2012.03.28
Asian Qualifying Tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan
By: Karlo Silverio L. Sevilla III

The 1st phase of Wrestling's Olympic Games (OG) Qualifier, at the Asian level, was held in Astana, Kazakhstan from March 28-April 01, 2012. Twenty-two countries participated in this event, including ours, as represented by two-time Southeast Asian Gold Medallist Margarito Angana Jr. and Jason Balabal led by Head Coach Roel Pacional and President Albert Balde as Team Manager.

Both of our wrestlers lost their first matches to their counterparts from Kazakshtan and Uzbekistan, respectively.

Angana of Zamboanga City faced Kazakhstan's Kudaibergenov Askhat, one of the world's top wrestlers. The Kazakh won the first two rounds of wrestling's best-of-three rounds per match, 7-0 and 1-0. He ended up placing 8th among fifteen participants in his division.

Meanwhile, Balabal of Ifugao Province met and lost to Uzbekistan's Assakalov Rustam in the first round. The match was pretty equal during the stand-up position, with neither wrestler being able to throw the other down. Unfortunately, in the ground position wherein the wrestler in red, who happened to be the Uzbek, was granted the top position in wrestling's equivalent of basketball's free throw (in our rules, red wrestler is granted top position in the first round when no point is scored in the stand-up after 1.5 minutes), the latter was able to pin down Balabal for the win. Balabal ended up ranked ninth of fifteen competitors in his category.

The remaining Olympic Qualifier for wrestling will be held in Taiyuan, China this April 25-30. Our Philippine Team, made up of the two wrestlers plus Alvin Lobreguito and again coached by Roel Pacional are already training there in Beijing beginning today, April 4, for their 21-day preparation for the last qualifier.

For the coming qualifier in Taiyuan, our wresters will no longer face who can be considered the top 14 in their respective weight classes: The top six have already qualified in last years World Championship and the top two of each of the four continental Olympic qualifiers (Asian, Pan-American, European, and Africa-Oceania) would have already qualified.

The upcoming qualifier would be "considerably easier" - on paper (hopefully).

We are all hoping and remain confident that training with China's top wrestlers will suffice in helping our athletes peak in their conditioning and fighting skills to hopefully qualify in this Olympics, and excel in other competitions in the future.

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