Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March 10, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Discussing the list of Olympic champions entered into the Tokyo Olympic qualification events and Greco-Roman world runner-up Pino HInds winning freestyle bronze at the Pan-Am C'ships. Also looking at Japan's special wrestle-offs for the Olympic spot.

1. Aliyev and "King Vlad" Entered into European Qualifier at 65kg
Lightweight superstars Haji ALIYEV (AZE) and Vladimer KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO) entered the European Olympic Qualifier in Budapest, Hungary (March 19 – 22), with hopes of qualifying Azerbaijan and Georgia for the Olympic Games at 65kg.

The pair of past world champions and Rio Olympic medalists suffered uncharacteristic early-round losses at the Nur-Sultan World Championships and missed out on qualifying their nations for the Olympic Games. 

Aliyev, a three-time world champion, failed to qualify Azerbaijan for the Olympics at 65kg. The Rio Olympic bronze medalist dropped his opening round match at the World Championships to eventual world champion Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (RUS). Aliyev scored a 10-1 win over Reda HUSSEN (EGY) in his first repechage match but fell to 2018 world champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) in a heartbreaking 11-9 match. He was knocked out of the tournament after his second loss and finished in 12th place.

Khinchegashvili, a Rio Olympic champion and London silver medalist, also failed to qualify his nation for the Toyko Olympic Games. The Georgian opened up his 2019 World Championships campaign with a 4-0 win over YUN Junsik (KOR), but lost 5-1 in his next match to eventual bronze medalist Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (HUN). The Hungarian dropped a 3-2 nail biter against Rashidov -- knocking Khinchegashvili out of the tournament with a 22nd-place finish. 

If either fails to make the finals in Budapest, their last opportunity will be the World Olympic Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria (April 30 – May 03). 

Qualified Nation – Qualifying Wrestler 
RUS via Gadzhimurad RASHIDOV (Europe)
KAZ via Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (Asia) 
IND via Bajrang BAJRANG (Asia)
HUN via Iszmail MUSZUKAJEV (Europe) 
JPN via Takuto OTOGURO (Asia)
MGL via Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (Asia)

2. Olympic Champs Maroulis and Wiebe Entered into Pan-American Qualifier
The road for Helen MAROULIS (USA) and Erica WIEBE (CAN) to repeat as Olympic champions runs through this week's Pan-American Qualifiers in Ottawa, Canada.

The pair needed the post-world championship qualifiers in 2016 to earn berths to the Olympics and find themselves in eerily similar situations heading into the Tokyo Olympic Games. In 2016, Maroulis qualified for the Olympics with a gold-medal performance at the 1st OG World Qualifying Tournament, while Wiebe punched her ticket to Rio after winning the 2016 Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. 

They'll compete at this week's Pan-American Qualifiers to try to qualify their nations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which will kick start their journey to try to become the first non-Japanese wrestlers to win a pair of Olympic titles.

Since women's wrestling inception into the Olympic Games in 2004, Japan has claimed 11 of the 18 Olympic gold medals. But, of the seven non-Japanese women whose resume boasts an Olympic gold, surprisingly enough, there's never been a non-Japanese two-time Olympic champion.

Maroulis, America's first women's wrestling Olympic champion, returns to USA's lineup for the first time since falling to a 21st-place finish at the 2018 World Championships. She's faced difficulties with concussions over the last two seasons but locked up her spot on the Pan-American Qualifier team with two straight pins against Nur-Sultan world team member, Jenna BURKERT (USA). 

She's wrestling at arguably the deepest weight in the world, 57kg, and is joined by reigning 59kg world champion Linda MORAIS (CAN) and 2019 Pan-American champion Lissette ANTES (ECU).

Wiebe enters the Pan-American Championships as the favorite to the 76kg weight category. Especially with the absence of her archrival Adeline GRAY (USA), who qualified the United States for the Tokyo Olympics with her American history-breaking fifth world title. Her biggest threat at 76kg is Genesis REASCO (ECU), who was last year's Pan-American runner-up. 

