Takatani Caps Successful Move up to 86kg; Susaki Pulls out with Elbow Injury

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO---Sosuke TAKATANI showed he could pull his weight in a heavier class, while Yui SUSAKI pulled a surprise by pulling out of the All-Japan Championships due to an injury.

Takatani, a 2014 world silver medalist at 74kg, capped his first foray at the Olympic weight class of 86kg by crushing defending champion Shota SHIRAI with a victory by fall in the final for his eighth straight national title. 

“I was wondering how I would do moving up to 86kg, but I put together some good matches, so I’m happy,” said Takatani, who won the 79kg last year as a stepping stone to the jump to 86kg. All of his previous titles came at 74kg.

In the final, Takatani scored a takedown off a single leg, then countered a Shirai takedown attempt with a 2-point crotch lift. He ended up on top and, applying a chicken wing, levered Shirai for 2 more points before forcing him completely over and securing the fall at 2:43.

It was a big difference from his close 2-1 semifinal win the day before over Masao MATSUSAKA. 

“In the semifinal, the opponent did well to match my moves, but today I attacked in the way I know I can,” Takatani said. “Shirai is also a wrestler who likes to go for tackles, which makes him an easier opponent for me.”

Takatani, who placed 11that 79kg at the Budapest 2018 world championships, said he is anxious to test himself against the world 86kg field.

“There are a lot of tall wrestlers at 86kg, so I think it will be easier for me to get tackles,” he said. 

Reigning U23 world champion, Yukako KAWAI, won the 62kg title with a 3-0 win over Yuzuru KUMANO. Photo: Sachiko Hotaka

In another feature final on the second day of the four-day tournament, which is serving as the first stage of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Budapest silver medalist and world U23 champion Yukako KAWAI staved off her nerves enough to win the women’s 62kg title.

Kawai defeated Yuzuru KUMANO, a world U23 bronze medalist at 59kg, 3-0 in the final, scoring all of her points late in the first period. 

“I felt unstable and I wasn’t sure how I would do, but I wanted to win so badly,” said Kawai, the UWW U23 Wrestler of the Year. “My opponent in the final and I have met many times, so we both knew each other well, but I was still nervous.”

Yui SUSAKI (JPN), two-time world champion, had to withdraw due to a dislocated elbow. (Photo Gabor Martin) 

The big news of the day came prior to the late session, when the draw for Saturday’s weight classes were made. It was then that it was announced that Susaki, who won a second straight women’s 50kg gold in Budapest, had withdrawn due to a dislocated elbow suffered at the national team training camp last month.

For Susaki to now defend her world title, she will now have to win the title at the All-Japan Invitational Championships, also known as the Meiji Cup, next spring, then defeat the winner of this tournament (known as the Emperor’s Cup) in a playoff.

The 50kg class had drawn attention as a battle royale between Susaki, Rio 2016 champion Eri TOSAKA and defending champion Yuki IRIE.

“I made the decision today,” Susaki said. “I will do what I can to come back and qualify for the Meiji Cup, and win that.”

Takuya Ota , Susaki’s coach at Waseda University, said, “Even if she won, there was a possibility of making it worse and having to have surgery. If she’s not 100 percent, she can’t beat Tosaka or Irie.”

Four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO will meet three-time world and Olypmic champion Risako KAWAI in tomorrow's opening round. (Photo: Gabor Martin)

There was even more buzz created when it was announced that top-seeded Katsuki SAKAGAMI had withdrawn from the women’s 57kg class---the marquee division that could see a clash between Olympic champions Kaori ICHO and Risako KAWAI---although it had little to do directly with Sakagami.

Sakagami’s withdrawal leaves the division with just seven wrestlers, meaning the two-group, round-robin system comes into play. But, as this was the first time such a format was being used, there was much confusion among the Japanese press. What happens to the seeds? With Icho unseeded, can she be placed in the group with No. 2 seed Kawai? 

In the end, that’s just what happened, as Icho and Kawai will meet in the first match of Group B, which also includes Sae NANJO. The top two in each group advance to the semifinals later in the day, so a final on Sunday featuring Icho and Kawai is far from impossible. 

