（By Ken Marantz）
While Yuki TAKAHASHI safely navigated the waters to a second national title, fellow world champions Yui SUSAKI and Kenichiro FUMITA saw their bids scuttled on familiar rocks.
Takahashi, coming off an historic victory at the world championships this summer in Paris, overwhelmed collegiate champion Toshihiro HASEGAWA, 12-4, in the final of the freestyle 57kg class on the last day of the four-day All Japan championships at Tokyo’s Komazawa Gym.
In a rematch of last year’s final in which Takahashi won his first national title, he spotted Hasegawa four points in the first period, then calmly reeled off successive points in the second to claim the victory.
“There was still three minutes, so there was no reason to panic,” Takahashi said of giving up the early lead. “I thought just build up points one at at time, and I felt I had some leeway.”
Takahashi, who became Japan’s first freestyle gold medalist at a world championships since 1981, was further rewarded for his efforts with the Emperor’s Cup as the most outstanding wrestler.
Susaki, who had been virtually unbeatable over the past two years as she made the jump from three-time world cadet champion directly to senior gold medalist, was dealt the most surprising loss of the tournament, falling by technical fall to Yuki IRIE in the semifinals of the women’s 50kg division.
Prior to the tournament, there was great anticipation of a showdown between Susaki and Rio Olympic champion Eri TOSAKA, who had returned to competition in September following foot surgery.
But Tosaka, who suffered left knee and ankle injuries during training in October, withdrew from the tourney as a precaution after winning her quarterfinal match. That the final would also be missing Susaki seemed inconceivable.
Irie, however, had not come out of nowhere. Two years ago, when Susaki was 16, the two met in the All Japan final, and Irie scored a 10-0 technical fall victory for her first and, until Saturday, only national title.
On Saturday, Irie fended off everything Susaki threw at her, and scored with a pair of low single-leg attacks. With time running out, Susaki became desparate and gave up points that gave Irie another 10-0 technical fall, with the end coming at 5:48.
“Without being concerned about winning or losing, I thought that if I did what I needed to do, the result would come,” Irie said. “I stayed focused on that.”
Susaki was left in tears. “I didn’t train hard enough,” she said. “I believed I could win, but she was better than me. I couldn’t do my style of wrestling. It was the same way that I lost two years ago.”
Irie found the going tougher in the final, when she had to hold off a late surge by world under-23 champion Miho IGARASHI to emerge with a 5-4 victory.
“I had intended to stay on the attack up to the end, but at times I got defensive, and it put me in a dangerous situation,” Irie said.
Like Susaki, Fumita had been on quite a roll. And like Takahashi, he had ended a long Japanese drought at the world championships, becoming the nation’s first Greco-Roman champion since 1983 with a victory at 59kg.
The weight class, now 60kg, might be new, but it included a old rival in Rio Olympic silver medalist and training partner Shinobu OTA. Fumita, a student at Nippon Sports Science University, beat Ota last year at the All Japan and again at the Meiji Cup to earn his ticket to Paris.
On Saturday, Ota turned the tables, scoring a 2-point throw with :20 left for a 5-4 victory to regain the national title he first won in 2015.
“It took a long time to get back here,” Ota said. “Over these two years, there were a lot of tough memories. From now, I can consider the 60kg weight class mine and I’ll work hard to keep it.”
In other action, world and Olympic champion Sara DOSHO ran her winning streak of national titles to seven with a victory by fall in the women’s 68kg final over Mai HAYAKAWA. Dosho turned Hayakawa onto her back for a 10-0 lead, then completed the fall in 1:44.
Risako KAWAI, also a world and Olympic gold medalist, needed to win only one match to take the women’s 62kg title, and she did it with a 10-0 technical fall in 3:47 over Yurika ITO for her third straight national title. Kawai, with a bye into the semifinals, advanced to the final when her opponent defaulted.
Teenager Haruna OKUNO, already a world senior champion, added her first national title when she edged Yu MIYAHARA 2-0 in the women’s 53kg final.
Okuno won the world gold at 55kg, but moved down as that was not among the six designated weight classes for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Miyu MUKAIDA, the world silver medalist at 53kg, moved up to 55kg and captured her second national title with a 4-2 victory over Saki IGARASHI.
Kawai’s younger sister Yukako earned her first national crown by beating world under-23 champion Yuzuru KUMANO, 3-2, in the 59kg final.
That made the Kawai sisters the first to win titles at the same All Japan championships since Chiharu and Kaori ICHO in 2007.
“She [Yukako] had always said let’s win titles together,” Risako Kawai said. “She won hers first, and I had to follow. I was a bit nervous, but I’m glad I could follow up.”
There were other families celebrating success during the tournament, which was extended to four days for the first time to adopt the new UWW format of separating premilinary rounds and finals staged over two days.