3. Greco-Roman World Silver Medalist Pino Hines Captures Pan-Am Freestyle Bronze 
Cuban big man Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB), fresh off his Greco-Roman runner-up finish at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, shifted to freestyle and captured the 125kg bronze medal at the Pan-American Championships.

Pino Hinds transitioned to freestyle after he took a backseat to Mijain LOPEZ (CUB), who is looking to become the first male wrestler ever to win four Olympic titles.

In his 2020 freestyle debut, Pino Hinds went 2-2 and scored wins over Charles MERRILL (PUR) and Brandon ANGUIANO (MEX) en route to his bronze-medal finish. His losses came against Anthony Robert NELSON (USA) and Amarveer DHESI (CAN), who finished in first and second, respectively, at 125kg.  

Pino Hinds refocused his attention on joining Bilyal MAKHOV (RUS) as the only wrestlers since 2015 to qualify their nations for the Olympic Games in both freestyle and Greco-Roman. Although he fell in the finals at the World Championships, Pino Hinds qualified Cuba for the Tokyo Olympic Games at 130kg in Greco-Roman. 

Hinds is wrestling freestyle again at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, which kicks off on Friday. 

His toughest competition at the Pan-American OG Qualifier is the two-time world bronze medalist, Nicholas Edward GWIAZDOWSKI (USA). The pair met twice last year, with Gwiazdowski scoring a pair of technical superiority victories. 

Pino Hinds led 1-1 on criteria in the second period but gave up two takedowns and four leg laces before ultimately finishing the tournament with a bronze medal. He also fell 10-0 in the Pan-American Games finals.

4. Russia Inserts Bukina into European Qualifier over Olympic Champ Vorobeva
The biggest question after the European Championships wrapped up: Who will Russia roll with at 76kg heading into the European Olympic Qualifier? 

The Russian coaching staff had the insanely tough decision on whether to insert reigning European champion Ekaterina BUKINA (RUS) or replace her with the reigning 72kg world and European champion, Natalia VOROBEVA (RUS). 

Ultimately, they elected to place the ball in Bukina's hand to earn Russia their berth to the Olympics at 76kg.

Bukina is coming off a successful European championship campaign where she went 5-0 and captured the 76kg gold medal. In Rome, she defeated 2017 world silver medalist Vasilisa MARZALIUK (BLR) in the semifinals, then downed 2017 world champion Yasemin ADAR (TUR) in the finals.

After winning her first continental title, Bukina, a Rio Olympic bronze medalist, was asked where she sees herself in the race to represent Russia at the Olympic Games. She said, "It depends on who will be in better shape. Right now, she is wrestling in the other weight category, but we will decide later when it's closer to the Olympics. It's too early to talk about it."

Vorobeva also won gold at the European Championships, but she did so at the non-Olympic weight of 72kg. When she was asked about the log jam between herself and Bukina at 76kg, she said, "I gave Bukina this place, and it's good for her that she used her chance. But if there is a need for me to wrestle at 76kg, we'll both go on the mat, wrestle and see who the best is."

It's not clear what Russia will do if Bukina qualifies her nation for the Olympics, but it seems like a special wrestle-off is almost certain.

5. Dosho Earns Shot at Olympic Repeat With Win in Japan Team Playoff
Having stuck it out through trying times since her triumph in Rio four years ago, Sara DOSHO (JPN) finally assured that she will be able to defend her Olympic crown at this summer's Tokyo Games.

Dosho edged world junior champion Miwa MORIKAWA (JPN) 3-1 in a special playoff to fill the Olympic spot at 68kg that she herself secured for Japan by placing fifth at last year's World Championships in Nur-Sultan. Morikawa had forced the playoff by winning the All-Japan title last December, where she defeated Dosho 9-2 in the semifinals.

