Tynybekova continues dominance of Motoki for 6th Asian gold; Feng stuns Sakurai

By Ken Marantz

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (April 14) -- Throughout a sparkling career that has made her a hero in her homeland, Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) has had a fierce rivalry with a number of Japanese wrestlers. The latest in the line has yet to find a way to break through and beat her.

Tynybekova continued her dominance of Sakura MOTOKI (JPN), using her counterattack style to maximum effect in a 9-6 victory in the women's 62kg final at the Asian Championships on Sunday in Bishkek, giving her a second straight gold and sixth of her career in front of an adoring home crowd.

"Throughout my career, I never got the chance to compete in Kyrgyzstan," Tynybekova said. "This year, when I found out the Asian Championships would be in Kyrgyzstan, I really wanted to compete in front of the home crowd. I am so happy that despite my physical condition, I could win the gold."

In the biggest upset of the tournament, Yongxin FENG (CHN) shocked three-time world champion Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) at 57kg as China came away with two of the four other golds at stake on the fourth day of competition at Bishkek Arena with Qian JIANG (CHN) prevailing at 72kg.

Ji Hyang KIM (PRK) gave DPR Korea its first gold medal in its return to the Asian Championships after a five-year absence with an impressive victory at 53kg, while Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) triumphed at 65kg to ensure that the Japanese anthem would be played at least once on the night.

Japan, with four golds overall, barely won the team title for the third straight year with 173 points, just one point ahead of China and its three champions. Mongolia finished third with 138, three points ahead of India.

Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ)Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) uses a couter lift against Sakura MOTOKI (JPN) in the 62kg final during the Asian Championships. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

Tynybekova revealed that she got seriously ill after winning the title at last month's Yasar Dogu tournament in Antalya, Turkey, and even considered pulling out of the Asian Championships, where she now has 11 total medals.

"Two weeks before this continental championships, my coach Nurbek Izabekov proposed not to wrestle here because I didn’t fully recover," the three-time world champion said. "I spent two weeks lying in bed. Despite all this, I am so happy to be able to compete successfully."

Tynybekova, who made Kyrgyz history when she became the nation's first-ever wrestling world champion in 2019, has had her share of wins and losses contending with Japanese opponents through the years. First, there was Yukako KAWAI (JPN), who defeated her in the Tokyo Olympics final, then along came Nonoka OZAKI (JPN), who beat her in the 2022 Asian final.

Motoki, the 2022 world bronze medalist at 59kg, became the next in line when she moved up to 62kg and beat out Ozaki and Kawai in qualifying for the Paris Olympics. But Sunday's loss to Tynybekova was her third loss in three meetings over a seven-month span, and this was not as close as the first two.

"I would like to say that there are no easy or tough opponents," Tynybekova said. "It all depends on my physical condition on that exact day. That’s why me and my coaches will prepare to wrestle every single wrestler in my weight class."

In their first clash, Tynybekova pulled off a late 4-1 victory in the final at last year's World Championships in Belgrade. They met again in the semifinals at the Zagreb Open in January, where Tynybekova eked out a 3-3 win on criteria.

On Sunday, it was Tynybekova who took the early lead, gaining an activity point and then scoring a takedown after throwing Motoki off balance with a snap-down to go ahead 3-0.

In the second period, Motoki had no choice but to press for a takedown, but that was walking right into Tynybekova's trap. In a typical Tynybekova scramble, she initiated a counter lift from which she would score six points while conceding two to Motoki to go up 9-2.

Motoki managed a pair of consolation takedowns in the final 15 seconds, but could not gain additional exposures.

"I lost at the World Championships, then again in Croatia, and this time I wanted to get revenge," said a sobbing Motoki, whose father appeared in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. "I got various advice from a lot of people, and I came to this tournament with confidence. But my opponent was a level better than me today."

Yongxin FENG (CHN)Yongxin FENG (CHN) celebrates after beating world champion Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN) in the 57kg final during the Asian Championships. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kostadin Andonov)

Just as Yui SUSAKI (JPN) experienced the night before, Sakurai was dealt a wake-up call at a tournament that she was using as her final competition before the Paris Olympics. The difference is that Susaki held on to win the 50kg title, while Sakurai was dealt her first defeat in an international tournament in five years when she fell 5-2 to Feng.

Feng, a bronze medalist at the Zagreb Open this year, wrestled a strategically perfect match, grabbing an early lead and then all but neutralizing Sakurai's 2-on-1 attack. It would not be until the end of the match that Sakurai could get close to creating a scoring chance.

