PARIS – Yuki Takahashi defeated Thomas Gilman of the United States 6-0 to win the men’s 57-kg freestyle final at the world wrestling championships on Friday for Japan’s first freestyle gold in 36 years.
The 23-year-old reigning Asian champion and 2016 national champion was appearing in his third world championships, but claimed his first medal after finishing ninth in 2015 and fifth in 2014.
“My final opponent had offensive power, but I decided to attack back instead of taking a defensive approach,” said Takahashi.
“(The gold medal) doesn’t seem real yet. I’ve been through some tough times but I pushed myself to train everyday nevertheless, and I think that’s what made me a world champion,” he said.
Takahashi, who missed out on selection to last year’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, swept through his first two bouts, winning by technical fall.
In the quarterfinals, however, Takahashi was pushed to the brink by Mongolia’s Bekhbayar Erdenebat before beating Bulgaria’s Vladimir Valdimirov Dubov in the semis.
The last Japanese freestyle world champion was Toshio Asakura, who prevailed in the 52-kg division in the 1981 championships.