#wrestlebishkek, #WrestleParis

Ageless Abdurakhmonov gains ticket to Paris 2024, third Olympics

By Ken Marantz

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (April 19) -- Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV (UZB) had to battle the altitude, the home crowd and a determined opponent. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist showed his 34-year-old body could still work its wonders.

Abdurakhmonov earned a ticket to his third straight Olympics with a masterful 6-0 victory over home favorite Orozobek TOKTOMAMBETOV (KGZ) at 74kg as the freestyle quotas for Paris were decided at the Asian Olympic Qualifier on Friday in Bishkek.

"This win is not just mine," said Abdurakhmonov, who has two Asian golds and two world bronze medals from the last decade to his credit. "Wrestling is such a tough sport that it is not just you. You need the whole team, country to push you forward, to do better. I am very blessed to have these fans and friends, teammates, coaches and people at my home. So I am very excited."

Combined with a one-sided victory earlier at 57kg by Tokyo Olympian Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB), Uzbekistan was one of six nations that evenly split the 12 available tickets to Paris with two each and now has three Olympic places overall.

The others winning two quotas were Iran, host Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia.

Iran has now filled five of the six freestyle weight classes with just the World Olympic Qualifier in May remaining.

Bekzod ABDURAKHAMONOV (UZB)Bekzod ABDURAKHAMONOV (UZB) clashes with Orozobek TOKTOMAMBETOV (KGZ) in the 74kg Paris qualification bout. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

In a clash between the bronze medalists at last October's Asian Games, Abdurakhmonov came out firing from the opening whistle to score a single-leg takedown which, despite lifting Toktomambekov full into the air and slamming him to the mat, was good only for two points. No matter, because Abdurakhmonov secured a high chest lock and easily rolled Toktomambekov for a 4-0 lead.

In the second period, Toktomambetov, who is 11 years Abdurakhmonov's junior, got in on a deep single, but Abdurakhmonov doesn't concede points easily. He initiated a counter scramble that ended with him on top for a takedown.

Despite how it appeared on the mat, the ever-moving Abdurakhmonov said he had trouble with his stamina. "I don't know what it is," he said. "I came here in very good shape but the altitude, the mountains are killing me a little bit. It's hard to wrestle here."

Even so, Abdurakhmonov managed to make both of his previous matches entertaining, as he won his opener against Magomet EVLOEV (TJK) 10-4 after surviving a cradle and near fall situation, then built up a 15-9 lead before securing a late fall over Feng LU (CHN).

In addition to the thin air, Abdurakhmonov also had to contend with facing an opponent wrestling on home soil.

"You have to [step it up]. When it's your hometown, even the walls help you. There was a lot of crowd cheering for him. But thank God I found a way to beat him."

Abdurakhmonov, who attended and competed at Clarion University in the United States and speaks fluent English, finished fifth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where he famously beat Jordan BURROUGHS (USA) 11–1 but lost in the bronze-medal match to Jabrayil HASENOV (AZE). He made amends by taking home a bronze from Tokyo in 2021.

Among the more amazing aspects of Abdurakhmonov's colorful career is that his return to 74kg for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics included stops at weights as high as 86kg.

"I moved around a bit," he said. "I went up to 79kg and I was trying up to 86kg. I went to a couple of tournaments but 86kg guys are monsters. I feel better at 74kg. So I moved back down. We have an 86kg wrestler [Javrail SHAPIEV (UZB)] who is very good and qualified for the Olympics. So it's good we have one more weight qualified."

Yones EMAMI (IRI)Yones EMAMI (IRI) defeated Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) to win the Paris quota at 74kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

Iran's Asian Games champion Yones EMAMI (IRI) secured the other spot at 74kg, just as he did in 2021, but this time will be hoping that he gets to use it after cruising to a 10-0 rout of the 2021 Asian champion Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ).

In a clash between world 70kg medalists in 2019, Emami puts on a takedown clinic with three in the first period, then opens the second period with a stepout. He then scores two more points with a driving takedown, then immediately finishes off the match with a gut wrench at 3:49.

