#WrestleAlmaty Weight-to-Watch: Freestyle 97kg

By Eric Olanowski

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (April 1) -- Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI) headlines the ten-man freestyle 97kg bracket at next week's Asian Olympic Qualifier (April 9-11) that'll feature a field that has a Rio Olympic bronze, a world bronze, and five Asian medals.

Wrestlers have to reach the finals in Almaty to book their nation's tickets to the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Mohammadian will take the mat for the first time since his magical run to the ’20 Matteo Pellicone gold medal. During that run in Rome, the former Asian champion outscored his five opponents 41-0, while tallying victories over an Olympic champion, a U23 world champion, a world bronze medalist and a world fifth-place finisher.

Behind the headlining Iranian, other notable entries are Magomed IBRAGIMOV (UZB), Satywart KADIAN (IND), and Batzul ULZIISAIKHAN (MGL).

Ibragimov is a Rio Olympic bronze medalist and two-time Asian champion. He's looking to punch his ticket to a second consecutive Olympic Games. Ibragimov fell to Kyle SNYDER (USA) in the quarterfinals at the '19 World Championships and barely missed out on an Olympic berth with a seventh-place finish. Most recently, the 36-year-old struggled at the International Ukrainian Tournament, but before that, he was riding an 11-tournament streak where he finished top ten -- including six podium finishes.

Kadian, last year's Asian runner-up, is also entered at 97kg. The three-time Asian medalist is looking to become the fourth Indian freestyle wrestler to qualify for the Olympic Games. India has also qualified at 57kg, 65kg and 86kg. 

Ulziisaikhan rounds out the list of Olympic, world, or continental medalists who are entered at 97kg.

The last competition where Ulziisaikhan laced up his boots was the '19 World Championships. In Nur-Sultan, the '19 Asian runner-up won his opening match against Magomed MUSAEV (KGZ) but fell to eventual fifth-place finisher Alisher YERGALI (KAZ) in the quarterfinals and fell to a 15th-place finish.

Wrestling at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers kicks off on April 9-11 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, but freestyle action takes center stage on Sunday morning. You can follow all the action live on www.uww.org.

97kg Freestyle Entries 
Awusayiman HABILA (CHN)
Satywart KADIAN (IND)
Mohammadhossein MOHAMMADIAN (IRI)
Minwon SEO (KOR)
Jongku LEE (KOR)
Muhammad INAM (PAK)
Zyyamuhammet SAPAROV (TKM)
Magomed Idrisovitch IBRAGIMOV (UZB)


Olympic Veteran Orchibat Nabs Mongolia Ticket to Tokyo in Days Final Match

By Ken Marantz

ALMATY, Kazakhstan (April 10) --- Unlike everyone else who secured an Olympic berth in the women's competition at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament, ageless Burmaa OCHIRBAT (MGL) had to wait until the evening session to clinch hers. And in the final bout of the day no less.

The veteran  -- who appeared at the inaugural Olympic women's wrestling competition at Athens 2004 and will turn 39 in May -- gave Mongolia a fourth Olympic berth from the tournament in Almaty when she finished second at 76kg.

Needing a victory to clinch the silver medal in the five-woman round-robin group, Ochirbat came through with a flurry of second-period points to build up a 10-1 lead before securing a fall at 5:27 over Shakhribonu ELLIEVA (UZB).

"This will be my third Olympics," said Ochirbat, who placed 10th in Athens and eighth at the 2012 London Games. "I am 39. This is very good and I am happy going back to Mongolia."

Ochirbat finished second with a 3-1 record behind 2020 Asian silver medalist Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ), who completed all four of her matches in the afternoon and had already clinched the gold by going undefeated.

The pressure was on Ochirbat when Pooja POOJA (IND) scored a victory by fall over Seoyeon JEONG (KOR) in the preceding match to finish 2-2. Had Ochirbat lost to Ellieva and also finished 2-2, Pooja would have finished second because of her head-to-head victory over Ochirbat.

Ochirbat took nearly four years off after missing out on the Rio 2016 Olympics and had a baby, before returning to competition in April 2019. The three-time world medalist showed she still has it by finishing second at the 2020 Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix.

"I missed the Rio Olympics and even before that, I had stopped wrestling," she said. "I didn't know what to do but wrestle, so after a four-year break, I decided to come back, and now I qualified.

