Mimura is ready to step in if Sakamoto has difficulty losing the weight.

51kg (10 entries) – Yuri Kai wants another chance at the worlds after taking a bronze medal in Denmark, while Yu Horiuchi tries to reclaim her top position after being sidelined with a dislocated shoulder last year. Kai defeated Olympic silver medalist Chiharu Icho for the All-Japan title and won the crown at the Yarygin Grand Prix in January.

55kg (10 entries) – Chikako Matsukawa won all four matches at the World Cup in March and is a steady performer internationally, but this weight category belongs to two-time Olympic gold medal winner and seven-time world champ Saori Yoshida.

59kg (12 entries) – All-Japan champ Ayako Shoda has won the world title four times and would like to win another. She can expect determined challenges from last year's world rep Kei Yamana and Asia champion Yurika Ito.

63kg (8 entries) – Only eight entries but 11 world titles as well as two Olympic championships on display here. National champ Kaori Icho wants to complete her return to the world team with a triumph over this stellar field, while 2009 FILA female wrestler of the year Mio Nishimaki wants defend her world crown and Seiko Yamamoto hopes to take another step forward in her quest for London 2012.

67kg (6 entries) – Mami Shinkai will be seeking a chance to return to the world team and improve on her silver medal performance in 2008. Challenges will come from collegians Chiaki Iijima and Haruka Yoshimoto as well as Tokyo high school student Chihiro Hashimoto.

72kg (5 entries) – Kyoko Hamaguchi hopes to punch her ticket for a 13th trip to the world championships, but former junior world champ Yoshiko Inoue will try to reverse a 2-1 loss to Hamaguchi in the national championships. Kyoto collegiate star Hiroe Suzuki will also try to make her mark after taking a period from Hamaguchi in the All-Japan semifinals.

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