"First of all, I believed in my skills, and secondly, in terms of all aspects of my skills and physical condition, I am better than her, so I am more confident," Feng said.

Feng seemed to catch Sakurai flat-footed when she took a shot right off the opening whistle, scoring a takedown with a low single. Before Sakurai realized what had hit her, Feng added two more points with a gut wrench for a 4-0 lead.

"After I scored points in the first period, it made me more confident," Feng said. "Then in the second, I didn't try for many points because of my [earlier] points. I was thinking about being defensive. But I didn't think about defense throughout the whole process. I still want to score more points if I have the opportunity so that I can win for sure."

It would not be until the final minute that Sakurai finally got a clear shot and was able to get in on a double-leg takedown. As Feng reached over for a counter lift, Sakurai pressed ahead for a 2-point expoure.

But time ran out before she could add to the tally, and an unsuccessful challenge looking for a second exposure gave Feng her final point.

"The performance of the Chinese team has been very good," Feng said. "In terms of training, we train so hard, should we have such results? Yeah. I will train hard next and keep doing it. When I get off the podium, everything will be zero. I will continue to work hard."

Sakurai, last October's Asian Games champion and who had won the senior Asian title in her only other appearance in 2022, acknowledged that her opponents are doing their homework, and she will have to come up with a new strategy.

"I think everyone knows my style of wrestling," the 22-year-old Sakurai said. "I have to train so that even if I get stopped, I can still find a way to score points."

Sakurai won her first world title at 55kg in 2021, then moved up to the Olympic weight of 57kg and won back-to-back world golds. Just to get to last year's World Championships, where she secured her ticket to the Paris Olympics, she had to win out in a stacked domestic field that included two-time Olympic champion Risako KINJO (JPN). Her down-to-the-wire battles with Sae NANJO (JPN) were epic.

Now she needs to rebound from the shock of her first international defeat since losing 3-2 to Batbaatar ENKHTSETSEG (MGL) at the 2019 Asian U20 Championships.

"No matter the tournament, my objective is always to win the title," Sakurai said. "When you lose, there has to be a reason for the loss. I will look at this as I'm glad it wasn't the Olympics, and I will practice hard up to August."

Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN)Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) won the 65kg final via fall. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Kostadin Andonov)

In the 65kg final, Yoshitake beat Enkhjin TUVSHINJARGAL (MGL) at her own game, winning by fall to improve on her silver medal from a year ago in Astana.

After gaining an activity point, Yoshitake was under pressure from Tuvshinjargal, but she used it to unleash a headlock throw late in the first period to go ahead 3-0.

In the second period, Tuvshinjargal shot in on the legs, and Yoshitake slipped in underhooks, then pancaked the Mongolian to her back for the fall in 3:05.

Yoshitake, a winner in Antalya last month, became the third wrestler from Nippon Sports Science University to win a gold in Bishkek, following Kento YUMIYA (JPN) and Kota TAKAHASHI (JPN) in freestyle.

Ji Hyang KIM (PRK)Ji Hyang KIM (PRK) celebrates after beating ANJU (IND) in the 53kg final at the Asian Championships. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

At 53kg, Kim capped a day of dominance with a quick 10-0 victory in the final over ANJU (IND), adding the senior gold to her Asian cadet title from 2019.

Kim shot right off the whistle for a low single which she converted into a takedown, then added an exposure. Back on their feet, she made it 8-0 with a shrug-by takedown and exposure, then finished the match with another shrug-by, all in just over a minute.

Kim won all four of her matches by either fall or technical fall in a weight class that was supposed to feature reigning world champion Akari FUJINAMI (JPN), but who withdrew due to an elbow injury. The DPR Korea has entered a different wrestler in the Asian Olympic Qualifier that follows this event on April 19-21 in the same venue.

Qian JIANG (CHN)Qian JIANG (CHN) defeated HARSHITA (IND) in the 76kg final. (Photo: United World Wrestling / Amirreza Aliasgari)

In the final bout of the night and the women's competition, China's Jiang, the 2019 Asian U20 champion at 76kg, scored a takedown in each period in defeating world U20 bronze medalist HARSHITA (IND) 5-2 for the 72kg gold.

Jiang took a 3-0 lead in the first period with a stepout and a snap-down takedown. In the second period, Harshita gained a 2-point exposure countering a takedown attempt. But Jiang came back with a spin-behind takedown to clinch the victory.