In other action Friday, Nobuyoshi ARAKIDA won his third straight gold and seventh over an 11-year span with a 2-1 victory over Katsutoshi KANAZAWA in the freestyle 125kg final. 

Arakida trailed 1-0 going into the second period, but scored on a step-out, then added a point with Kanazawa on the activity clock.

Naoya AKAGUMA won his first Emperor's Cup since 2016 with a 2-1 win over defending champion, Takeshi YAMAGUCHI. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Naoya AKAGUMA regained the freestyle 97kg title that he won in 2016, beating defending champion Takeshi YAMAGUCHI, 2-1, in the final. That also avenged a loss last July to Yamaguchi in the playoff for a spot on the team to the Budapest world championships. 

In Greco action, world U23 champion Katsuaki Endo claimed his first title when he overcame a flubbed throw attempt early into the 63kg final, and went on to defeat Yoshiki YAMADA by 10-0 technical fall in 2:28.

The 21-year-old Endo finished off his fourth straight technical fall, all without surrendering a point, with a nifty 5-point throw. 

At 72kg, Tomohiro INOUE scored with a 4-point arm throw right off the bat in final against Takuya TOMIZUKA, and that’s how it ended as he claimed his second straight title and fourth overall.

Asian silver medalist Masato SUMI won his second straight title at 87kg, edging JSDF Physical Training School teammate Takahiro TSURUDA 2-1 in a final in which all points came for passivity.  

The scene was virtually repeated in the next match, when Yuta NARA made it three in a row at 97kg with a 2-1 over rival Masaaki SHIKIYA, with passivity points accounting for all of the scoring. The result was a repeat of the 2017 final.

Arata SONODA maintained his grip on the heaviest division, extending his streak to five straight titles at 130kg with a 9-0 technical fall victory in 2:01 over Ryuta KONO.

With the grand exodus of wrestlers to the Olympic weight divisions, a number of women’s weight classes have just four or five wrestlers and are using a round-robin system. 

UWW's Cadet Wrestler of the Year Yuka KAGAMI won the 72kg gold medal with a 3-0 record. (Photo: Max Rose-Fyne.)

Three of the divisions crowned new champions, with UWW Cadet Wrestler of the Year Yuka KAGAMI taking the 72kg gold. The other winners were Nao TANIYAMA (55kg), who defeated world U23 champion Saki IGARASHI on Thursday, and Yuzuka INAGAKI (59kg).

In weight classes that went through preliminary rounds and semifinals Friday, Budapest 2018 bronze medalist Yuki TAKAHASHI advanced to the freestyle 57kg final, where he will face Kaiki YAMAGUCHI.

The 57kg final had expected to be a clash between defending national champions, as Kazuya KOYANAGI, the 2017 titlist at 61kg, dropped down to the Olympic division. But the 19-year-old Yamaguchi spoiled Koyanagi’s dreams, beating him 7-4 in the semifinals.

Takahashi, the 2017 world champion, is not taking his young opponent lightly. “Last year I faced him in the semifinals while he was still in high school and I beat him 4-0,” Takahashi said. “Continuing on that, no matter how the match goes, I want to win.”

Takahashi also needs to contend with the new format for this year’s tournament, which follows new UWW standards.

“Tomorrow is an early weigh-in, then the final is at night,” Takahashi said. “So I have to deal with how to spend the time and how to recover [from today].”

Yuhi  FUJINAMI, a 2017 world bronze medalist, advanced the final at 74kg with three consecutive technical falls. In the final, he will take on Ken HOSAKA, the opponent he defeated by 14-2 technical fall in the world team playoff last July.

