The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Waseda University Wrestling Team assembles Japan’s top athletes
Aiming for Rio and taking on their last Emperor’s Cup as students

Waseda University Wrestling Team
Ken Hosaka (left)
Arisa Tanaka (center)
Shori Maekawa (right)

Waseda University is known as the starting point of Western-style wrestling in Japan. Many wrestlers active not only in Japan but on a global level have been enrolled at Waseda and engaged in friendly completion here.

Waseda University Wrestling Team Captain Ken Hosaka, for example, has taken the gold in the freestyle 70 kg weight class at the All Japan Intercollegiate Wrestling Championship (hereafter, “Intercollegiate Championship”). He also took bronze at the Asian Wrestling Championships in April of this year and appeared at the World Wrestling Championships in September. “Now I’m working on my body with the goal of appearing in the 74 kg weight class at the Rio Olympics. It’s hard to lose weight, but putting it on is also pretty tough.” Hosaka bulked up both his body weight and muscle to appear in the Intercollegiate Championship in November, where he achieved a magnificent victory in the 74 kg weight class.

Since 2012, Shori Maekawa has taken the gold for two consecutive years at Emperor’s Cup All-Japan National Wrestling Championships in the Greco-Roman 120 kg weight class. He is a top level Japanese heavyweight athlete who was a gold medalist at this year’s Intercollegiate Championship. “Each year, the World Wrestling Championships are held around the time of the Intercollegiate Championship. This year I was unable to get into the All Japan Invitational and thus couldn’t go to the World Wrestling Championships. So I’m much more disappointed that I didn’t get into the World Wrestling Championships despite my getting gold at the Intercollegiate Championships.”

Women’s Captain Arisa Tanaka has also won gold in the 53 kg weight class at the Intercollegiate Championships and in July of this year won bronze at the World University Wrestling Championship. “Women’s wrestling in Japan is on a really high level, so it’s easier to win gold at the World University Wrestling Championship. I was aiming for the gold at the competition, so I can’t be happy with bronze.” Tanaka entered in the same weight class as the reigning queen of the wrestling world, Saori Yoshida, and faced her for their first official match in June of this year. “I had thought she would be more beyond my level, but I found some moves that worked on her. This helped give me confidence and I’d like to use my experience to help me in future.”

The Prime Minister’s Cup All Japan University Wrestling Championships, where the top university freestyle wrestlers in Japan are determined. Hosaka won gold for the second consecutive year in the 74 kg weight class.
Photo credit: Waseda Sports Newspaper Association

With these three just the tip of the iceberg, the Waseda University Wrestling team has turned out countless leading domestically and internationally active wrestlers.

Hosaka offered, “I feel the Wrestling Team is characterized by the respect given to independence. Also, everyone just really loves wrestling.” Tanaka stated, “We’re not overly strict on hierarchy and we have fun as we train.” Maekawa added, “Of course Waseda graduates come here to train with us, but so do people from other universities as well. It’s great that Japan’s top athletes are willing to serve as training partners.”

Having steadily improved their abilities over their four years at Waseda, these three will take on the challenge of the Emperor’s Cup All-Japan National Wrestling Championships starting December 21 (Sun.). Expectations are high for Maekawa to take his third consecutive gold and for Hosaka and Tanaka to win their first. This event will be their last domestic tournament as students. In addition, the National Wrestling Championships are also the qualifying trial for the World Wrestling Championships, itself a preliminary round for the 2016 Olympics. It’s a tournament that they absolutely cannot lose if they wish to make it to Rio.

Maekawa discussed the situation, offering, “This will be my first big tournament since I switched to the 98 kg weight class this year. I’ll be facing almost all of my opponents for the first time and there will be many prominent athletes there, so it won’t be an easy win. But I will win no matter what so I can go to Rio.”

Hosaka spoke, stating, “I never lose matches when it feels like wrestling as usual, so I’ll enter the tournament in a relaxed state of mind.”

Meanwhile, Tanaka is planning on returning to her home area of Kyoto after graduation to teach at a high school. “As a teacher, I’d like to promote the wrestling I love more. Since the Emperor’s Cup is my last tournament as well, I will do my best to win.”

Post graduation these three will go their separate ways. For now, they share the goal of achieving victory at the last major event of their university years.

Maekawa won gold for the second consecutive year in the Greco-Roman 120 kg weight class at last year’s Emperor’s Cup All-Japan National Wrestling Championships.

With the Emperor’s Cup approaching at the end of December, Tanaka drew much attention in her rematch against Saori Yoshida.

Under Team Captain Hosaka, the Waseda Wrestling Team strives to practice with a happy and harmonious atmosphere.


Ken Hosaka (left)
Fourth Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Akita, Ken Hosaka graduated from Saitama Sakae High School. His daily routine is to engage in research by watching wrestling matches on YouTube, even when on the move.

Arisa Tanaka (center)
Fourth Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Kyoto, Arisa Tanaka graduated from Saitama Sakae High School. Her hobby is watching movies on DVD. She likes true stories.

Shori Maekawa (right)
Fourth Year, School of Sport Sciences

Originally from Hokkaido, Shori Maekawa graduated from Kasumigaura High School. A skilled gamer, he particularly likes the Metal Gear Solid series.