HELSINKI (May 4) – Takao Isokawa racked up four wins at the Olympic wrestling world qualification tourney to claim one of the final two tickets to London at 96kg in men’s freestyle.
Isokawa, a 2010 Asian Games bronze medalist, combined solid positioning with a wicked front headlock to win his first four matches and secure a berth at this summer’s Olympic Games. In the final, however, Isokawa’s defenses came down as he lost by fall to 2011 European bronze medal winner Nicolai Ceban (MDA).
Isokawa is the first Japanese wrestler to qualify for the Olympics at 96kg and the first freestyle wrestler to qualify in a weight class 90kg or heavier since Tatsu Kawai went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics at 90kg.
In the heavier weight categories since the advent of a qualifying system, Isokawa is the first wrestler to qualify in men’s freestyle since Manabu Nakanishi (100kg) and Tamon Honda (130kg) went to the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Meanwhile, Japan’s second entry on the first day of qualifying in Helsinki, Naoki Monma fell in his opening bout at 84kg and did not have a chance to wrestle in the consolations matches.
84kg – MONMA, Naoki (21st, 26 entries)
R1 – lost to Jeffery Adamson (CAN), 0-2 (0-1, 0-1=2:06)
Monma and Adamson hand-fight to control the tie-up with Adamson taking the first period on a shuck and go-behind at 1:50. In the second, an apparent point by Adamson is erased but the Pan American Games bronze medalist comes back to win the clinch.
96kg – ISOKAWA, Takao (2nd, 21 entries)
R1 – df. Angula Matheus Shikongo (NAM), 2-0 (6-0=1:25, 4-0)
Isokawa overwhelms the bronze medal winner at this year’s African championships with snap-downs and front headlocks with a nearfall in the first period.
R2 – df. Leon Rattigan (GBR), 2-1 (1-0=2:12, 0-1=2:02, 1-0=2:05)
Isokawa and Rattigan cannot decide anything on the feet over three periods. Rattigan wins the draw in the first period, but is countered out of bounds. Rattigan converts in the second, but Isokawa answers with a force-out from the clinch in the third.
R3 – df. William Harth (GER), 2-1 (2-2=big, 0-1=2:06, 1-0:2:02)
Isokawa backed over Harth for two points in the first period, then gave up the second from the clinch. In the third period, Isokawa maintained a strong defensive position to send the match to the clinch, where he dropped the former European junior medalist for the win.
SF – df. Adrian Recorean (ROU), 2-0 (4-0, 1-0)
Isokawa was tough on the 35-year-old veteran, wearing out the journeyman with constant pressure and a tough front headlock. Isokawa scored a takedown and gut wrench going out of bounds and then secured his ticket to London a push-out midway through the second.
F1 – lost to Nicolai Ceban (MDA) by fall, 1P=1:07 (F3-5)
Isokawa catches the former European bronze medalist leaning forward early in the match and drops him for three points. Ceban, however, comes back with an arm throw and covers Isokawa for the fall.