Day 2 Results


57kg (19 entries)
Yuki TAKAHASHI df. Kotaro KIYOOKA, 7-0
Kaiki YAMAGUCHI df. Kazuya KOYANAGI, 7-4

61kg (18 entries)
Shingo ARIMOTO df. Joji NAGATA, 8-3
Yudai FUJITA df. Takumi YOSHIMURA, 3-2

74kg (19 entries)
Yuhi FUJINAMI df. Mao OKUI by TF, 15-2, 4:45
Ken HOSAKA df. Yuto MIWA, 6-1 

86kg (15 entries)
Final: Sosuke TAKATANI df. Shota SHIRAI by Fall, 2:43 (6-0)
3rdPlace: Hayato ISHIGURO df. Taisei MATSUYUKI, 7-4
3rdPlace: Masao MATSUSAKA df. Tatsuya SHIRAI by TF, 10-0, 4:00 

97kg (12 entries)
Final: Naoya AKAGUMA df. Takeshi YAMAGUCHI, 2-1 
3rdPlace: Yuji FUKUI df. Yusuke YOSHIKAWA by TF, 11-1
3rdPlace: Koki YAMAMOTO df. Takashi ISHIGURO, 3-0 

125kg (14 entries)
Final: Nobuyoshi ARAKIDA df. Katsutoshi KANAZAWA, 2-1 
3rdPlace: Tetsuya TANAKA df. Yasuhiro YAMAMOTO, 6-0 
3rdPlace: Reona AKAGI df. Takuya HIGUCHI, 6-3 


63kg (18 entries)
Final: Katsuaki ENDO df. Yoshiki YAMADA by TF, 10-0, 2:28
3rdPlace: Ryota KOSHIBA df. Kizuku YOSHIZUMI by TF, 9-0, 1:51
3rdPlace: Shintaro YOSHINAGA df. Ichito TOKUHIGA, 2-2 

67kg (21 entries)
Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA df. Takahiro YAMAMOTO by TF, 10-2, 3:32
Shogo TAKAHASHI df. Yuji UEGAKI by TF, 8-0, 2:57

72kg (16 entries)
Final: Tomohiro INOUE df. Takuya TOMIZUKA, 4-0
3rdPlace: Nao KUSAKA df. Haruka OGA by Fall, 2:09 (4-0)
3rdPlace: Masaki KONDO df. Ryoma HOJO by Fall, 3:40 (9-4) 

77kg (16 entries)
Kodai SAKURABA df. Shohei YABIKU, 5-3 
Naotsugu SHOJI df. Yuya MAETA, 8-5

87kg (13 entries)
Final: Masato SUMI df. Takahiro TSURUDA, 2-1 
3rdPlace: Kanta SHIOKAWA df. Shuhei SAKANO by TF, 9-0, 1:47
3rdPlace: Taichi OKA df. Ryota NASUKAWA, 4-0 

97kg (15 entries)
Final: Yuta NARA df. Masaaki SHIKIYA, 2-1
3rdPlace: Yuri NAKAZATO df. Masayuki AMANO, 2-1
3rdPlace: Takuya YAMASHITA df. Ryosuke ISHII by TF, 9-0, 1:56

130kg (13 entries)
Final: Arata SONODA df. Ryuta KONO by TF, 9-0, 2:01
3rdPlace: Shoma SUZUKI df. Masashi SUGANO, 2-1
3rdPlace: Keita BANCHI df. Satoshi KAIZUKA, 2-2

Women’s Wrestling

55kg (4 entries)
Round-Robin (Final Standings)
1. Nao TANIYAMA (3-0, 9 pts)
2. Saki IGARASHI (2-1, 11)
3. Sena NAGAMOTO (1-2, 3)
Key Match: Taniyama df. Igarashi, 7-2 in 1stround

59kg (4 entries)
Round-Robin (Final Standings)1. Yuzuka INAGAKI (3-0, 11 pts)
2. Kumi IRIE (2-1, 9)
3. Kiwa IWASAWA (1-2, 3)
Key Match: Inagaki df. Irie, 8-5 in 2ndround

62kg (11 entries)
Final: Yukako KAWAI df. Yuzuru KUMANO, 3-0
3rdPlace: Miyu IMAI df. Miwa MORIKAWA, 2-2
3rdPlace: Yurika ITO df. Miru KUZUYA by TF, 10-0, :40 

