Pair of Indian World Medalists Fall Short of Finals on Last Day in New Delhi

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 23)—It was a tough day for a pair of Indian world medalists, as neither Rahul AWARE (IND) nor Deepak PUNIA (IND) advanced to the gold-medal matches on the final day of the Asian Championships on Sunday.

Indian hopes in the five freestyle finals in the night session at New Dehli’s K.D. Jahrav Wrestling Stadium will lie in Jitender JITENDER (IND), who earned a meeting with defending champion Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) for the 74kg title.

Kazakhstan, Japan and Iran all put two wrestlers into the finals, while Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, India and Mongolia have one each. 

Aware, a bronze medalist at last year’s World Championships in Nur-Sultan, was upended in the semifinals by world U-23 champion Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ), who sewed up a 5-3 win with a takedown with 21 seconds left.

In the final, Zholdoshbekov, who won Asian bronzes in 2016 and 2018, will face Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK), a 4-4 winner on criteria over Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN). Ikromov will attempt to end Tajikistan’s 17-year quest for a second Asian gold medalist.

Against Zholdoshbekov, Aware trailed 2-0 when he challenged an exposure that was not called. He lost that challenge, but came back with a takedown that cut the deficit to 3-2. Except that he got the scores mixed up. 

“I thought I was leading 3-2, but it was him that was leading 3-2,” Aware said. “In my challenge, I wanted the points for my second action, but in the replay, they saw only the first action and finished. I was disturbed and wanted them to see the second action and I lost my focus. 

“I heard my name from the stands and I looked up to see who it was and then at the scoreboard to see the score. I have never lost my focus like this before in a bout. “

Zholdoshbekov then put the nail in the coffin with a takedown, although he also gave up a late penalty point. 

Aware had to survive a scare in the quarterfinals against Jahongirmirza TUROBOV (UZB). Trailing 8-6 heading into the second period, Aware came back to take a 10-9 into the final seconds. Turobov got in deep on a tackle and, with Aware atop his back, tried everything to expose him to the mat. With Aware pirouetting on his head on the mat, time ran out. A lost challenge point made it an 11-9 victory.

Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) defeated No. 3 Deepak PUNIA (IND) en route to the 86kg gold-medal match. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Punia, coming off winning the world junior title and the world senior silver medal over a one-month span last year at 86kg, met his match in unheralded Shutaro YAMADA (JPN), who wrapped up a 4-1 victory with a takedown with just under a minute to go.

“I’m so happy,” said Yamada, a sophomore at Yamanashi Gakuin University. “I knew that he wrestles like sumo or Greco-Roman. I watched many videos of him. My wrestling is similar. But more than techniques, it came down to a clash of wills.”

On gaining the late takedown, Yamada said, “To be sure of victory, I thought to put priority on defending rather than scoring points. This is the home of the opponent, which could be a disadvantage for me.”

Yamada appeared at both the world cadet and junior championships twice each, but never finished higher than fifth. Whether his first foray into an international senior event results in a gold or silver will depend on how he fares against Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI).

Bazrighaleh, the 2019 Asian U-23 champion, advanced with a 16-5 technical fall over Isa SHAPIEV (UZB).

Jitender made the 74kg final with a razor-thin 2-1 victory over Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), while Kaisanov swept aside Daichi TAKATANI (JPN), 9-4

“I never want to give up points, it doesn’t matter how many I score,” Jitender said. “If it’s 2-1 or 10-1, I still win.”

Most significantly, Jitender has clinched his first medal in five trips to the Asian Championships. “It cannot be a better platform to win my first medal, in front of the home crowd.”

Takuma OTSU (JPN) will take on Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) in the 92kg finals. (Photo: Sachiko Hotaka)

The fight for the 92kg title has come down to a clash between 2018 Asian champion Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) and Takuma OTSU (JPN), the Asian junior silver medalist that year. 

Ebrahimizivlaei advanced with a 10-2 win over Ajiniyaz SAPARNIYAZOV (UZB), while Otsu dominated Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) to win by 11-1 technical fall.

The final match of the tournament, for the 125kg gold, will pit 2019 world U-23 bronze medalist Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) against Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL).

In the semifinals, Batirmurzaev made short work of Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI), locking up his arms and slamming him onto his back with a lateral drop for a fall in 28 seconds. Dorjkhand, a 2016 Asian bronze medalist, ousted NAM Koungjin (KOR) 8-0.