In 2021, Emami won the Asian qualifier in Almaty but was not on the team to Tokyo. He missed a chance to qualify this time at last year's World Championships in Belgrade, where he lost to eventual champion Zaurbek SIDAKOV (AIN) before falling to Hetik CABALOV (SRB) in the repechage.

Amirali AZARPIRA (IRI)Amirali AZARPIRA (IRI) won Iran's fifth Freestyle quota for the Paris Olympics. (Photo: United World Wrestling.)

Amirali AZARPIRA (IRI), a two-time world U23 champion, gave Iran its fifth Paris berth with a 3-0 victory over Asian Games bronze medalist Gankhuyag GANBAATAR (MGL) at 97kg, clinching the victory with a takedown in the second period while on the activity clock.

"Today's competition was very difficult because it was the Olympic quota and there was no place for mistakes," Azarpira said. "I could be better than this but I was careful because I wanted the Olympic quota. The selection for the Olympics for Iran was in this competition, so it was highly sensitive."

In his only other match before the qualifier, Azarpira ousted rising Japanese star Arash YOSHIDA (JPN), whose father is Iranian and runs the kids club where he got his start in the sport, in a bout that was close until the Iranian pulled away for a 9-1 win.

"I was wrestling Japan [Yoshida] for the first time," Azarpira said. "Yoshida is a very great opponent and it was a hard match. It was my first wrestling, my body hadn’t yet started and I wasn’t in the condition of the competition. But whatever the circumstances were, I had come to win and I was able to win."

Bekzat ALMAZ UULU (KGZ)Bekzat ALMAZ UULU (KGZ) scores the winning takedown to secure the Paris 2024 ticket for Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

In the opening match of the night session, two-time world U23 bronze medalist Bekzat ALMAZ UULU (KGZ) electrified the crowd by pulling a ticket to Paris out of his hat, scoring a counter takedown with 14 seconds left to edge Munkh Erdene BATKHUYAG (MGL) 3-3 on criteria at 57kg.

Each wrestler had received an activity point that gave Almaz Uulu the lead on criteria. In the second period, Batkhuyag fought out of Almaz Uulu's deep double-leg shot to score a takedown with a minute left for a 3-1 lead.

Batkhuyag looked like he might run out the clock when he grabbed a single leg and hung on for dear life, but Almaz Uulu, the winner of this year's Yasar Dogu tournament in Turkey, broke the hold and spun behind for the victory.

Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB)Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) hits a fireman carry against AMAN (IND). (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Abdullaev's overwhelming victory by fall over AMAN (IND) for the other 57kg berth could not have contrasted more with the preceding match.

Abdullaev, who finished seventh at the Tokyo Olympics, started things off with a low-single takedown, then tripled the lead with a slick 4-point fireman's carry. He then added a pair of 2-point exposures, the second of which gave him a 10-0 lead and would have ended the match had he not secured the fall at 2:17.

Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ)Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ) celebrates after winning the 65kg Paris quota for Kyrgyzstan. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

Former world 70kg silver medalist Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ), who is back at 65kg after three years, put together a controlled 5-3 win over Kwang Jin KIM (PRK) to win the Olympic qualifier for the second time in a row.

"Words can’t describe my emotions," Akmataliev said. "You saw the support I had. The stands were full of our fans, my friends and relatives and I had to win. Our main goal is not just the quota, but the Olympic gold."

Trailing 2-1 at the break, Akmataliev got a pair of stepouts in the second period, with the second coming with Kim on the activity clock. The two then exchanged stepouts and Akmataliev held on for the victory.

Akmataliev recorded an amazing comeback in the previous round when he overcame a six-point deficit in the second period in a 12-6 win over Tsogbadrakh TSEVEENSUREN (MGL). Now he will look to do better in Paris than he did in Tokyo, where he lost in the first round to Bajrang PUNIA (IND).

"This will be my second Olympics," he said. "In the first one, I lost to an experienced wrestler. This time we will take into account all of the mistakes and not repeat them and bring back an Olympic medal."

Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN)Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) qualified the 65kg weight class for Japan. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) picked up the other 65kg berth -- and the chance to keep the Olympic gold in Japanese hands -- with a comprehensive 11-0 victory over Shaohua YUAN (CHN).

Kiyooka used a low single to maximum effect to score two takedowns in the first period which, combined with an activity point, gave him a 5-0 lead. In the second, he landed a double-leg takedown, applied the lace lock and rolled twice to end the match in 4:29.

"I'm happy to clinch [the quota], but looking at my performance overall, it's filled with issues that need to be worked on," Kiyooka said. "My goal is the gold medal at the Paris Olympics. It's good that the issues came to light, but I can't give my performance full marks. I think it was about a 50 [out of 100]."

Kiyooka, who earned the right to represent Japan in Bishkek by knocking off Tokyo Olympic champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN), had his toughest test in the first round when he held on for a 10-7 win over Abdulmazhid KUDIEV (TJK).

Kiyooka is a recent graduate of Nippon Sports Science University, where among his training partners is 2016 Olympic silver medalist Rei HIGUCHI (JPN), who will be among the medal favorites in Paris at 57kg. He said that helped him against Yuan, who assumes a left-foot-forward stance.

"He uses a left-handed stance, well, my teammate Rei Higuchi also does that -- and honestly speaking, Higuchi is the best -- so it was no problem," Kiyooka said.

The 23-year-old Kiyooka, whose victory came six days after younger sister Moe won the women's 55kg gold at the Asian Championships in the same venue, came into the tournament with little international experience. He won the Kolov-Petrov tournament in Bulgaria in 2023, then finished ninth that year at the World U23.

"I've become more mentally strong," Kiyooka said. "The World U23 last year was a good experience for me. Today I watched videos of past matches and I was able to stay composed when I gave up points."

Hayato ISHIGURO (JPN)Hayato ISHIGURO (JPN), left, and Bat Erdene BYAMBASUREN (MGL) secured the Paris quota at 86kg for Japan and Mongolia respectively. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Japan's other win came at 86kg, where 2023 Asian bronze medalist Hayato ISHIGURO (JPN) spent all of 33 seconds on the mat the entire day booking his ticket to Paris.

That was all the time it took Ishiguro to score a takedown on Gwanuk KIM (KOR), then reel off four quick gut wrenches for a 10-0 win. Ishiguro did not have to wrestle in the afternoon session as he received a victory by default in his lone match.

Sources said that Deepak PUNIA (IND) was unable to wrestle because he was late to the weigh-in after his flight from Dubai was delayed. He was stuck in Dubai for two days because of flooding.

"In the first match, you're usually pretty tight," said Ishiguro, the 2018 world junior (U20) champion at 79kg and 2019 world U23 bronze medalist who is a product of the same Tokyo kids wrestling club that produced Otoguro. "So there was a bit of anxiety. But everyone around me encouraged me, and that lifted my mood."

Mongolia secured the other Paris ticket at 86kg, when Bat Erdene BYAMBASUREN (MGL) defeated Tokyo Olympian Zushen LIN (CHN) 1-1 on criteria, with both points scored on the activity clock in a dull match.

Three-time Asian medalist Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) earned a place for Kazakhstan in Paris and a possible second Olympics for himself at 97kg by edging Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) 3-2 at 97kg.

Yergali scored an activity point and stepout to take a 2-0 lead into the break. In the second period, Habila was on the clock again when he got in on a single-leg, but time ran out before the Chinese could finish the takedown, leaving Yergali ahead 3-2. It was a similar outcome to Yergali's 2-1 win over Habila in the first round at last year's World Championships.

Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL)Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) defeated Zhiwei DENG (CHN) to win the 125kg quota for Mongolia. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Two-time world medalist Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) made China 0-for-4 on the night when earned a ticket to a second straight Olympics at 125kg, while denying Zhiwei DENG (CHN) what would be his third trip by scoring an activity point in each period for a 2-0 win.

The match was a clash between the losers of the bronze-medal matches at the Tokyo Olympics and a rematch of Deng's 2-1 win in the first round at last year's World Championships.