65kg (4 entries)
Round-Robin (through 2 matches)
1. Naomi RUIKE (2-0, 8 pts); 2. Miki KAWAUCHI (1-1, 3); 3. Misuzu ENOMOTO (1-1, 3); 4. Saki KAWAUCHI (0-2, 1)

72kg (4 entries)
Round-Robin (Final Standings)
1. Yuka KAGAMI (3-0, 9 pts)
2. Naruha MATSUYUKI (2-1, 7)
3. Mei SHINDO (1-2, 5)
Key Match: Kagami df. Matsuyuki, 2-1 in 2ndround

76kg (5 entries)
Round-Robin (through 3 matches)
1. Hiroe MINAGAWA (2-0, 10 pts); 2. Masako FURUICHI (2-1, 8 pts); 3. Yasuha MATSUYUKI (2-0, 7); 4. Rino ABE (0-3, 1); 5. Miku SAITO (0-2, 0)



Icho Pulls Off Dramatic Win over Kawai to Move Step Closer to Shot at Olympic 5-peat

By Ken Marantz

TOKYO---Adding another chapter to her bulging legend, Kaori ICHO pulled off a dramatic last-second victory over the new titan on the block, and moved a step closer to gaining a shot at winning a historic fifth Olympic gold medal in her home country. 

Icho scored a takedown with 10 seconds left to clinch a 3-2 victory over fellow Rio 2016 Olympic champion Risako KAWAI in a nationally televised women’s 57kg final that brought a close to the All-Japan Championships in Tokyo.

Icho’s stunning victory came a day after Kawai, this year’s world champion at 59kg, edged the four-time Olympic champion 2-1 in a preliminary round-robin group match, handing Icho her first loss to a Japanese opponent since 2001. 

“I knew it was going to be a tough match, but I’m happy I could pull it off,” said Icho, who let out a short scream of joy and clenched her fists after the victory. “It’s been awhile since I’ve felt this nervousness, so I thought to just try and stay relaxed.”

The 34-year-old Icho won her first national title since 2015 and 13th overall dating back to 2002, despite spending more than two years away from the mat after winning the gold in Rio, which made her the first woman in Olympic history to win four straight titles in a single event.

She returned to competition in September as a prelude for the All-Japan Championships, also referred to as the Emperor’s Cup and which was serving as the first stage in the qualifying process for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. 

It is for that reason that Kawai and many other top wrestlers have shifted to Olympic weight classes, which put her and Icho on a well-hyped collision course. 

Icho had beaten Kawai in three previous encounters spanning 2013 and 2014, but she found a far more formidable and mature foe facing her across the mat at Komazawa Gym. 

Their first match on Saturday featured little action, and Kawai came out on top by being awarded two activity-clock points to Icho’s one. 

“Now I’m the challenger, and for two years, she’s been leading the pack in Japan and raised her level, which became clear to me when I faced her,” Icho said. “As the challenger, I thought all day how I could control the match.”

Sunday’s match was a slightly more open affair. Kawai took the lead, although a rule quirk left her with less points than she should have earned. With Icho on the activity clock and it about to expire, Kawai grabbed a single leg and had Icho perched on one foot, but could only managed to force Icho out for a point. 

Had she waited another three seconds for the activity clock to expire, she would have gotten a point each for the passivity and the step-out. 

She doubled the lead to 2-0 with an activity-clock point midway through the second period, before she was put on the clock and Icho gained a point with :26 remaining.

Four-time Olympic champion Kaori ICHO scored a takedown with 10 seconds left to clinch a 3-2 victory over fellow Rio 2016 Olympic champion Risako KAWAI. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

It was then Icho made her move and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. A quick snapdown and shuffle to the left left Kawai’s right leg open, and Icho latched onto it. When Kawai attempted a switch, Icho pressed ahead and stepped over to gain control and the crucial two points with just :10 left on the clock.  

“Actually, I wanted to go all out from the beginning, but Kawai’s defense was strong, I lacked the courage and I’m not completely back. So I couldn’t get an attack going. At the end, there was an emotional factor as well, and I was able to catch her leg.”