Daichi TAKATANI captured his first national with a victory in freestyle 65kg, a day after older brother Sosuke TAKATANI, winner of six consecutive titles at freestyle 74kg, secured No. 7 after moving up to 79kg.
That made the two the first brothers to earn gold medals together since 2011, when Ryutaro MATSUMOTO won in Greco-Roman and sibling Atsushi became a freestyle champion.
Sosuke Takatani showed he could handle the extra weight—a prerequisite for his eventual jump to the Olympic weight of 86kg—by scoring a 10-0 technical fall with one second left in the final against collegian Tsubasa ASAI.
After a grueling path that included 13-11 and 12-7 victories, Daichi Takatani was not to be denied in the final and forged out a solid 11-2 win that relegated Kei YONEZAWA to the silver medal for the second straight year.
Yuhi FUJINAMI, the world bronze medalist at 70kg, succeeded Sosuke Takatani as 74kg champion by beating Ken HOSAKA by fall in 1:53 in the final.
“My body is still light [for 74kg],” said Fujinami, who ousted last year’s 70kg champion Momojiro NAKAMURA by technical fall in the semifinals.
“Even if I win at 74kg in Japan, the world level is very high. Right now my ability is not enough, my strength is not enough. I’ll work hard to be competitive on that level.”
In the women’s upper weights, twin high schoolers Naruha and Yasuha MATSUYUKI established themselves as prospects for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by coming away with gold and silver medals, respectively. (Older brother Taisei won a freestyle 86kg bronze).
Naruha, a world under-23 silver medalist, beat her sister to a national title by beating Masako FURUICHI, 6-1, in the 72kg final. World under-23 champion Yasuha pushed world bronze medalist Hiroe SUZUKI to the limit at 76kg but lost 2-0.
The increase in weight classes from eight to 10 lifted the chances for former champions to regain titles, and for newcomers to win their first.
The other first-time champions were Kazuya KOYANAGI (61kg), Shota SHIRAI (86kg) and Takashi ISHIGURO (92kg) in freestyle; Takayuki INOGUCHI (63kg), Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA (67kg) and Masato SUMI (87kg) in Greco-Roman; and Ayana GEMPEI (65kg) among the women.
Inoguchi’s rise to national champion is particularly noteworthy, as the 21-year-old never made it past the quarterfinals of a major tournament while in high school. He won a 9-7 thriller over Ryo MATSUI for the gold.
Shirai won his title with a 7-1 victory over Masao MATSUSAKA, reversing the outcome of the 2016 final.
Arguably the most dominant performance was turned in by Arata SONODA as he powered to a fourth straight title in Greco-Roman 130kg. After posting technical fall victories in :28 and :31, Sonoda needed just 1:48 to defeat Masahiro TANITA by 8-0 technical fall in the final.
The Sonoda family, however, was denied a golden double when younger brother Taira was dealt a 3-2 loss in the freestyle 97kg final by Takeshi YAMAGUCHI, who picked up his fifth career title and first in two years.
National Greco-Roman team members Shohei YABIKU (77kg) and Yuya MAETA (82kg) both won their third straight titles.
Emperor’s Cup: Yuki TAKAHASHI, freestyle 57kg
Freestyle MVP: Yuhi FUJINAMI, 74kg
Greco-Roman MVP: Shinobu OTA, 60kg
Women MVP: Yuki IRIE, 50kg
57kg (23 entries)
Final: Yuki TAKAHASHI def. Toshihiro HASEGAWA, 12-4
(Takahashi wins 2nd consecutive title; 2nd overall)
Bronze Medals: Kaiki YAMAGUCHI and Yasuhiro MORITA
Semifinal: Takahashi def. Yamaguchi, 4-0
Semifinal: Hasegawa def. Morita by Fall, 1:19