"The match was hard," Munktur said. "At the World Championships, Deng beat me, but today I won so I am happy about it. I am going for the gold in Paris. Everything is possible. Why not?"

Tokyo Olympian Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) capped the night with a second-period scoring spree to defeat Shamil SHARIPOV (BRN) 7-3 in the other 125kg match.

Batirmurzaev, the 2021 Asian champion who finished third last year, received an activity point in the first period. In the second, he scored back-to-back 2-point counter lifts from a front body lock, then added a gut wrench for a 7-0 lead.

Sharipov, one of a handful of wrestlers who also competed at last week's Asian Championships -- where he won a bronze -- came back with a takedown and stepout, but it was too little, too late.



Paris 2024 Qualification Matches

Bekzat ALMAZ UULU (KGZ) df. Munkh Erdene BATKHUYAG (MGL) 3-3
Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) df. AMAN (IND) by Fall, 2:17 (10-0)

Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) df. Shaohua YUAN (CHN) by TF, 11-0, 4:29
Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ) df. Kwang Jin KIM (PRK), 5-3

Yones EMAMI (IRI) df. Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) by TF, 11-0, 3:49

Hayato ISHIGURO (JPN) df. Gwanuk KIM (KOR) by TF, 10-0, :33
Bat Erdene BYAMBASUREN (MGL) df. Zushen LIN (CHN), 1-1

Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) df. Awusayiman HABILA (CHN), 3-2
Amirali AZARPIRA (IRI) df. Gankhuyag GANBAATAR (MGL), 3-0

Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) df. Zhiwei DENG (CHN), 2-0

#wrestlebishkek, #WrestleParis

Rising star Sogabe survives scare to gain Paris 2024 ticket

By Ken Marantz

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (April 21) -- For all the young wrestlers who wonder why they do so much bridging in practice, Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) showed how it can all pay off in that future situation when the stakes are at their highest.

Sogabe, about to see his Olympic dream ended, fought tenaciously off his back before going on to defeat Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ) 11-2 and earn a ticket to the Paris Olympics at Greco 67kg on the final day of the Asian Olympic Qualifier on Sunday in Bishkek.

"If I had lost by fall there, my life would have been over," said the 22-year-old Sogabe, the 2023 Asian silver medalist who has long been touted in Japan as a star of the future. "All I've ever thought deep in my heart is that I will definitely win the gold medal in Paris.

"I asked myself, 'Are you going to give up now?' and that really got me going. I was so strongly determined not to lose by fall that I was able to escape."

Iran became the first country to complete the full set of six Greco quotas when Amin KAVIYANI (IRI) and Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) won their respective bouts at 77kg and 87kg, although neither victory came easy.

Also notably qualifying for Paris was Asia's "greybeard" Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB), the 39-year-old wonder who earned his third trip to the Olympics with a victory at 97kg.

Kazakhstan came away with three Paris berths, while Korea won two along with Iran. The DPR Korea, which was shut out in freestyle before winning three spots in women's wrestling, gained its first and only ticket in Greco.

Three countries saw bids for historic victories quashed, as Jordan and Saudi Arabia were left still waiting for their first-ever Olympians in wrestling, while Chinese Taipei remains without ever having a male wrestler make the Olympics.

Combined with the results from last year's World Championships in Belgrade, where five quotas per weight class were available, Kazakhstan now has four, Kyrgyzstan, Japan and China three each, Korea and Uzbekistan two apiece and the DPR Korea one. The last chance will be at the World Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul on May 9-12, where three final places will be up for grabs.

Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN)Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) with the 'qualified athlete' ticket for Paris Olympics. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

For Japan's Sogabe, his victory made up for a controversial loss in the quarterfinals in Belgrade to Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI), which he lost 11-10 but had the crowd fully on his side as the Iranian waned in the final moments. It also made him determined to leave Bishkek with the ticket to Paris.

"The World Championships last year was devastating, and I have practiced every day with the determination to win the gold medal in Paris," said Sogabe, a 2022 world U23 bronze medalist. "Keeping that tough experience in my head, I worked on fixing things that weren't working well and was able to win here."

