Hamid Soryan was heavily favored to qualify the 59 kg weight class for Iran at the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier in Kazakhstan but then again, most experts weren’t accounting for the emergence of Shinobu Ota (JPN). Ota, who upset Soryan in the first round via a crisp 7-4 score, is not anonymous; he’s a former world junior bronze medalist, Hungaria Golden Grand Prix runner-up, and has been ranked in the top 15 (according to United World Wrestling) on and off for the last few years. But compared to Soryan (or Sourian, whichever you prefer), it is tough for anyone to stack up credentials.
After winning gold at London in 2012, Soryan took a much-deserved break from international competition before returning at a new weight (as 55 kg was expunged for 59 kg) facing an influx of fresh opposition. The results have been somewhat mixed. Though he has picked up his share of titles, the dominance that usually went hand-in-hand with the six-time world champ’s performances was gone. And after Soryan’s exit from the 2015 Worlds in Las Vegas, UWW dropped him from the rankings altogether.
The Asian qualifiers represented an opportunity for Soryan to set the tone and reclaim his place as one of the world’s elite lightweight Greco competitors. It was also an important qualifying opportunity for Iran’s squad. Nevertheless, Ota came in motivated, ready, and aggressive. Throughout the duration of the match, two things become obvious: Ota (world no. 15) was hungrier and Soryan got tired. Let’s go over some of the highlights and get a sense of how the scoring went down.
Hamid Soryan vs. Shinobu Ota Highlights
At the start of the match, fans of Soryan had to feel confident. From the whistle, Soryan used his considerable height advantage (which would later become disadvantageous, but wait for it) to gain head control and look to score. As we have seen so many times, his opponent had to accept fighting back with little leverage and instead attempt to pop up from the front headlock. That was all part of the chain, as Soryan then tossed it by for a quick four point lead.
The one point Ota gets here is not the story. It wasn’t inconsequential, but when you watch the sequence above, it shows you where Ota was at in terms of attitude. Not only is Soryan Soryan, but he also threw Ota a beating a couple years ago that was probably difficult for the Japanese upstart to forget. Here, you can see that as soon as Soryan gets behind (plus his additional two), Ota was not conceding the position. Rather, he immediately fought back up for a scrambling opportunity. That’s all you need to know about how Ota was going to approach this match.
At 55 kg, Soryan enjoyed a significant height and reach advantage over most opponents. It is still there at 59 kg, but not to the same extent. He just cannot get away with the whole “hawking over you till I jam up your footwork” thing. Those clamping front headlocks that used to serve as entry points on a regular basis can come back to haunt him and that is what happened here, as Ota ducked right under Soryan’s lanky grasp to score big.
Live, it was probably too early to tell that this represented a seismic shift in momentum, but that’s what it was. This sequence made the score 5-4. So in context, look at it like this: Soryan is down 5-4 in the first period of his first match in an important qualifying tournament and what’s more, it’s to someone the entire arena feels he can beat and already has handedly. The worst part for Soryan here? Ota began appearing to get stronger and more confident as the match wore on.
Just look at how Ota began pursuing Soryan. No fear, no hesitation. He was there to take him out. Ota even drags Soryan right by him “ole`” style, which basically showed he was the one dictating the pace of the match (this happens at around the 7:00 mark).
No one is going to question the heart or work ethic of a world-champion, Hall of Fame talent like Soryan but one thing is pretty evident: he was tired. Ota grinded and grinded without allowing Soryan the chance to seize a mistake. Plain and simple, Shinobu Ota took the match to Soryan without any trepidation whatsoever.
With a little over a minute left in the bout, Ota attempted an arm spin, which failed. After Ota was unable to spin behind to secure two, Soryan scrambled out and appeared to get overzealous trying to re-engage.
It looks like on the video and in the above image that Soryan loses his balance after failing to account for where Ota’s feet were. It’s strange. Because all Ota had to do was backup just a little bit, and Soryan was going to fall to his hands and knees (which he did). This bizarre turn of events gave Ota another two points and a 7-4 lead which he would not relinquish in the final minute.
As we mentioned earlier today, speculation (and excuses) are sure to follow what transpired here. For years there has been talk around international circles that Hamid Soryan could no longer get down into the 50’s (kilograms), which is obviously not true but you get the idea. There might be injury rumors and whatever else, also. None of it will matter.
Shinobu Ota wrestled this match with a visible difference in intensity level. That wasn’t alone the deciding factor, but his approach was the catalyst for all of his scoring chances. “It was hard from the opening match, but I just believed I’ll be through if I can execute everything I’ve worked on,” Ota told the Japan Times. And he’s not lying: Ota got after it. This was an entertaining, impressive showing that is going to likely shoot Ota up a spot or two in the rankings. It also provided Japan with another weight qualified for Rio.
As for Soryan, the guess is that unless he is faced with internal dissention, the task of qualifying 59 kg will be left up to him in either Mongolia or Turkey. Bad matches happen. But weird ones get attention. This was a weird one for the beleaguered star. Where he goes from here will certainly be interesting.
Here is the full match courtesy of United World Wrestling.