While Kawai was visibly shaken by the stunning loss, her dream of a second straight Olympic gold is not over. She will get another shot at Icho at the All-Japan Invitational Championships (Meiji Cup) in June, where a victory would force a playoff with Icho for the spot on Japan’s team to the 2019 world championships.

A medal at Astana 2019---a world gold for Icho would be her 11th and first since 2015--- would mean an automatic place on the Japan squad at the Tokyo Olympics, which is why this year’s Emperor’s Cup had taken on such importance.

Icho said she is considering her plans prior to Meiji Cup, which will likely mean an overseas trip for training and/or competition. She is also mulling the Asian Championships in Xian in April, she said. 

Rio Olympic champion Sara DOSHO returned from shoulder surgert and still won the 68kg gold medal. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Meanwhile, fellow Rio 2016 champion Sara DOSHO, returning from shoulder surgery necessitated from an injury at the Women’s World Cup in March, was less than her brutally dominating self, but still managed to capture the women’s 68kg gold for her eighth straight national title. 

With just five entries, the weight class had a round-robin format, and Dosho clinched the gold in her final match with a 2-1 victory over Rio WATARI, who had an inspirational return last year from life-threatening lymphoma. 

Dosho won all four of her matches by decisions, and in the finale against Watari, all points came with the opponent on the activity clock. Still, it’s a step in the right direction for Dosho, who won a world title in 2017. 

“I wasn’t concerned about the details of my match, I was thinking only to go for the win,” Dosho said. 

Reigning world champion Mayu MUKAIDA dropped down from 55kg and won the 53kg gold medal. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

In the women’s 53kg class, Mayu MUKAIDA, who dropped down from 55kg, didn’t have to contend with fellow Budapest 2018 world champion Haruna OKUNO, but she had to sweat out some anxious moments at the end of her 8-6 victory over Nanami IRIE.

Mukaida scored with a takedown and ankle roll for an 8-2 lead early in the second period, only to see Irie fight back with a pair of slick takedowns. Mukaida then spent the final 20 seconds clinging desperately onto a single leg to clinch her third straight national title. 

Mukaida has appeared to learn her lesson from the Paris 2017 final, where she suffered a devastating last-second loss to Vanesa KALADZINSKAYA (BEL) that cost her the 53kg gold.

  “I saw my senior teammates fighting to the end, so I was determined to never give up,” Mukaida said. “It was tough cutting weight, but I want to get to the Olympics and I’m happy I could win the title.”

The other women’s title at stake on the final day of the four-day tournament at Komazawa Gym went to Yuki IRIE, who successfully defended her title at 50kg with a solid 6-0 victory over Kika KAGATA.

Irie defeated Rio 2016 gold medalist Eri TOSAKA in the semifinals, while her other main competition, Budapest 2018 champion Yui SUSAKI, had withdrawn after not fully recovering from a dislocated elbow suffered last month. 

“I think I was able to put out [on the mat] what I acquired in practice,” said Irie, who expressed confidence of winning out among the trio at the Meiji Cup for the ticket to Astana.

Reigning world champion Takuto OTOGURO defeated Daichi TAKATANI, 10-0, in the finals at 65kg. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

Japan’s newest star among its male contingent lived up his billing, but anyone who blinked while Takuto OTOGURO was on the mat might have missed his victory in the freestyle 65kg final over Daichi TAKATANI.

Otoguro, who became the youngest-ever male Japanese world champion when won the gold in Budapest at 19 years 10 months, needed just 33 seconds to finish off a 10-0 technical fall over Takatani, topping off a double-leg takedown with four rapid-fire ankle rolls in succession.

In addition to winning his first senior national title, Otoguro also walked off with the prestigious Emperor’s Cup as the outstanding wrestler of the year. He swept through the competition despite falling behind in his preparation due to an injury that kept him out of the national collegiate championships in November. 

“I didn’t have practice that I could be satisfied with,” Otoguro said. “From now, the most important thing is to not take anything lightly.”