Asked about getting the chance to avenge the loss to Geraei in Paris, Sogabe expressed more concern with just winning the gold, regardless of who he faces.

"Today was really enjoyable, and I realized that in the end, having fun is the best way to do wrestling," he said. "I have to think about how I can become the strongest wrestler I can be so I can win at the Olympics. My goal is the gold medal, and I want to win it by being the strongest of all and in an enjoyable way."

Sogabe's victory came two days after Nippon Sports Science University teammate Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN) earned his Paris ticket at freestyle 65kg. The two are both from the central island of Shikoku, and have been friendly rivals since their elementary school days.

"We are in the same class, and ever since we were young, I have not wanted to lose to him," Sogabe said. "'If I lose here, I'll be a step behind [Kotaro],' I thought. We are rivals, but we push each other and make each other better. I want us to win gold medals in Paris together."

Sogabe saw how quickly fortunes can turn in the sport in his clash with Asian Games silver medalist Sharmankhanbet, the 2021 Asian champion and a 2018 world bronze medalist.

Sogabe secured a body lock on Sharmankhanbet and slammed him down for four points -- only to have Sharmankhanbet roll Sogabe onto his back and secure a tight front headlock. A fall seemed imminent, but Sogabe's bridge kept his shoulders off the mat, and after a few tense seconds, he managed to extricate himself from the danger.

The Kazakh side made a seemingly dubious challenge for a suspected hand block of the leg, which was not only denied to give Sogabe a 5-2 lead but would work against them when an actual challenge situation arose later on and they could not contest it.

While his aggressiveness got him into trouble, Sogabe said he has no plans to change his style. "I have used attacking wrestling all this time, so I'm definitely not going to veer away from it," he said. "I will continue attacking right up to the very end."

In the second period, Sogabe drove Sharmankhanbet down for a takedown, although it looked like he may have stepped on his opponent's foot. But because the Kazakh side could not challenge, the points stood and Sogabe had a comfortable 7-2 lead. He stopped a desperation throw for 4 in the final seconds to make it officially a technical fall.

Among the crowd at Bishkek Arena were Sogabe's family and Nippon Sports Science University head coach Shingo MATSUMOTO, who flew in for the occasion. "For my whole family to come all this way, and coach Matsumoto here to support me, I'm really happy that I was able to get the job done," said Sogabe, who had to beat Asian Games champion and senior training partner Katsuaki ENDO (JPN) to earn the right to compete in Bishkek.

Sogabe's path to the final started with an 8-0 victory over 36-year-old Hansu RYU (KOR), a two-time Olympian and two-time former world champion, which may have marked a generational change in the weight class.

Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ)Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) tries to pin HUSIYUETU (CHN) in 67kg semifinals. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

The other Paris berth at 67kg went to Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ), who thrilled the home crowd with a second-period surge that gave him a 9-1 victory over HUSIYUETU (CHN).

Leading 1-0 off a passivity point in the first period, Ismailov started the second by fighting off a throw for a takedown, then charged ahead with a reverse body lift for a 2-point exposure. China challenged the original takedown, only to see it not only affirmed, but Husiyuetu assessed a 2-point penalty for touching the leg while he was being sent to his back.

The penalty, while giving Ismailov a 7-1 lead, also put him on the top in par terre, and he turned Husiyuetu over to end the match at 3:58.

Amin KAVIYANI (IRI)Amin KAVIYANI (IRI) celebrates after winning the Paris Olympic 77kg quota for Iran. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

At 77kg, Iran's Asian Games silver medalist Kaviyani was made to work hard for his Paris ticket, clinching a tense 6-5 victory over Rui LIU (CHN) by scoring the last of three consecutive stepouts with 49 seconds left.

Liu got off to a good start in his bid to avenge a 1-1 semifinal loss at last October's Asian Games in China when he completed a roll from par terre, and had a 2-point leg blocking penalty tacked on for a 5-0 lead. Kaviyani cut the gap with a counter takedown before the break.

"Everything was under control, but unfortunately I got a two-point warning," Kaviyani said. "In my opinion, there was no foot fault but it made the fight more difficult for me."

