2011.09.17
Margarito Angana Jr. & Jason Balabal
2011 World Wrestling Championship

By: Karlo Silverio L. Sevilla III

How tough is the world? Very.

Our 2009 Southeast Asian Games Wrestling Champions Margarito Angana Jr. and Jason Balabal have been eliminated in their very first matches, respectively, in the 2011 Senior Wrestling World Championship, proving that Philippine Wrestling still has a long way to go. But to properly contextualize (and appreciate further) the level of competition in the worlds, consider the following:

01. Angana Jr. faced and lost to Kohei Hasegawa of Japan in his first match in the 55 kg Greco-Roman. Hasegawa is the reigning 2010 Asian Games Champion in this division, and for Angana Jr. to advance to the repechage round to win a bronze at best, the Japanese had to advance to the finals and fight for gold.

Unfortunately, Hasegawa lost his next match to the wrestler from Azerbaijan, who in turn subsequently won all his remaining matches and was crowned as this year's World Champion.

And Hasegawa, the reigning Asian Games Champion, landed "only" in eighth place. He goes home without a medal. He also fell short of qualifying his country's weight class in the 2012 Olympics, by not placing among the top six.

Angana ended up 32nd, tied with another wrestler from Bulgaria, which is a top-tier wrestling country.

02. Balabal, on paper, had it tougher: He faced Uzbekistan's Zaurbek Sokhiev, 2009 World Champion in his very first match. He lost in two rounds, 3-1, 7-0. That he scored a point (for a push-out) is impressive already-considering he's comparatively new in elite wrestling (with the PHL Team only in the second half of '09) and against a former World Champion in Sokhiev!

Sokhiev, the 2009 king in the freestyle 84 kg category, suffered a similar fate to Hasegawa, losing his second match and eventually settling for 21st place-without a medal and without qualifying his country in his weight class for next year's Olympics.

Balabal ended up 33rd, even placing higher than the wrestlers from powerhouses South Korea (44th) and Kirghistan (36th).

For now, Angana and Balabal will go home as better wrestlers and warriors. In a week's time, they're going to South Korea to train until November 04, to prepare for the much easier goal (yes, it is) of winning gold medals, again, in the 26th Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia second week of this November.

Falling short this year, they'll attempt to qualify in the three more Olympic Qualifiers next year. (Heck, we have failed to qualify a Pinoy wrestler in the Olympics after 1988, hence when Continental and World Qualifiers were institutionalized. Dati, numero uno ka sa timbang mo sa bansa mo, pwede ka na sumali sa Olympics).

They, we, will keep on wrestling.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Venceremos!

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