2023 Final X - Newark

76 kg Is Good As Gold For The United States

76 kg Is Good As Gold For The United States

The United States has the five best 76-kilogram wrestlers in the world — and it’s not even a debate.

May 5, 2023 by Kyle Klingman
76 kg Is Good As Gold For The United States

Watching the 76-kilogram field compete at the US Open was like watching the World Championships — only better. The United States currently has the five best 76 kg wrestlers in the world, and it’s not even close.

Domestic wrestling fans were treated to one of the most entertaining and exciting competitions you’ll see in a lifetime. It was — simply — historic.

Kennedy Blades, Adeline Gray, Yelena Makoyed, Dymond Guilford, and Kylie Welker could win this year’s Senior World Championships if each was given the chance, but only one gets the spot.

Who will it be?

Blades is in Final X since she won US Open. She is two wins away from her first Senior-level World team. Gray, Makoyed, Guilford, and Welker will battle at the World Team Trials on May 21 for the remaining spot. That likely means Gray and Welker will meet in one semifinal, while Makoyed and Guilford will meet in the other.

Here was the final finishing order of the top five at the US Open along with records against each other during the calendar year.

1. Kennedy Blades — 2021 Junior World Champion

WIN over Welker, 8-6, at U20 World Team Trials (finals)

WIN over Welker, Fall 2:22, at U20 World Team Trials (finals)

WIN over Makoyed, Fall 3:57, at US Open (semifinals)

WIN over Gray, 12-2, at US Open (finals)

2. Adeline Gray — Six-time World champion and 2020 Olympic silver

WIN over Guilford, DQ, at US Open (semifinals)

LOSS to Blades, 12-2, at US Open (finals)

3. Yelena Makoyed — Four international ranking tournament titles in a row

WIN over Guilford, 12-2, at Zagreb Open (semifinals)

LOSS to Blades, Fall 3:57, at US Open (semifinals)

WIN over Welker, 11-6, at US Open (consolation semifinals)

4. Dymond Guilford — 2022 Senior World team and 2022 U23 World silver

LOSS to Makoyed, 12-2, at Zagreb Open (semifinals)

WIN over Welker, Fall 2:32, US Open (quarterfinals)

LOSS to Gray, DQ, at US Open (semifinals)

5. Kylie Welker — 2021 Junior World Champion

LOSS to Blades, 8-6, at U20 World Team Trials (finals)

LOSS to Blades, Fall 2:22, at U20 World Team Trials (finals)

LOSS to Guilford, Fall 2:32, at US Open (quarterfinals)

LOSS to Makoyed, 11-6, at US Open (consolation semifinals)

It's easy to write off Welker based on results. She lost to Blades in straight matches at the U20 World Teams Trials and was pinned in the second match. She was also pinned by Guilford during the semifinals of the US Open and lost 11-6 to Makoyed in the consolation semifinals.

She doesn’t have a chance, right? Not so fast.

Overlook Welker at your own peril. She is wrestling better than ever despite four losses to the field. She was winning her first match against Blades, 6-4, before getting taken down and turned with less than 10 seconds left, and she was up 8-0 in the first period on Guilford before getting pancaked and pinned.

Her match against Makoyed was more nuanced. Welker scored the first two takedowns for a 4-0 lead. Makoyed scored a four-point takedown with less than a second remaining in the first period. Time was so close to running out that Welker’s coach, Tonya Verbeek, calmly walked the challenge brick to the referee to dispute the call. The call was confirmed so Makoyed took a 5-4 lead into the second period.

Makoyed eventually won, 11-6. Welker could have won if she avoids one split-second position at the end of the first period. Also remember that Welker defeated Blades in straight matches at the 2021 World Team Trials, so she has two wins under her belt.

Gray, a six-time World champion and 2020 Olympic silver medalist, showed how resilient and savvy she is.

Her last competition was a gold medal run at the 2021 World Championships before giving birth to twins. Gray, 32, entered the US Open after nearly two years away from the mat. Guilford took Gray to her back early and held her there for nearly a minute before fighting out of the position.

Gray earned one of the most improbable wins in U.S. history. She was down 8-0 and scored three straight step-outs in 12 seconds, which resulted in three straight cautions. Guilford was disqualified with 38 seconds remaining and Gray was awarded the victory. No wonder Gray pointed to her head and said, “I’m smart” as she walked off the mat.

Makoyed is the only other wrestler besides Blades with multiple wins over the field this year. She defeated Guilford and Welker but was pinned by Blades when the match was tied 7-7. Guilford was also 3-1 against Makoyed last year and defeated her in straight matches at Final X.

Look no further than Makoyed’s World Cup match for additional proof that these are the five best wrestlers in the world. She pinned 2022 World champion Yasemine Adair of Turkey — the same opponent Gray defeated in the 2018 World finals for her fourth World gold.

This is still Blades’s weight to win, though. She looks better than ever and her takedown game might be the best in the world. There is every reason to believe she can win two matches at Final X and win three World Championships this year (U20, U23, and Senior). Yes, she's that good. 

Below is every match these five have wrestled against each other this year. You’re welcome. 

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Zagreb Open Semifinals: Yelena Makoyed vs Dymond Guilford

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U20 World Team Trials, Match 1: Kennedy Blades vs Kylie Welker

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U20 World Team Trials, Match 2: Kennedy Blades vs Kylie Welker

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US Open quarterfinals: Dymond Guilford vs Kylie Welker

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US Open semifinals: Adeline Gray vs Dymond Guilford

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US Open semifinals: Kennedy Blades vs Yelena Makoyed

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US Open finals: Kennedy Blades vs Adeline Gray