In the second period, Kaviyani received a passivity point but allowed Liu to pop out from par terre, leaving him trailing 5-3. But then the three-time Asian medalist launched his succession of stepouts to march to victory and a likely trip to Paris.

"At the Asian Games where the Chinese were the hosts, against the Chinese wrestler who is powerful, I won the match with a 1-1 score, but today I was able to get more technical points in this match," Kaviyani said. "I was under a bit of pressure and I had to get the best result. I’m thankful that I could get that result and the Olympic quota."

Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI)Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) defeated Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) to win the 87kg quota for Iran. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

A short time later at 87kg, Mohmadipiani was also taken to the limit in securing Iran's sixth Olympic quota with a 3-2 victory over Asian Games champion Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB).

Berdimuratov was only able to gain a 1-point stepout from a throw attempt out of par terre in the first period, and that would make the difference when Mohmadpiani, the world silver medalist at 82kg, got 2 from a throw in the same situation in the second period.

"I’m thankful that I could get the Olympic quota one year after the World Championships, especially when I was able to go from 82kg to 87kg," Mohmadpiani said. "I feel really good that I could keep this weight and I hope I can defeat my opponents in the Olympics."

Looking toward Paris, Mohmadpiani added, "My plan for the Olympics is to fix my flaws and add some new techniques so I can wrestle some mistake-free matches in the Olympics and shine."

Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB)Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB) celebrates after beating Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ) to win the Paris 2024 quota. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

At 97kg, the ageless Assakalov rumbled to another Olympics with a 3-1 victory over Tokyo Olympian Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ), who was his own worst enemy by committing a 2-point penalty for grabbing the singlet.

Assakalov, coming off a bronze-medal performance at the Asian Games, was put in par terre first, but was unable to add points against Dzhuzupbekov, a five-time Asian medalist and 2019 champion.

In the second period, Assakalov initiated a challenge to get Dzhuzupbekov tagged for grabbing the singlet that had gone unnoticed by the referee. The challenge worked, and Assakalov now had a 3-0 lead.

All he had to do was survive a stint on the bottom of par terre, which he did, and then used his vast experience to hold off Dzhuzupbekov while avoiding a passivity caution.

Assakalov, whose longevity is a testament to his love of the sport, has a long list of career achievements. He finished eighth at both the 2016 Rio and 2021 Tokyo Olympics, won a world silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017, and has eight Asian medals, including three golds.

It was singlet-grabbing that also proved the downfall for Ibrahim FALLATAH (KSA) in the other 97kg match, in which he lost 5-1 to Seungjun KIM (KOR) to fall short of becoming Saudi Arabia's first-ever wrestler in the Olympics.

Fallatah was hit with a 2-point penalty for grabbing the singlet in each period, while both wrestlers received a passivity point but were unable to score in par terre.

The loss by Sultan EID (JOR) to Haitao QIAN (CHN) in the other 87kg match was much more straightforward, as the Chinese held the upper hand throughout in a 7-0 victory in denying Jordan its first-ever Olympic wrestler.

Qian, a 2019 world bronze medalist at 82kg, was put in par terre in the first period and took advantage with a pair of gut wrenches for a 5-0 lead. In the second period, he used an underhook for a driving takedown to put the victory on ice.

Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ)Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) scores a match-winning takedown against Dowon LEE (KOR) at 77kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

In the other 77kg match, veteran four-time Asian medalist Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) seemed to be heading straight to defeat when his opponent Dowon LEE (KOR) suddenly crumbled late in their bout, giving Zhadrayev a 5-2 victory and a possible second trip to the Olympics.

Lee began brightly with a nice arm drag for a takedown that gave him a 2-0 lead at the break. And when he gave up a passivity point and was put on bottom, he kept a one-point lead by slipping out of a roll attempt for no points.

But with Zhadrayev viciously pressing ahead at the edge, Lee was holding out quite well until he suddenly ran out of gas and was crushed to the mat for a takedown with 30 seconds to go. Lee then limply went over for a 2-point exposure.