"I had a lot of injuries, but I was able to come back and be here today," Dosho said. "I want to be completely healthy for the Tokyo Olympics and wrestling at a high level. From the time I won in Rio, my aim was to win again in Tokyo. That has not changed. I'll do what I can to make that happen."

Meanwhile, Keisuke OTOGURO (JPN) will join younger brother Takuto on Japan's team at Tokyo 2020 after he chalked up a 5-2 victory over Mao OKUI (JPN) at freestyle 74kg in the other playoff held behind closed doors at the National Training Center in Tokyo. Okui had earned Japan's spot by finishing fifth at Nur-Sultan.

READ: Ken Marantz provides a full breakdown of Japan's special wrestlers-offs.

Weekly FIVE! In Social Media
1. Big Move Monday -- Grace BULLEN
2. Happy International Women’s Day!
3. 🖐 points for 5x World champ @adelinegray 
4. Olympic Champion Vorobeva’s New Title: Mother!
5. Outrageous first-round action at the Greco-Roman Pan Am Championships!

Weekly FIVE!

Weekly FIVE! March 17, 2020

By Eric Olanowski

Discussing Valencia Escoto and Destribats' historic performances at the Pan-Am Olympic Qualifiers. Also looking at Cuba's GR team qualifying every weight for #Tokyo2020 and Olympic champs Maroulis and Wiebe qualifying their nation's for the Tokyo Games.

1. Valencia Escoto First Mexican Woman to Qualify for Olympic Games
Alma Jane VALENCIA ESCOTO (MEX) became the first-ever Mexican women's wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games after winning the 57kg gold medal at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. She won all four of her bouts in Ottawa – including a win by fall over world champion Linda MORAIS (CAN) and a victory via forfeit over Helen MAROULIS (USA).

Valencia Escoto opened her day up with a pair of decisive wins over Betzabeth SARCO COLMENAREZ (VEN) and Nes RODRIGUEZ TIRADO (PUR), which inserted her into the semifinals against Canada's reigning world champion, Linda Morais. 

In her semifinals meeting with the current 59kg world-title holder, Valencia Escoto stopped an early open double-leg attempt with a counter-offensive throw. She snuck in an underhook on the Canadian's right side during her shot attempt and tossed her to her back for the early 4-0 lead. 

Valencia Escoto's opponenet fought off her back and nearly scored a takedown of a slide by attempt. Still, somehow, the newly-minted Olympian had the world champion fighting off her back for the second time in the opening period. 

The tides turned quickly, and Valencia Escoto was the one fighting off her back. She got saved by the period-ending whistle and carried the 6-2 lead into the closing period.

In the final period, Valencia Escoto halted a left side high crotch attempt and flattened Morais for the fall – becoming the first-ever Mexican women to wrestle at the Olympic Games.

Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) finished in second place at 65kg at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier and qualified Argentina for the Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

2. Destribats Ends 24-year Argentinean Freestyle Olympic Drought
Agustin DESTRIBATS (ARG) ended a 24-year Argentinean freestyle Olympic drought and qualified his nation for the Tokyo Olympics after he pinned American Zain RETHERFORD (USA) in the 65kg semifinals. With his semifinal victory via fall, Destribats became the first Argentinean freestyle wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games since Paulo IBIRE (ARG) did so at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

In his meeting with the Retherford, Destribats conceded an open double leg and nearly gave up an ankle lace but was able to fend off the turn and catch the American on his back. He held Retherford on his back for 25 seconds before picking up the opening period fall to secure his spot at the Tokyo Olympics. 

Helen MAROULIS (USA) qualified the United States for the Olympic Games at 57kg with her silver-medal finish at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. (Photo: Tony Rotundo)

3. Olympic Champs Maroulis and Wiebe Qualify Nation's for Olympic Games 
Olympic champions Helen MAROULIS (USA) and Erica WIEBE (CAN) qualified their nations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games after finishing in the top-two of their respective weights at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. The pair remained on course to defend their gold medals from the Rio Olympic Games. 

