In September, New Japan Pro Wrestling announced that the Bushiroad Club amateur wrestling program had been rebranded as “Team New Japan.” Now, only two months after merging Bushiroad’s amateur and professional wrestling divisions together under the same banner, the King of Sports has targeted their first potential Olympian.
Oleg Boltin, representing his home country of Kazakhstan at 120 kg, won the country’s National Championship, defeating 2019 All Asia champion Yusup Batirmurzaev. Boltin, who joined the Bushiroad program in 2017, is now a three-time All-Kazakh medalist. The tournament win secures Boltin’s opportunity to compete in the 2021 All Asia Championships, an important step towards the nation qualifying the 120-kg weight class and himself for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. Boltin needs a silver finish at both All Asia and the Asian Preliminary tournament to qualify for the Games.
The program is under the direction of head coach and former IWGP Champion, Yuji Nagata. Though coaching Freestyle, Nagata was an accomplished Greco-Roman competitor before enrolling in the NJPW Dojo. New Japan is the first professional wrestling organization to sponsor an elite-level amateur wrestling program since Verne Gagne helped support Brad Rheingans in the late-70s. Rheingans won two Pan Am Gold Medals in 1975 and 1979 while winning bronze in the 1979 World championships and placing fourth in the 1976 Olympics in Greco-Roman.
Whether Nagata’s program can attain similar results will be a challenge. Japan won three Gold medals in the 2019 World championships. Two in Greco-Roman and one in Women’s Freestyle, where the country is traditionally regarded as having the world’s best program.
Men’s freestyle, where TNJ’s athletes compete, under-performed in the 2019 UWW World Championships, placing no one on the medal stand after finishing with three medals in 2018. Kazakhstan finished 14th in the 2019 medal count with eight medals, three silvers, and five bronze. Kazakhstan did not have a medalist at 125 kilos in 2019.
Boltin talked how about his relationship with Nagata, giving him and the program credit for his victory. This despite being stuck in his home country, unable to physically train with his team.
“That’s all thanks to the coaching of Nagata san, to Bushiroad and New Japan Pro-Wrestling. I’ve kept my training up even through this pandemic, and I’ll keep pushing ahead.”