For the wrestlers at 60kg, the tournament provided a golden opportunity for an Olympic place, as Asian nations swept all five places in the weight class in Belgrade -- the only region to do so in any of the three styles.

Two-time world bronze medalist Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ) came out the winner in the opening match of the night session with a victory by fall over Jui Chi HUANG (TPE).

Sultangali got four points by driving Huang onto his back in defense of an awkward arm throw, then added a gut wrench and a throw that ended up being ruled a stepout. A challenge by the Chinese Taipei downgraded the original 4-pointer to two, leaving Sultangali with a 5-0 lead.

Sultangali, the 2021 Asian champion, went right back to work, sticking Huang with a textbook-perfect headlock throw and securing the fall at 2:28.

Huang was attempting to become Chinese Taipei's first-ever male wrestler to qualify for the Olympics. The nation has had just one wrestler in the Olympics, Wen-Ling CHEN (TPE), who appeared in women's 69kg at the 2016 Rio Games.

Se Ung RI (PRK)Se Ung RI (PRK) won the DPR Korea's first Greco-Roman quota for Paris Olympics at 60kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

In the other match at 60kg, Se Ung RI (PRK) scored a first-period takedown and held on for a 3-0 victory over Dahyun KIM (KOR), who was thrown off his feet twice in the match but somehow managed to keep the moves from scoring points.

Ri looked like he would take an early lead when he hit Kim with a hip throw, but the Korean cartwheeled out of it and landed on his feet for no points. When Ri received a passivity point and was put on top of par terre, he lifted Kim off the mat but was unable to get enough height for points.

Ri got on the scoreboard again with a nice duck-under takedown for a 3-0 lead at the break, and in the second period, he kept the pressure on to avoid giving Kim a chance in par terre.

Korea picked up its second victory of the night at 130kg, when Seungchan LEE (KOR) cruised to a 9-0 win over surprise semifinalist Sota OKUMURA (JPN). Lee gained a passivity point and proceeded to reel off four straight rolls to win in 1:36, the shortest bout of the night.

Okumura, who was looking to become the first Japanese heavyweight in Greco to make the Olympics since 1996, had never won a match in eight previous international tournaments before he rallied to defeat Tamurbek NASIMOV (UZB) 12-6 to move one step away from Paris. That had avenged a loss to Nasimov at the Asian Games.

Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ)Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) hung on for a 7-7 victory over Roman KIM (KGZ) at 130kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)

Asian Games bronze medalist Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) capped the tournament by fighting off fatigue and home favorite Roman KIM (KGZ) to eke out a 7-7 win in the other 130kg match.

The match between the three-time Asian medalists started with a bang, or a slap as it were. After scoring a stepout, Syzdykov was awarded two points when Kim lashed him with a sharp slap to the ear like the type seen more in sumo wrestling. Kim then spun behind for a takedown to cut Syzydkov's lead to 3-2 at the break.

Syzydkov padded the lead to 7-2 with a takedown and gut wrench, but after that, it was obvious he was running on fumes. Kim put the pressure on and scored a pair of stepouts, with a fleeing point tacked onto the second one to make it 7-5, before Syzydkov was assessed a 2-point penalty for inactivity.

Leading 7-7 on criteria, Syzydkov dropped to the mat at one point complaining of knee pain and received treatment much to the chagrin of the partisan crowd. But Kim had little left in the tank himself and was unable to muster enough energy for a final push.


Paris 2024 Qualification Matches


Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ) df. Jui Chi HUANG (TPE) by Fall, 2:28 (10-0)
Se Ung RI (PRK) df. Dahyun KIM (KOR), 3-0

Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) df. HUSIYUETU (CHN) by TF, 9-1, 3:58
Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) df. Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ) by TF, 11-2, 6:00

Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) df. Dowon LEE (KOR), 5-2

Haitao QIAN (CHN) df. Sultan EID (JOR), 7-0
Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) df. Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB), 3-2

Seungjun KIM (KOR) df. Ibrahim FALLATAH (KSA), 5-1

Seungchan LEE (KOR) df. Sota OKUMURA (JPN) by TF, 9-0, 1:36
Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) df. Roman KIM (KGZ), 7-7