"I had a baby and after that, I was at home for a long time. But then I thought I should try for the Tokyo Olympics. Very recently I started training again."

It was a good day overall for the Mongolians, who now have five places at the Tokyo Olympics. The nation had previously secured a spot at 68kg at the 2019 World Championships in Nursultan.

Susaki adds to gold collection
Meanwhile, two-time world champion Yui SUSAKI (JPN), having achieved her primary goal of securing a place at the Olympics in her home country, added a bonus with another gold medal for her sprawling collection when she captured the 50kg title.

That weight class also had five entries and was conducted as a single round-robin group. In a showdown of wrestlers who had gone unbeaten in the afternoon session -- which had clinched Olympic spots for both -- Susaki had little trouble in dominating Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL).

Susaki rolled to a 10-0 technical fall in 1:49, giving her a combined time of 7:59 on the mat in four matches -- all technical falls, and without surrendering a point. While she finished off the final win with her trademark lace lock, she also scored with something a bit different for her, a front headlock roll.

"I was absolutely determined to seize this chance to qualify on my own," Susaki said of her performance. "I had the courage to be aggressive and go on the attack first, and the matches went as I wanted."

As for tossing all shutouts, Susaki said, "No matter what match it is, it was part of going for the Olympics and I stayed focused, so that was good."

For the 21-year-old from Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo where the wrestling venue for the Tokyo Olympics is located, the victory caps a long, delayed road to achieving of dream of qualifying for the chance of an Olympic gold.

"I'm really happy that I can now get down to the business of preparing for the Tokyo Olympics," she said. "Heading toward August, I will train even harder so I can win the gold medal."

In other finals, 2018 world bronze medalist Feng ZHOU (CHN) put together the kind of match that was missing in the afternoon to dominate 2019 world junior silver medalist Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) with an 8-0 victory for the 68kg gold.

Zhou, who will head to Tokyo looking to vastly improve on a 12th-place finish at the Rio 2016 Olympics, had had to come from behind to eke out a 7-5 win over Zhumanazarova in the preliminary group match.

But in the rematch, the tall Chinese came out far more aggressively and scored early with a front headlock roll to take a 2-0 lead into the second period. She padded the lead with a spin-behind takedown and gut wrench, then added an 2-point exposure off a counter.

In the 57kg final, Khongorzul BOLDSAIKHAN (MGL) held on for a 7-4 win over Anshu ANSHU (IND) that went down to the wire.

Boldsaikhan, who scored a takedown and roll for a 4-1 lead early in the second period, had the advantage on criteria when Anshu tied the score at 4-all. In the final seconds, the Mongolian scored a takedown that was unsuccessfully challenged to clinch the victory.

The two other finals went uncontested due to injury defaults. Jia LONG (CHN) took the 62kg gold over rising star Sonam SONAM (IND), while Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) was awarded the 53kg gold over Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ).

Both Sonam and Akhmetova Amanzhol suffered knee injuries in their semifinal matches, and noticably limped onto the mat to concede in the finals.

Women's wrestling results

GOLD -  Yui SUSAKI (JPN) 4-0
SILVER  - Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL) 3-1
Key Match: Yui SUSAKI (JPN) df. Namuuntsetseg TSOGT OCHIR (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:49, in Round 5

GOLD - Bolortuya BAT OCHIR (MGL) df. Tatyana AKHMETOVA AMANZHOL (KAZ) by Default
BRONZE - Meng Hsuan HSIEH (TPE) df. Hyungjoo KIM (KOR) by Default

GOLD - Khongorzul BOLDSAIKHAN (MGL) df. Anshu ANSHU (IND), 7-4
BRONZE - Shokhida AKHMEDOVA (UZB) df. Jieun UM (KOR) by Fall, 1:28 (4-0)

GOLD - Jia LONG (CHN) df. Sonam SONAM (IND) by Default
BRONZE - Tserenchimed SUKHEE (MGL) df. Ayaulym KASSYMOVA (KAZ), 4-2

GOLD - Feng ZHOU (CHN) df. Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ), 8-0
BRONZE - Nisha NISHA (IND) df.  Hyeonyeong PARK (KOR) by Fall, :44 (8-0)

GOLD -  Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) 4-0
BRONZE - Pooja POOJA (IND) 2-2|
Key match: Aiperi MEDET KYZY (KGZ) df. Burmaa OCHIRBAT (MGL) by TF, 10-0, 1:41, in Round 4