There was another tale of redemption when Paris 2017 world champion Kenichiro FUMITA regained the Greco 60kg title that he lost last year to long-time rival and Rio 2016 silver medalist Shinobu OTA.

Fumita, ahead 2-1 (all passivity points) with a minute to go, countered an Ota spinning arm throw attempt, sending his opponent sprawling onto his back for a 4-point move. An unsuccessful challenge made the final score 7-1.

“In the last minute, I was leading and while avoiding risk, I wanted to stand firm and ensure the victory. Last December while I was winning, I went half-heartedly on my attack and he countered and I lost. I wanted to make sure that didn’t happen this year.”

After Ota rallied to defeat Fumita in last year’s final, he earned the place on Japan’s team to Budapest when Fumita suffered a left knee injury in May and had to pull out of the Meiji Cup. 

Fumita, who considered quitting, returned to practice in mid-August, dead set on avenging the loss and making the Tokyo 2020 team.

“I lost in December, then just before the tournament that I had to win in June, I got injured. I was so depressed I was ready to throw it all away. But my dreams of a gold medal at Tokyo 2020 have never wavered.

“It was too soon to give up. And because of the injury, it gave me time to think about many things and look closely at my techniques, and I think that led to today’s result.”

Fumita now holds a 5-4 advantage over Ota in career meetings dating back to 2014. Ota might find some consolation in the fact that the two---they are both Nippon Sport Science University alumni and train together---have now alternated victories in seven straight matches.

Day 4 Results


65kg (27 entries)
Final: Takuto OTOGURO df. Daichi TAKATANI by TF, 10-0, :33
3rdPlace: Rinya NAKAMURA df. Rei HIGUCHI by DEF.
3rdPlace: Koki SHIMIZU df. Yosuke KAWANO, 9-4

79kg (11 entries)
Final: Yuto ABE df. Yuto IZUTSU, 12-5
3rdPlace: Komei KAWABATA df. Daichi KURIHARA, 5-2
3rdPlace: Yudai TAKAHASHI df. Kazuto KATO by TF, 11-0, 3:27

Izutsu df. Kurihara by TF, 10-0, 1:44
Abe df. Takahashi by TF, 10-0, 4:47


6o kg (13 entries)
Final: Kenichiro FUMITA df. Shinobu OTA, 7-1 
3rdPlace: Kazuki YABE df. Kensuke SHIMIZU by FALL, 1:40 (3-0)
3rdPlace: Kyotaro SOGABE df. Kiyoshi KAWAGUCHI by TF, 8-0, 2:26

82kg (13 entries)
Final: Yuya OKAJIMA df. Yoji KAWAMURA, 3-1
3rdPlace: Kohei KITAMURA df. Kosuke KOBAYASHI, 6-5
3rdPlace: Satoki MUKAI df. Tatsuya FUJII, 5-5

Okajima df. Kitamura by TF, 9-0, 1:45
Kawamura df. Mukai by Fall, 4:21 (1-5)

Women’s Wrestling

50kg (8 entries)
Final: Yuki IRIE df. Kika KAGATA, 6-0
3rdPlace: Eri TOSAKA df. Remina YOSHIMOTO, 7-3
3rdPlace: Miho IGARASHI df. Chihiro SAWADA by TF, 10-0, 1:27

53kg (8 entries)
Final: Mayu MUKAIDA df. Nanami IRIE, 8-6 
3rdPlace: Yuka YAGO df. Katsura KONISHI by TF, 10-0, 1:58 
3rdPlace: Umi IMAI df. Momoka KADOYA, 2-0

57kg (7 entries)
Final: Kaori ICHO df. Risako KAWAI, 3-2
3rdPlace: Akie HANAI df. Hanako SAWA, 4-1

68kg (5 entries)
Round-Robin (Final Standings)
1. Sara DOSHO (4-0, 12 pts)
2. Rio WATARI (3-1, 12)
3. Chiaki SEKI (2-2, 8)
Key Match: Dosho df. Watari, 2-1 in 5thround