Day 6 Results


61kg (13 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) df. Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN), 4-4

74kg (12 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Jitender JITENDER (IND) df. Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), 2-1

86kg (9 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) df. Isa SHAPIEV (UZB) by TF, 16-5, 5:24
SEMIFINAL – Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Deepak PUNIA (IND), 4-1

92kg (8 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Takuma OTSU (JPN) df. Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) by TF, 11-1, 2:25

125kg (12 entries)
SEMIFINAL – Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) df. NAM Koungjin (KOR), 8-0
SEMIFINAL – Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI) by Fall, :28 (4-0)


Kaisanov Caps Eventful Week by Repeating as Asian 74kg Champ

By Ken Marantz

NEW DELHI (Feb. 23)—It’s been a good week for Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ). Five days after he was upgraded to the world bronze medal that he felt should have been his all along, he clinched a ticket to the Tokyo Olympics by successfully defending his freestyle 74kg title at the Asian Championships.

Kaisanov edged local favorite Jitender JITENDER (IND) 3-1 in the final as Kazakhstan captured two of the remaining five gold medals at stake on the final day of action at New Delhi’s K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Stadium.

“I believed I could win the Asian championship a second time,” Kaisanov said. “This gold medal was very important to me.”

It’s value was enhanced because the Kazakhstan federation informed him that a gold medal in New Delhi would automatically clinch the Olympic spot that he earned at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, where he lost a contentious bronze-medal match to Zelimkhan KHADJIEV (FRA). 

A loss and he would have had to enter a playoff for the ticket to the Tokyo Olympics. Even though he recently suffered a knee injury, the incentive of sewing up the place in New Delhi led him to make the decision to participate. 

“I participated because it was part of the Kazakhstan process for qualifying for the Olympic Games,” he said. “I had to win.”

Kaisanov had faced Jitender last month at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series event in Rome, handily winning 9-2 in a repechage match before winning a bronze.

“One month ago I beat him with a big score [in Rome],” Naisanov said. “But this match was different because he was at home in front of his fans. It was mentally different, that’s why it was difficult.”

In the final, Kaisanov was on the clock when he scored with an exposure off a counter, before Jitender gained a stepout point. In the second period, Naisanov gained an insurance point with a stepout and held on for the win.

The victory came after UWW announced that Khadiev had failed a doping test, which moved Naisanov up to the world bronze. Khadiev had won their third-place match 4-3, but there was contention whether a late stepout by Naisanov should have been scored a takedown.

“I am very happy because after the World Championships I was so sad because I thought I won that match,” Naisanov said. “The referees made some mistakes. When I first heard the news of the doping by the French wrestler, I waited for the official news. I am so very happy. “

In other finals, world U-23 champion Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) picked up his first senior Asia gold after winning bronzes in 2016 and 2018 when he decked Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) in 2:44.

Zholdoshbekov, who had an eye poked in his opening match by an Iranian foe that bothered him throughout the day, scored a stepout while on the activity clock, then stuffed an arm drag attempt to put Ikromov into a headlock and secure the fall.

“All of the wrestlers want to take the gold in tournaments,” Zholdoshbekov said of gaining the elusive gold. “I worked very hard and I’m very happy.”

Ikromov was denied in his bid to become just the second Tajikstan wrestler in history to win an Asian gold. The only other came in 2003.

Zholdoshbekov said he will drop down to 57kg for the Asian Olympic qualifier to be held in his home country next month.

Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) defeated Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 in the 86kg finals. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

The biggest surprise of the evening came in the 86kg final, in which unheralded Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) uncorked a pair of 4-point throws and held on to defeat 2019 Asian U-23 champion Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI) 10-10 on big-point criteria.

Yamada was third at the Japan Championships, but got the chance to make his international senior debut as national champ Sosuke TAKATANI (JPN) will enter the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament. 

“The chance came to me and to be honest, I thought I wouldn’t win a medal, much less the championship,” said Yamada, who knocked off world silver medalist Deepak PUNIA (IND) in the semifinals. “To get the gold, I’m extremely happy.

“After the semifinal, I went back to the hotel and looked at videos of my opponent in the final. He had high finishes in various tournaments. He’s a strong wrestler. This time, more than skills, I won with guts and patience.”

Bazrighaleh took a 3-0 lead on a takedown and stepout, before Yamada cut the lead with a nifty back trip for a takedown. But the Iranian added another stepout and a takedown to go ahead 6-2 heading into the second period.

That’s when Yamada put to good use his occasional training in Greco, as he locked up Bazrighaleh and executed a picture-perfect lateral drop, not once but twice. That put him up 10-6, and a takedown and 2-point counter were not enough to give Bazrighaleh the win.

