#wrestlebishkek, #WrestleParis

Top Asian stars battle for Paris 2024 spots at Olympic qualifier

By Vinay Siwach

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (April 18) -- Japan is the only nation from Asia to earn all six quotas in any style but other nations will be hoping to increase their 2024 Paris Olympic qualification as the Asian OG Qualifier begins in Bishkek from April 19.

The competition will offer 36 quotas in three styles, 12 in each style. The winner of the semifinals in each Olympic weight class will earn a Paris Olympic quota for their countries. There will be no gold and bronze-medal bouts as well as no repechage.

At the World Championships, wrestlers from Asia were able to win 32 out of the 90 available quotas with 12 each in Greco-Roman and Women's Wrestling. Freestyle wrestlers, however, could only win eight quotas. That being the case, the qualifiers in Bishkek have received more entries in Freestyle than the other two.

Here's a brief preview of each Olympic weight class:

57kg: Asian champion AMAN (IND) will be looking to earn a spot for India but will face a big challenge from Gulomjon ABDULLAEV (UZB) who will look to return to the Olympics. As Aman is seeded number two and Abdullaev is three, both should clash in the semifinal if the seeds hold.

Asian Games silver medalist Chong Song HAN (PRK) will have the responsibility of winning the quota for the DPR Korea. Iran is banking on Ahmad JAVAN (IRI) while Kyrgyzstan has U23 Asian champion Bekzat ALMAZ UULU (KGZ). Yerassyl MUKHTARULY (KAZ), who was second to Almaz Uulu at the U23 event, will be in for Kazakhstan.

65kg: With only Iran qualifying from the World Championships, a few strong countries will battle it out for the two spots at 65kg. Local star Ernazar AKMATALIEV (KGZ), who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with a dramatic pin over Ilyas BELBULATOV (UZB), will hope to repeat that success.

Tokyo Olympic champion Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) failed to win the domestic competition in Japan and lost his right to represent Japan at the qualifiers and the Olympics. Kotaro KIYOOKA (JPN), who defeated Otoguro in the final in Japan, will have the responsibility of earning the qualification for Japan.

Asian Championships silver medalist Tulga TUMUR OCHIR (MGL) lost in the national trials to Tsogbadrakh TSEVEENSUREN (MGL) who will be in Bishkek. Asian Games bronze medalist Kwang Jin KIM (PRK) is entered for the DPR Korea.

Former U20 world champion Umidjon JALOLOV (UZB) will be one of the favorites to win the quota as well along with U20 Asian champion Abdulmazhid KUDIEV (TJK) who is seeded number one.

74kg: If the seeds hold, seed number two Yones EMAMI (IRI) likely gets number three Nurkozha KAIPANOV (KAZ) in the semifinals for the Paris quota. Former Asian champion Bekzod ABDURAKHMONOV (UZB) is unseeded for the tournament and drawn at random. 

Feng LU (CHN) is seeded number one in the bracket and also has Asian Games bronze medalist Orozbek TOKTOMAMBETOV (KGZ) in the mix. Former Asian Championships Byungmin GONG (KOR) will look to earn one for Korea.

86kg: Magomed SHARIPOV (BRN) will look to earn the second Paris Olympic quota after Akhmed TAZHUDINOV (BRN). Sharipov will be seeded number one for the tournament and can face Tokyo Olympic fifth-placer Deepak PUNIA (IND) for a place in Paris.

Zushen LIN (CHN) is the number two seed for the tournament with Bat Erdene BYAMBASUREN (MGL) taking the third spot. But it will be Hayato ISHIGURO (JPN) who will be the biggest threat to all the competitors.

97kg: It won't be the 92kg world champion Aitmukhan RIZABEK (KAZ) for Kazakhstan at 97kg in the qualifiers. He won a silver medal at the Asian Championships but Kazakhstan is going ahead with Alisher YERGALI (KAZ), who also gets the top seed.

His seed avoids a battle with Amirali AZARPIRA (IRI) who defeated Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the Zagreb Open at the beginning of the year. Veteran and Rio 2016 bronze medalist Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB) is seeded third and battle with Azarpira for the spot in Paris looks unavoidable.

Fourth seed and former Asian silver medalist Awusayiman HABILA (CHN) will fancy his chances as well. 20-year-old Arash YOSHIDA (JPN), who finished a commendable fifth at last year's World Championships at 92kg, can upend all the established wrestlers.

125kg: Tokyo Olympians Zhiwei DENG (CHN) and Aiaal LAZAREV (KGZ) will avoid each other in the tournament and hope to earn Olympic quotas for their respective nations. Former world silver medalist Lkhagvagerel MUNKHTUR (MGL) will be one of the favorites to win the quota along with Yusup BATIRMURZAEV (KAZ) and former age-group star Khasanboy RAKHIMOV (UZB).

Vinesh PHOGAT (IND)Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) will compete at 50kg at the Asian OG Qualifier. (Photo: United World Wrestling)

Women’s Wrestling

50kg: With three out of five quotas won by Asian countries at the World Championships, the 50kg weight class is wide open. The biggest surprise is 53kg world bronze medalist and Tokyo Olympian VINESH (IND) moving down to 50kg in a bid to earn the quota for India.

Vinesh moved up from 50kg to 53kg in 2019 and won the world bronze medal to earn a Tokyo Olympics spot. But ANTIM (IND) won with a 53kg quota for the Paris Olympics at the World Championships, Vinesh moved to 50kg to remain in contention for Paris. 

The biggest challenge for the Indian star will be Asian Games silver medalist Son Hyang KIM (PRK) who is one of the strongest 50kg wrestlers. Asian Games bronze medalist Aktenge KEUNIMJAEVA (UZB) is also in the mix.

