Omid Haji Noroozi (IRI) advanced to the finals at the Asian OG Qualifier in Astana, Kazakhstan, qualifying 66 kg for Iran in the process. In the finals, he was defeated by Tomohiro Inoue (JPN) 3-3 (last point scored). It was quite a day for Inoue, as he battled and battled each round in what was a hugely impressive showing. We’re going to break the final match coming up. For now, we just want to touch on Noroozi’s performance at 66 kg to provide some additional context.
Both athletes overcame different challenges to the reach the final. Inoue began his day in the quarterfinals, downing Jin Chol Pang (PRK) 4-0 before meeting up with Chuhalov. Noroozi had a more eventful side of the bracket. The Iranian entered in the qualification round, where he first threw a beating on Didar Amannzarov (TKM) via tech, 8-0. Ammanzarov, coming off a silver medal at the Asian Championships in February, thwarted Noroozi’s aggressive inside game early. The score was 2-0 heading into the second period, but that is where Noroozi quickly took over. After a two-on-one led to a bodylock lift attempt, the two collided to the mat where Noroozi immediately locked around Ammanzarov’s waist for a consecutive pair of guts to stop the match.
Up next for Omid Haji Noroozi was the always-a-problem Pan Zheng (CHN). Zheng took a 6-0 lead after an entertaining first period where scrambles and lift attempts were the order of the day. Zheng certainly seemed on his way to an upset of his own if he could just maintain the pace. The mood shifted in the final period, however, and this is when Noroozi began to take over. A front headlock led to a 2-point takedown, making the score 6-2. Once back on their feet, Noroozi pressured Zheng relentlessly, looking for any and all opportunities to close the gap even further. Another front-head attempt resulted in some points, albeit in a somewhat non-traditional manner perhaps.
Those points made it 6-4. Noroozi would tie the score seconds later with more pressure near the edge.
This would happen yet again. The difference in energy levels and urgency was becoming increasingly clearer. Noroozi battled all the way back from 0-6 by virtue of aggression. Zheng, who had a chance to put a nice win under his belt and move on, succumbed to either fatigue, Noroozi’s intensity, or both.
In the semifinal, Omid Haji Noroozi met up with Ravinder Ravinder (IND). This time around, no comeback was necessary. The Iranian was in control from the outset, being gifted two points initially from a (probably undeserved) foul. That would mark the end of the scoring for the first period because as has been custom, Noroozi turned it on in the second. After pushing Ravinder into danger for two more points, the Iranian side challenged, resulting in another point being awarded. Another takedown would follow, making the score 7-1. The match would come to its conclusion with a punctuation mark shortly thereafter.
This all set the stage for the final against Tomohiro Inoue. A full breakdown of that match will be posted shortly!