Mongolia claims 3 bronzes amid fall-fest

Of the 10 bronze-medal matches, only one went the distance, and Mongolia came away with three via falls by Otgontuya CHINBOLD (MGL) at 53kg, Tserenchimed SUKHEE (MGL) at 62kg and Bolortungalag ZORIGT (MGL) at 72kg, while India and Kazakhstan had two each.

Not everything went the Mongolians' way -- Gantuya ENKHBAT (MGL) was on the losing end of a technical fall at 57kg.

Chinbold, the silver medalist last year at 55kg, used a hip throw to send Thi My Trang NGUYEN (VIE) directly to her back and finish her off with a fall in 1:42.

Sukhee, a 2015 world silver medalist, took home her fourth Asian bronze and first in five years when, after a second takedown against Subeen JO (KOR), she trapped her opponent's leg against her chest, then pressed down from above for a pin in 2:42.

Zorigt took the longest of three, pancaking Nurzat NURTAEVA (KGZ), the Asian Games silver medalist at 68kg, in the second period to end the match in 3:49 with a 7-0 lead.

In the only match that went the full six minutes, Chun LEI (CHN) denied Sri Lanka its first-ever senior Asian medal when she scored a first-period takedown off a fireman's carry, then held on for a 2-0 victory over impressive teenager Nethmi AHINSA (SRI) at 53kg.

Ahinsa was the first-ever Sri Lankan woman to make it to a bronze-medal match, and just the third wrestler overall. Lei was the 2018 champion at 50kg.

India's bronzes came from MANISHA (IND), who recorded a fall in 1:30 at 62kg over Arian CARPIO (PHI) after a 4-point takedown, and ANTIM (IND) by forfeit from Soobin KIM (KOR), who suffered a knee injury in her opening match at 65kg in the afternoon session.

For Kazakhstan, Laura ALMAGANBETOVA (KAZ) needed just 55 seconds to throw Sezim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) to her back with a 4-point takedown and won by fall at 57kg, while Anastassiya PANASSOVICH (KAZ) scored five takedowns in a 10-0 technical fall over Ozoda ZARIPBOEVA (UZB).

Yaru WU (CHN) won China's second bronze of the night by pinning Irina KAZYULINA (KAZ) at 65kg. Wu had an 8-0 lead after a takedown and three tilts when Kazyulina came back with a takedown. But Kazyulina got careless trying for a reverse cradle, and Wu clamped down for a fall at 1:49.

Hyon Ju YUN (PRK) won the other bronze at 57kg when she broke open a close match with Mongolia's Enkhbat by scoring 10 points in the second period for a 12-1 win with five seconds left in the match.


Day 4 Results

Women's Wrestling

53kg (15 entries)
GOLD: Ji Hyang KIM (PRK) df. ANJU (IND) by TF, 10-0, 1:06

BRONZE: Otgontuya CHINBOLD (MGL) df. Thi My Trang NGUYEN (VIE) by Fall, 1:42 (4-0)
BRONZE: Chun LEI (CHN) df. Nethmi PORUTHOTAGE (SRI), 2-0

57kg (9 entries)
GOLD: Yongxin FENG (CHN) df. Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN), 5-2

BRONZE: Laura ALMAGANBETOVA (KAZ) df. Sezim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) by Fall, :55 (4-0)
BRONZE: Hyon Ju YUN (PRK) df. Gantuya ENKHBAT (MGL) by TF, 12-1, 5:55

62kg (10 entries)
GOLD: Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) df. Sakura MOTOKI (JPN), 9-6

BRONZE: Tserenchimed SUKHEE (MGL) df. Subeen JO (KOR) by Fall, 2:42 (4-0)
BRONZE: MANISHA (IND) df. Arian CARPIO (PHI) df. by Fall, 1:30 (5-0)

65kg (9 entries)
GOLD: Mahiro YOSHITAKE (JPN) df. Enkhjin TUVSHINJARGAL (MGL) by Fall, 4:03 (7-0)

BRONZE: ANTIM (IND) df. Soobin KIM (KOR) by inj. def.
BRONZE: Yaru WU (CHN) df. Irina KAZYULINA (KAZ) by Fall, 1:49 (10-2)

72kg (9 entries)

BRONZE: Bolortungalag ZORIGT (MGL) df. Nurzat NURTAEVA (KGZ) by Fall, 3:49 (7-0)
BRONZE: Anastassiya PANASSOVICH (KAZ) df. Ozoda ZARIPBOEVA (UZB) by TF, 10-0, 4:51

#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