53kg: Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Qianyu PANG (CHN) is the biggest name at 53kg with the Paris 2024 quota on line. 2022 world silver medalist Khulan BATKHUYAG (MGL) is also entered as she replaces Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Bortulya BAT OCHIR (MGL).

57kg: Kexin HONG (CHN) won a bronze medal at the Asian Games and began this year with a big win over Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) at the Zagreb Open. She will be the top seed in the tournament. She will avoid a clash with Asian Games silver medalist In Sun JONG (PRK) who is seeded third. Jong defeated Hong 4-2 in the semifinals in Hangzhou.

Tokyo Olympian ANSHU (IND) returns to international competition since last year's Asian Championships and will look to win a 57kg quota for India. Bolortuya KHURELKHUU (MGL) and former Asia silver medalist Laylokhon SOBIROVA (UZB) are also in the mix.

62kg: Asian Games champion Hyon Gyong MUN (PRK) will be the best bet for the DPR Korea to win a quota at 62kg. She will unlikely to face any challenges unless Tokyo Olympian Jia LONG (CHN) and former world champs Orkhon PUREVDORJ (MGL) are drawn on her side. 

68kg: With only seven wrestlers entered at 68kg, the draw will be Nelson style and the wrestlers will be divided into two groups of four and three. The top two wrestlers from each wrestler will reach the semifinal. The top wrestler in Group A will face second-placed wrestlers in Group B.

Feng ZHOU (CHN) will be in Group A as the top seed and will avoid Yelena SHALYGINA (KAZ) who is number two. Former world champion Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) is seeded number three and likely to be placed in Group B. 

That leaves former Asian Championships silver medalist NISHA (IND) and Sol Gum PAK (PRK) to be drawn at random in the bracket.

76kg: Another weight class with seven wrestlers and two groups. Asian Games bronze medalist and silver medalist at the Zagreb Open this year Juan WANG (CHN) takes the top spot in the seeding. But two-time world silver medalist at 72kg Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) has to be the favorite to win one of the two spots available at 76kg.

U23 world champion REETIKA (IND) and Davaanasan ENKH AMAR (MGL) also can win the Paris spots.

Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN)Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN) and Abror ATABAEV (UZB) will be wrestling at 67kg. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kadir Caliskan)


60kg: The Greco-Roman 60kg was the only weight class at the World Championships that saw all five qualifications from one continent. With Kyrgyzstan, Japan, China, Uzbekistan and Iran qualified, two more Asian countries have a chance to win the quota for Paris.

A bronze medalist at the 2022 World Championships Aidos SULTANGALI (KAZ) will have a good chance to put Kazakhstan in for the Paris 2024 along with India represented by U20 World Championships silver medalist SUMIT (IND).

Former two-time Asian silver medalist and Asian Games bronze medalist Se Ung RI (PRK) will be an unseeded wrestler in the bracket with Aslamdzhon AZIZOV (TJK) taking the top seed.

67kg: A few stars will have to return empty-handed from Bishkek as the 67kg bracket draws some big names. Amantur ISMAILOV (KGZ) will be the top seed and Rovshen ATDAYEV (TKM) the second but it is Kyotaro SOGABE (JPN), HUSIYUETU (CHN), Meiirzhan SHERMAKHANBET (KAZ), Hansu RYU (KOR), Yong Jin RO (PRK) and Abror ATABAEV (UZB) who look to the top names to earn the two spots for Paris.

Sogabe was involved in a thrilling bout against Mohammadreza GERAEI (IRI) which he lost. He would be keen to earn the spot he missed in Belgrade. However, for that, he will have to go through a strong bracket. Challenging him will be Ryu, who is looking to enter his fourth Olympics. Asian Games silver medalist Shermakhanbet is another big threat to all other competitors.

Former U17 world champiom Atabaev along with Husiyuetu and Ro can upset the established stars in Bishkek.

77kg: Asian Games silver medalist Amin KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) will have the task of earning a Paris 2024 quota for Iran. He will be the favorite as he lost only to Akzhol MAKHMUDOV (KGZ) at the Games. 

He defeated Rui LIU (CHN), who is entered, 1-1 at the Asian Games. Liu earlier defeated VIKAS (IND) 9-1. This leaves top seed Demeu ZHADRAYEV (KAZ) as the other favorite to secure a place. 

87kg: Asian Games champion Jalgasbay BERDIMURATOV (UZB) and Alireza MOHMADIPIANI (IRI) are seeded number two and three for the qualifiers which means only one of Uzbekistan and Iran will earn a quota for Paris 2024. Berdimuratov reached the quarterfinals at the World Championships while Mohmadipiani moved to 87kg at the start of this year.

A win for Mohmadipiani and Kaviyaninejad at 77kg will make Iran the first time to qualify all six weights in Greco-Roman.

Former Asian champion Sunil KUMAR (IND) and Soh SAKABE (JPN) will also be in the bracket.

97kg: Veteran Rustam ASSAKALOV (UZB), the top seed, is looking to qualify for yet another Olympics. He will have to go through a bracket that has Olzhas SYRLYBAY (KAZ) and Uzur DZHUZUPBEKOV (KGZ) as the biggest challengers.

Yiming LI (CHN) and NITESH (IND) will be the dark horses in this weight class.

130kg: Seungchan LEE (KOR), who finished 12th at the World Championships, will be seeded number one at 130kg. Iran and China, the two biggest nations in Greco-Roman in Asia, have already won the quotas.

Alimkhan SYZDYKOV (KAZ) and Roman KIM (KGZ) will have the best chance to earn the spot for Paris with NAVEEN (IND) and Temurbek NASIMOV (UZB) also in the fray if the bracket plans out well for them.

#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