61 kg (15 entries)
Final: Kazuya KOYANAGI def. Shingo ARIMOTO by TF, 13-0, 3:26
(Koyanagi wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Takuya FUNAKI and Yudai FUJITA
Semifinal: Koyanagi def. Funaki by TF, 12-0, 2:58
Semifinal: Arimoto def. Fujita, 6-4
65kg (22 entries)
Final: Daichi TAKATANI def. Kei YONEZAWA, 11-2
(Takatani wins 1st title)
Bronze Medals: Shoya SHIMAE and Kiryu KINJO
Semifinal: Takatani def. Shimae by Fall, 2:31
Semifinal: Yonezawa def. Kinjo by TF, 10-0, 3:29
70 kg (23 entries)
Final: Keisuke OTOGURO def. Kirin KINOSHITA, 6-2
(Otoguro wins 2nd title, 1st in two years)
Bronze medals: Ryo IZUTSU and Yuto MIWA
Semifinal: Kinoshita def. Izutsu by TF, 10-0, 1:52
Semifinal: Otoguro def. Miwa by TF, 10-0, 1:47
74kg (14 entries)
Final: Yuhi FUJINAMI def. Ken HOSAKA by Fall, 1:53
(Fujinami wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Momojiro NAKAMURA and Mao OKUI
Semifinal: Fujinami def. Nakamura by TF, 10-0, 1:48
Semifinal: Hosaka def. Okui, 4-1
79kg (11 entries)
Final: Sosuke TAKATANI def. Tsubasa ASAI by TF, 10-0, 5:59
(Takatani wins 7th consecutive title; 7th overall)
Bronze medals: Yuta ABE and Hayato ISHIGURO
Semifinal: Takatani def. Abe by TF, 12-2, 1:28
Semifinal: Asai def. Ishiguro, 8-0
86kg (8 entries)
Final: Shota SHIRAI def. Masao MATSUSAKA, 7-1
(Shirai wins 1st title)
Bronze Medals: Taisei MATSUYUKI and Takahiro MURAYAMA
Semifinal: Matsusaka def. Matsuyuki, 7-0
Semifinal: Shirai def. Murayama, 5-2
92 kg (13 entries)
Final: Takashi ISHIGURO def. Seiji SUZUKI, 4-2
(Ishiguro wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Masayoshi SAKURABA and Keiwan YOSHIDA
Semifinal: Ishiguro def. Sakuraba, 6-0
Semifinal: Suzuki def. Yoshida, 12-4
97 kg (13 entries)
Final: Takeshi YAMAGUCHI def. Taira SONODA, 3-2
(Yamaguchi wins 5th title, 1st in two years)
Bronze medals: Naoya AKAGUMA and Hiroto NINOMIYA
Semifinal: Yamaguchi def. Akaguma, 4-0
Semifinal: Sonoda def. Ninomiya, 6-1
125 kg (8 entries)
Final: Nobuyoshi ARAKIDA def. Taiki YAMAMOTO, 6-1
(Arakida wins 6th title, 1st in three years)
Bronze medals: Katsutoshi KANAZAWA and Tetsuya TANAKA
Semifinal: Yamamoto def. Kanazawa by Fall, 3:29
Semifinal: Arakida def. Tanaka, 2-1
55 kg (13 entries)
Final: Shota TANOKURA def. Shota OGAWA by TF, 8-0, 4:55
(Tanokura wins 3rd title, 1st in four years)
Bronze medals: Hiromu KATAGIRI and Tomoya MARUYAMA
Semifinal: Tanokura def. Katagiri by TF, 9-0, 4:50
Semifinal: Ogawa def. Maruyama, 7-4
60kg (11 entries)
Final: Shinobu OTA def. Kenichiro FUMITA, 5-4
(Ota wins 2nd title, 1st in two years)
Bronze Medals: Kiyoshi KAWAGUCHI and Hayanobu SHIMIZU
Semifinal: Fumita def. Kawaguchi by TF, 11-0, 1:49
Semifinal: Ota def. Shimizu, 5-2
63 kg (10 entries)
Final: Takayuki INOGUCHI def. Ryo MATSUI, 9-7
(Inoguchi wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Masashiro KAGEYAMA and Mitsunaga OYAMA
Semifinal: Inoguchi def. Kageyama by Fall, 1:51
Semifinal: Matsui def. Oyama by Fall, 1:56
67kg (15 entries)
Final: Tsuchika SHIMOYAMADA def. Katsuyoshi KAWASE, 10-5
(Shimoyamada wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Shogo TAKAHASHI and Taiki KOBAYASHI
Semifinal: Shimoyamada def. Takahashi by TF, 9-1, 5:56
Semifinal: Kawase def. Kobayashi, 6-2
72kg (19 entries)
Final: Tomohiro INOUE def. Kazuhiro HANAYAMA, 7-3
(Inoue wins 4th title, 1st in two years)
Bronze medals: Muuto SAWADA and Takahiro YAMAMOTO
Semifinal: Inoue def. Sawada by TF, 9-0, 3:58
Semifinal: Hanayama def. Yamamoto, 15-7
77kg (15 entries)
Final: Shohei YABIKU def. Takeshi IZUMI, 4-0