Maroulis, who was wrestling in her first international competition since the 2018 World Championships, won four matches before injury defaulting out of the finals after locking up the United States' spot at 57kg for the Olympics.

In her first match, Maroulis easily handled Canada's Linda Morias, 10-2, in the battle of Olympic champion and world champion. 

Maroulis defeated Giullia RODRIGUES (BRA) and Lissette ANTES (ECU) in the next two rounds and was one win away from earning a second berth to the Olympic Games for the United States. 

In the semifinals, Maroulis crushed Nes RODRIGUEZ (PUR), 10-0, and qualified the Stars and Stripes for the Olympic Games at 57kg. 

She'll now have to win the Olympic Trials to become the United States' Olympic representative at 57kg.

Canada's Erica Wiebe was the second Olympic champion who qualified for the Olympic Games over the weekend. Wiebe, who was wrestling in her hometown of Ottawa, won the 76kg bracket and locked up her shot at repeating as Olympic champion. 

She opened up her day with a narrow 2-1 win over Aline DA SILVA FERREIRA (BRA). She tacked on dominant wins over Milaimys de la Caridad MARIN POTRILLE (CUB) and Andrimar LAZARO (VEN), setting up a semifinals match with Genesis REASCO (ECU).

Wiebe shutout Reasco Valdez, 6-0, in their semifinals meeting and earned her berth to the Olympic Games. She injury defaulted out of the gold-medal match against Aline Da Silva Ferreira and finished with a silver medal.

Wiebe won the Canadian Wrestling Trails in December and will represent Canada at 76kg at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) is one of six Cuban Greco-Roman wrestlers who will wrestle at the Tokyo Olympic Games. (Photo: Tony Rotundo) 

4. Cuba Sending All Six GR Wrestlers to Olympics 
Cuba’s Greco-Roman team came into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier searching for four qualification spots after earning two Olympic berths from the Nur-Sultan World Championships from Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB). Over the weekend, they had three wrestlers win gold medals and one individual finish in second place at the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier – which took their qualification total to all six weight categories. 

Their three champions were Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB), Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) and Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB), while Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) finished in second place.

In addition to their Greco-Roman success, Cuba's women's wrestling team also shined in Ottawa. 

Coming into the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier, Katherine VIDIAUX (CUB) was the lone Cuban woman who ever wrestled at the Olympic Games. She'll now be joined in the history books by Lianna MONTERO (CUB) and Yusneylis GUZMAN (CUB), who won gold medals at 50kg and 53kg, respectively, and qualified for the Olympic Games. 

Greco-Roman Qualifying Weights/Athletes
60kg - Luis Alberto ORTA SANCHEZ (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold 
67kg - Ismael BORRERO MOLINA (CUB) – World Championships gold 
77kg - Yosvanys PENA FLORES (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
87kg - Daniel GREGORICH HECHAVARRIA (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier silver
97kg - Gabriel Alejandro ROSILLO KINDELAN (CUB) – Pan-Am OG Qualifier gold
130kg - Oscar PINO HINDS (CUB) World Championships silver

5. European, World 'Last Chance' Olympic Qualifiers Postponed
The European Qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Games, scheduled for March 19-22 in Budapest, along with the World "Last Chance" Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, scheduled for April 30-May 3, have been postponed.

The events will be rescheduled, with the European Qualifier expected to take place in mid-May and the World "Last Chance" Qualifier held at the beginning of June.

"We are closely monitoring the governmental response to COVID-19 and will continue to provide updates to our wrestlers, coaches, and fans with more information as it becomes available," said United World Wrestling president Nenad Lalovic.

"The process for determining our Olympic participants will happen on the field of play, but we need to remain patient and vigilant as the worldwide community battles this pandemic. The health and well-being of the athletes is an absolute priority."