Susaki and Higuchi Poised to Returned to Japan's Starting Lineup

By Eric Olanowski

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (March 31) -- Japanese stars Yui SUSAKI (JPN) and Rei HIGUCHI (JPN) are poised to make their return to the starting lineup at next week's Asian Olympic Qualifier (April 9-11).

Susaki will represent Japan at 50kg for the first time since the '19 Women’s Wrestling World Cup, where she went 2-0 and scored wins over Yanan SUN (CHN) and Whitney CONDER (USA). Higuchi, on the other hand, will make his 57kg debut in Japan's lineup for the first time since winning a silver medal at the '16 Olympic Games. 

Susaki, the two-time world champion, fell to Yuki IRIE (JPN) in a ’19 playoff and lost her starting spot on Japan’s ’19 world championship team. But, in surprising fashion, Irie dropped a barn-burning quarterfinal-match in Nur-Sultan to Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sun and squandered the opportunity to qualify the Tokyo Games host nation at 50kg. This left the door open for Susaki to make a last-ditch effort to reclaim her starting spot, and hopefully, compete at the Olympic Games in her home country.

Susaki regained her starting spot and the right to represent Japan at the Asian Olympic Qualifier by winning gold at the ’19 December All-Japan Championships.

Meanwhile, Higuchi will return to international competition at 57kg for the first time since the '16 Rio Olympic Games. The energetic fan-favorite is best known for his unbelievable showing in Rio where he put on an absolute show en route to a surprising run to the finals. Higuchi won four matches in Brazil before ultimately falling to Vladimer KHINCHEGASHVILI (GEO) in the gold medal match.

Since that magical run in Rio, Higuchi has competed at 61kg and 65kg. But after falling to Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) in a Japan wrestle-off, Higuchi was forced to move back down to 57kg to keep a dream alive of improving his silver to Olympic gold. He defeated ’17 world champion Yuki TAKAHASHI at the All Japan Championships and earned his right to represent Japan at 57kg.

The Asian Olympic Qualifiers kicks off on April 9-11 in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Greco-Roman action starts on Friday, followed by women's wrestling on Saturday, and freestyle closes out the competition on Sunday. 

50kg Women's Wrestling Entries
YeoJin KIM (KOR)
Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL)

57kg Freestyle Entries
Minghu LIU (CHN)
Ahmed Jawad Kadhim AL ZAIDAWI (IRQ)
Sunggwon KIM (KOR)
Hyeonsik SONG (KOR)
Tuvshintulga TUMENBILEG (MGL)
Muhammad BILAL (PAK)
Allen Mitch ARCILLA (PHI)
Rozgeldi SEYIDOV (TKM)


11 Reigning Champs Looking to Reclaim Asian Supremacy

By Eric Olanowski

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (April 12) – Eleven gold medalists from last year’s Asian Championships return to the mat this week in Almaty with hopes of defending their New Delhi continental crowns from a year ago. Greco-Roman welcomes six returning champions, while a trio of women’s wrestlers and a pair of freestyle champs are searching for back-to-back podium-topping finishes.

Iran’s loaded Greco-Roman squad is highlighted by ’20 Asian champions Poya Soulat DAD MARZ (IRI), Amin Yavar KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI) and Mahdi Asgar EBRAHIMI (IRI). They’ll wrestle at 55kg, 72kg and 82kg, respectively.

The other three returning Greco-Roman champs making the trip to Kazakhstan are Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB), Tamerlan SHADUKAYEV (KAZ) and Kumar SUNIL (IND). Tasmuradov, a Rio Olympic bronze medalist, is not only looking to defend his '20 title, but he’s looking for a sixth overall Asian gold medal. He’ll wrestle at 63kg. Last year’s 77kg and 130kg champs, respectively, Shadukayev and Sunil, will compete at their title-winning weights from ’20.

Japan’s women’s team claimed five of the ten golds last year, but after contract tracing removed the defending team champions from the competition, women’s wrestling welcomes the trio of reigning champions Pinki PINKI (IND), Sarita SARITA (IND) and Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ).

Pinki is entered at 55kg. Her biggest threat to repeating is her ’20 finals opponent Dulguun MUNKHBOLD BOLORMAA (MGL). Sarita and Bakbergenova are the lone returning medalists at 59kg and 72kg, respectively.

In freestyle, lightweight stars Kumar RAVI (IND) and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) are looking to claim a second consecutive continental crown. 

Returning champ Ravi is entered at 57kg – the same weight where he claimed his ’19 world bronze. 

Otoguro will share the 65kg bracket with his ’20 Asian finals opponent Bajrang BAJRANG (IND) and ’19 world silver medalist Daulet NIYAZBEKOV (KAZ).

Wrestling begins on Tuesday (April 13-18) at 11:00 (local time) with Greco-Roman action. Women's wrestling takes center stage on Thursday while freestyle action closes out the tournament beginning on Friday.

Returning Champs by Style:
57kg - Kumar RAVI (IND)
65kg - Takuto OTOGURO (JPN)

50kg - Poya Soulat DAD MARZ (IRI)
63kg - Elmurat TASMURADOV (UZB)
72kg - Amin Yavar KAVIYANINEJAD (IRI)
77kg - Tamerlan SHADUKAYEV (KAZ)
82kg - Mahdi Asgar EBRAHIMI (IRI)
87kg - Kumar SUNIL (IND)

Women’s Wrestling
55kg - Pinki PINKI (IND)
59kg - Sarita SARITA (IND)
72kg - Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ)