By Ken Marantz
Japan wrestling hit the ground running to start the Olympic year with a training camp from Dec 31 to Jan. 2 at the Ajinomoto National Training Center in Tokyo. Ringing in the new year on the mat were those who have already secured spots at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, along with the first- and second-place finishers at the All-Japan Championships held Dec. 19-22. The camp included wrestlers in all three styles with the aim of achieving solidarity in the national team.
This was followed up with separate national team camps for each of the three styles, with men’s freestyle from Jan. 15-21 and women’s wrestling from Jan. 15-19, both at the National Training Center, and men’s Greco-Roman from Jan. 15-21 at the Nippon Sports Science University campus in Yokohama before moving to the National Training Center for a second session from Jan. 25-31.
It was also decided that two playoffs for Olympics spots that were secured at the World Championships will be held on March 8 at the National Training Center. Mao OKUI will face Keisuke OTOGURO at men’s freestyle 74kg, and Olympic champion Sara DOSHO will face Miwa MORIKAWA at women’s 68kg. Both Okui and Dosho finished fifth at the World Championships, while Otoguro and Morikawa won their respective weight classes at the All-Japan Championships.
The six wrestlers who have already clinched places on Japan’s team for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics were among the national team squad of 30 named for the Asian Championships to be held Feb. 18-23 in New Delhi, India. Heading the squad will be Olympic team members Kenichiro FUMITA (Greco-Roman 60kg) and Takuto OTOGURO (freestyle 65kg) among the men and Mayu MUKAIDA (53kg), Risako KAWAI (57kg), Yukako KAWAI (62kg) and Hiroe MINAGAWA (76kg) among the women.
In general, the other weight classes were filled by the gold medalists at the All-Japan Championships in December. In weight classes in which Japan will have an entry at the Asian Olympic Qualifying Tournament (currently scheduled for Xi’an, China, March 27-29), the national champion will be dispatched to that event and either the silver medalist or a bronze medalist will compete in India instead. Among those team members is former world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI at freestyle 57kg.
In three weight classes, the national champion is scheduled to participate in both tournaments–Tetsuya TANAKA (125kg) in freestyle and Yuta NARA (97kg) and Arata SONODA (130kg) in Greco-Roman.
The full list of entries for the Asian Championships is as follows:
55kg Hiromu KATAGIRI (Takushoku Univ.)
60kg Kenichiro FUMITA (Miki House)
63kg Yoshiki YAMADA (Nippon Sports Science Univ.)
67kg Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (Tokyo Metropolitan Police)
72kg Nao KUSAKA (Nippon Sports Science Univ.)
77kg Kodai SAKURABA (SDF Physical Training School)
82kg Satoki MUKAI (SDF Physical Training School)
87kg Takahiro TSURUDA (SDF Physical Training School)
97kg Yuta NARA (Tokyo Metropolitan Police)
130kg Arata SONODA (ALSOK)
50kg Miho IGARASHI (Meiko Network Japan)
53kg Mayu MUKAIDA (Shigakkan Univ.)
55kg Kana HIGASHIKAWA (Shigakkan Univ.)
57kg Risako KAWAI (Japan Beverage)
59kg Yumi KON (Kagoshima Amateur Sports Association)
62kg Yukako KAWAI (Shigakkan Univ.)
65kg Naomi RUIKE (Shigakkan Univ.)
68kg Naruha MATSUYUKI (Shigakkan Univ.)
72kg Mei SHINDO (Nippon Sports Science Univ.)
76kg Hiroe MINAGAWA (Cleanup)
57kg Yuki TAKAHASHI (ALSOK)
61kg Ryuto SAKAGI (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.)
65kg Takuto OTOGURO (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.)
70kg Shin HARAGUCHI (Kokushikan Univ.)
74kg Daichi TAKATANI (SDF Physical Training School)
79kg Shinkichi OKUI (Kokushikan Univ.)
86kg Shutaro YAMADA (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.)
92kg Takuma OTSU (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.)
97kg Taira SONODA (SDF Physical Training School)
125kg Tetsuya TANAKA (SDF Physical Training School)
Japan dispatched a young team to the Ivan Yariguin Grand Prix held in Krasnoyarsk, Russia, on Jan. 23-26, and came away with one champion in the women’s tournament. Umi IMAI won the 53kg title, defeating 2019 bronze medalist and world team member Sumiya ERDENECHIMEG (MGL) 7-2 in the final.
It marked the sixth straight title for Imai in international events, having previously won gold medals at the Asian Junior Championships and World Junior Championships in 2018 and the Klippan Lady Open, Asian Junior Championships and Olympic Test Event in 2019. Overall, it is the seventh international title of her career.
An elite team of junior and senior high schoolers competed at the Klippan Lady Open in Klippan, Sweden, on Jan. 17-19 and showed the dominance of Japanese women on both the cadet and senior levels.
In the senior tournament, national champion Ami ISHI of Abe Gakuin High School was among five Japanese gold medalists after winning the 65kg title. The others, all also high schoolers, were Umi ITO (50kg), Rino KATAOKA (53kg), Tsugumi SAKURAI (55kg) and Yuka KAGAMI (76kg), the Asian senior champion at 72kg. Japan also captured two silver medals.
Sakurai’s run to the title was particularly impressive, as she defeated local star and four-time Olympian Sofia MATTSON (SWE) twice, 5-4 in the group stage and 4-2 in the final. With the exception of Kagami, the victories by the other four came in their first international senior tournaments.
All 14 members of the Japan cadet team came away with a medal, with eight taking home golds. Yu SAKAMOTO (49kg), Akari FUJINAMI (53kg) and Nonoka OZAKI (61kg) all won their third consecutive titles, while Miu OBATA (40kg) won for the second year in a row.
Only one of the 14 members lost to a non-Japanese opponent. Three of the finals were all-Japanese affairs.