(Nara wins 3rd consecutive title; 3rd overall)
Bronze Medals: Kenryu KUZUYA and Ryosho KAMEI
Semifinal: Yabiku def. Kuzuya by TF, 10-2, 1:17
Semifinal: Izumi def. Kamei by TF, 8-0, 2:30
82kg (16 entries)
Final: Yuya MAETA def. Yuya OKAJIMA, 6-1
(Maeta wins 3rd consecutive title; 3rd overall)
Bronze Medals: Tatsuya FUJII and Nobuaki TESHIGAWARA
Semifinal: Maeta def. Fujii by TF, 12-3, 5:40
Semifinal: Okajima def. Teshigawara, 4-0
87kg (12 entries)
Final: Masato SUMI def. Taichi OKA, 2-1
(Sumi wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Atsushi MATSUMOTO and Kanta SHIOKAWA
Semifinal: Oka def. Matsumoto by TF, 9-0, 2:28
Semifinal: Sumi def. Shiokawa by TF, 10-0, 2:32
97 kg (13 entries)
Final: Yuta NARA def. Masaaki SHIKIYA, 6-3
(Nara wins 2nd consecutive title; 2nd overall)
Bronze medals: Yukihito YAMADA and Masayuki AMANO
Semifinal: Nara def. Yamada by TF, 10-0, :46
Semifinal: Shikiya def. Amano, 9-8
130kg (13 entries)
Final: Arata SONODA def. Masahiro TANITA by TF, 8-0, 1:49
(Sonoda wins 4th consecutive title; 4th overall)
Bronze medals: Naoto YAMAGUCHI and Yuya FUJITA
Semifinal: Sonoda def. Yamaguchi by TF, 8-0, :31
Semifinal: Tanita def. Fujita, 3-0
50kg (13 entries)
Final: Yuki IRIE def. Miho IGARASHI, 6-5
(Irie wins 2nd title, 1st in two years)
Bronze Medals: Yui SUSAKI and Eri TOSAKA
Semifinal: Irie def. Susaki by TF, 10-0, 5:48
Semifinal: Igarashi def. Tosaka by DEF
53kg (8 entries)
Final: Haruna OKUNO def. Yu MIYAHARA, 2-0
(Okuno wins 1st title)
Bronze Medals: Kana HIGASHIKAWA and Yuka YAGO
Semifinal: Okuno def. Higashikawa by TF, 10-0, 4:10
Semifinal: Miyahara def. Yago by TF, 11-1, 4:30
55kg (6 entries)
Final: Mayu MUKAIDA def. Saki IGARASHI, 4-2
(Mukaida wins 2nd consecutive title; 2nd overall)
Bronze medals: Arisa TANAKA and Momoka KADOYA
Semifinal: Mukaida def. Tanaka by TF, 10-0, 2:53
Semifinal: Igarashi def. Kadoya, 5-0
57kg (7 entries)
Final: Katsuki SAKAGAMI def. Chiho HAMADA by TF, 12-2, 5:35
(Sakagami wins 2nd consecutive title; 2nd overall)
Bronze medals: Akie HANAI and Sae NANJO
Semifinal: Sakagami def. Hanai, 4-2
Semifinal: Hamada def. Nanjo, 2-1
59 kg (9 entries)
Final: Yukako KAWAI def. Yuzuru KUMANO, 3-2
(Kawai wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Saki KAWAUCHI and Yui SAKANO
Semifinal: Kawai def. Kawauchi by TF, 10-0, 2:59
Semifinal: Kumano def. Sakano, 8-2
62kg (7 entries)
Final: Risako KAWAI def. Yurika ITO by TF, 10-0, 3:47
(Kawai wins 3rd consecutive title; 3rd overall)
Bronze Medals: Honoka IMAGAWA and Aika YAGO
Semifinal: Kawai def. Imagawa by DEF
Semifinal: Ito def. Yago by Fall, 1:26
65 kg (6 entries)
Final: Ayana GEMPEI def. Misuzu ENOMOTO, 3-1
(Gempei wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Miyu IMAI and Miwa MORIKAWA
Semifinal: Gempei def. Imai, 8-6
Semifinal: Morikawa def. Enomoto by TF, 10-0, 2:05
68kg (4 entries)
Final: Sara DOSHO def. Mai HAYAKAWA by Fall, 1:44
(Dosho wins 7th consecutive title; 7th overall)
Bronze Medals: Umi FUKUSHIMA and Chiaki IIJIMA
Semifinal: Dosho def. Fukushima by TF, 10-0, 4:32
Semifinal: Hayakawa def. Iijima by DEF
72kg (4 entries)
Final: Naruha MATSUYUKI def. Masako FURUICHI, 6-1
(Matsuyuki wins 1st title)
Bronze medals: Mei SHINDO and Rin MIYAJI
Semifinal: Furuichi def. Shindo by TF, 10-0, 2:18
Semifinal: Matsuyuki def. Miyaji by TF, 10-0, 3:48
76 kg (6 entries)
Final: Hiroe SUZUKI def. Yasuha MATSUYUKI, 2-0
(Suzuki wins 2nd consecutive title; 4th overall)
Bronze medals: Miku SAITO and Rino ABE
Semifinal: Suzuki def. Saito by TF, 11-0, 6:00
Semifinal: Matsuyuki def. Abe, 6-0