“When I was in high school and sometimes in college, I entered Greco competitions,” said Yamada, a second-year student at powerhouse Yamanashi Gakuin University. “We often practice Greco style. Even though the styles are different, I’m glad I didn’t just limit myself to freestyle. 

“I used it in situations where I was both winning and losing. I just had to give it a shot and see what happens.”

Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) crushed Takuma OTSU (JPN),11-0, and claimed the 92kg gold medal. (Photo: Kadir Caliskan)

Another final that featured a clash between Iran and Japan went the Middle East nation’s way, as Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) stormed to an 11-0 technical fall of Takuma OTSU (JPN) for the 92kg gold. 

That helped Iran capture the team title with 168 points, just 9 ahead of host India in second. Kazakhstan finished third with 146 points, 6 ahead of Japan.

Ironically, had Yamanashi Gakuin University entered the team competition on its own, it would have placed sixth with 100 points. The school located 120 kilometers west of Tokyo in Kofu city got gold medals from Yamada and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) at 65kg, a silver from Otsu, and bronzes from Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) at 61kg and alumnus Yuki TAKAHASHI (JPN) at 57kg.

“We expected at least third places from the lower weights,” Yamanashi coach Kunihiko OBATA said. “The guys in the upper weights far exceeded our expectations. It’s a good experience and gives them confidence.”

The final gold of the night went to world U-23 bronze medalist Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ), who executed three gut wreches in dominating Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) for a 10-0 technical fall in 1:32.

In the bronze-medal matches, host India’s two world medalists came away with hardware, as Rahul AWARE (IND) topped Majid DASTAN (IRI) 5-2 at 57kg and Punia rolled to a 10-0 technical fall of Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) at 86kg.

Japan and Iran had two bronze medalists each, while Uzbekistan, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Korea had one each.

Daichi TAKATANI (JPN), a silver medalist at both the Asian Championships and Asian Games in 2018 at 65kg, picked up a bronze medal in his debut at the next Olympic weight of 74kg with a 15-4 technical fall of Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ).

Takatani had unsuccessfully tried to dislodge 2018 world champion Otoguro at 65kg in the battle to make Japan’s Olympic team, then made the drastic jump up two weight classes to 74kg. He came up short of grabbing the Tokyo 2020 spot, but his second place at the Japan Championships earned him a ticket to New Delhi.

While conceding little in terms of technique, Takatani still feels the gap in size, and allowed Mahmood to pull off a 4-point counter to start their bronze-medal match. But his superior skills came to the forefront and he piled up the points before finishing the match in 5:28.

Day 6 Results


61kg (13 entries)
GOLD – Ulubek ZHOLDOSHBEKOV (KGZ) df. Muhammad IKROMOV (TJK) by Fall, 2:44 (3-0)
BRONZE – Ryuto SAKAKI (JPN) df. YUN Jihoon (KOR), 4-2
BRONZE – Rahul AWARE (IND) df. Majid DASTAN (IRI), 5-2

74kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Daniyar KAISANOV (KAZ) df. Jitender JITENDER (IND), 3-1
BRONZE – Daichi TAKATANI (JPN) df. Karam MAHMOOD (IRQ) by TF, 15-4, 5:28
BRONZE – Mostafa HOSSEINKHANI (IRI) df. Sumiyabazar ZANDANBUD (MGL), 5-0 

86kg (9 entries)
GOLD – Shutaro YAMADA (JPN) df. Ahmad BAZRIGHALEH (IRI), 10-10 
BRONZE – Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Issa AL OBAIDI (IRQ) by TF, 10-0, 2:43

92kg (8 entries)
GOLD – Mohammadjavad EBRAHIMIZIVLAEI (IRI) df. Takuma OTSU (JPN) by TF, 11-0, 5:31 
BRONZE – Tsogtgerel MUNKHBAATAR (MGL) df. Chyngyz KERIMULOV (KGZ) by TF, 11-1, 4:30
BRONZE – Iliskhan CHILAYEV (KAZ) df. Ajiniyaz SAPARNIYAZOV (UZB), 4-4

125kg (12 entries)
GOLD – Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) df. Khuderbulga DORJKHAND (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:32
BRONZE – NAM Koungjin (KOR) df. Zaman ANWAR (PAK) by TF, 10-0, 3:23
BRONZE – Parviz HADIBASMANJ (IRI) df. Farkhod ANAKULOV (TJK) by TF, 10-0, 2:04