Tomorrow evening (or late morning/early afternoon in most parts of the US), Max Nowry (Army/WCAP) will likely face off with Japan’s Yu Shiotani for the World bronze medal at 55 kilograms. Shiotani, 21, is new to this scene. Although a terrific wrestling athlete and successful domestic competitor, Shiotani did not fly into Belgrade this week boasting prior Senior World Championships experience. That said, he has earned gold at the past two Asian Championship events, which is no small feat considering the level of talent available in that continent as well as the size of the stage. US fans might struggle making that connection but, much like in Europe, the Asian continental championship tournament is held in high esteem and presented to the public accordingly. The Pan-American Championships — featuring Team USA, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador — offers talented fields in several weight categories, but does not enjoy the same depth as Asia when it comes to 55 kg, nor is the event subject to a similar wavelength of fan interest.
Shiotani — who on Sunday must first get past Giovanni Freni of Italy — had been #2 on Japan’s depth chart at 55 kilograms until only recently. Just last year, Ken Matsui won the World title in this weight class; and Japan in general is well-stocked for 55 with ’18 University World gold Hiromu Katagiri (who hasn’t made a start since ’20) and a few others in their back pocket. One reason why Japan can shuffle out athletes whose names might not be recognizable on an worldwide scale, yet still produce results, is not difficult to discern. In Japan, there is Greco-Roman training and competition availed throughout their scholastic system; moreover, as is the case with most of the planet, Japanese wrestlers come of age practicing only the international styles.
Before Saturday, Shiotani’s previous Senior starts were limited to just six events: three Emperor’s Cup/Meji Cup appearances (Japanese nationals); two Asian Championships; and the Wladyslaw Pytlasinski Memorial from July. As mentioned, Shiotani came away with gold at the past two Asian continentals. Pytlasinski provided his first open Senior international opportunity, and he won that, as well.
Those familiar with international wrestling’s repechage protocol understand how Nowry and Shiotani went on to comprise the bronze-medal match: both lost to eventual finalist and ’18 World Champion/multi-time medalist Eldaniz Azizli (AZE). Shiotani was thumped by top-seed Azizli 9-0 in the quarterfinal, and one round later Azizli used passivity to gut/lift Nowry en-route to the same outcome. But there were other matches for the tandem before they were greeted by Azizli.
— defeated Arjun Halakurki (IND) via fall
— defeated Fabian Schmitt (GER) via fall
— defeated Jiahao Liu (CHN) 8-0, TF
— defeated Koriun Sahradyan (UKR) 9-0, TF
On the feet
Nowry’s mechanics are well-known in the US. He is an ardent pursuer of two-on-one’s and generally versatile with his attacks. He does have preferences in that regard. A speedster, even for 55, Nowry will often drag his two-on-one from opposing angles, using the hold to amble behind or set-up attempts to the body. His arm throw, of course, is a potent weapon. Again, Nowry’s ability to tie an arm or work from one side is an advantage, as he is apt to find arm throws by coaxing opponents to reach and react, all the while sensing where their lead foot is before executing. Another highlight in Nowry’s skill-set are snaps that he will seize upon whenever an adversary’s head is within range. Front headlock scores are rare for him, but it is not uncommon to see Nowry hastily wrap around the head and look to at least jolt an opponent prior to switching off to other tie-ups, depending on the flow of the match.
Most Japanese wrestlers betray similarities to their American counterparts in terms of stance and hip level. A lot of their hand-fighting is achieved from what could be construed as a “folkstyle-like” stance, the main difference between the two nations usually coming down to scoring actions. However, Shiotani is sort of an outlier compared to most of his lightweight countrymen. Though he will observe on occasion a lower, hips-out stance when in the hand-fight, European-style pummeling equally seems to suit him. But Shiotani tends to be loose most of the time. He certainly isn’t rigid. He is keen to scramble when necessary, as well. He has a two-on-one, but it does not appear to be a catalyst thus far. Drawing from a limited data-set, Shiotani’s scoring holds vary only slightly, but he can arm spin as well as generate go-behinds thanks in large part to very quick feet.
Both are above-average defenders. Shiotani thus far has demonstrated more zeal to escape from bottom; the area with which Nowry is more efficient is floating locks and stepping over. Most of the time, it is conventional defense they employ.
From top par terre, Nowry seeks gutwrenches first and foremost. Seldom is there a deviation from this position. He has in the past lifted, or sporadically circled out in front; but these days his go-to is the gut, from which he can then improvise into a variety of options once a turn is achieved. A good example of this would be his match versus Schmitt on Day 1.
Even before he broke it out at the ’22 Worlds, Shiotani enjoyed a reputation for his reverse lift. There is obvious power in his legs, which in conjunction with his hips and sound grip help him quickly elevate opponents. The reverse lift is his first and favorite option. If Shiotani receives a passivity/par terre chance against Nowry, anything other than a look at a reverse lock at the whistle would come off as a sizable surprise.
The 55-kg bronze medal match at the 2022 World Championships is scheduled for 6:00pm (12:00pm ET) in Belgrade, Serbia and can be viewed live in the US on FLOWrestling.
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