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With the World Championships wrapping up this past weekend, it's time to recap how our women fared in Nur-Sultan. We had two new Americans crowned World champions, along with a third repeating as champ. As a team, USA finished third behind Japan and Russia. Let’s take a weight by weight look at our team’s performance and at some of the other results of the tournament
At the lightest weight, we had Whitney Conder representing Team USA. Conder came into the tournament with expectations to medal, but, unfortunately, she fell 6-0 in her first-round matchup against the 2017 World bronze medalist Son Hyang Kim of North Korea. When Kim fell to 2013 World champion Yanan Sun of China 4-2 (5-2 after a failed challenge), Conder was eliminated from wrestling in repechage.
Sun made it all the way to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Mariya Stadnik of Azerbaijan. Stadnick is now a nine-time World or Olympic medalist, this being her first gold since she last won it all a decade ago in 2009 in Denmark.
Conder is #1 on the ladder at 50 kg going into next year’s Olympic Trials, though the weight will still need to be qualified for the Games themselves.
At the next weight up, Sarah Hildebrandt went into Kazakhstan with the expectation of returning to the finals to improve upon her silver medal from last year. Unfortunately, this did not come to fruition. Sarah won by 11-0 tech fall against her Vietnamese opponent Thi Dao Bui before falling to 2018 55kg World champ Maya Mukaida of Japan, 12-1. Mukaida would go on to make the finals, pulling Hildebrandt back into repechage where she faced a rematch against Vinesh Phogat of India. Hildebrandt would drop the match 8-2 and be eliminated. Mukaida would not repeat as champion this year down a weight, as she would fall in the finals to Yong Mi Pak of North Korea, 12-1.
Hildebrandt still needs to qualify the weight for the Olympics, and since she did not medal, she will have to compete in the Olympic Team Trials to retain the spot.
At 55 kilos, we had our first of two first-time champs: Jacarra Winchester. Winchester entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, seeking to improve on her fifth-place finish a year ago. Jacarra’s dream of becoming a World champion came to be after her four wins.
First up, she faced Madina Nadirova of Kyrgyzstan, whom she promptly walloped 10-0 for a tech fall. In her quarterfinal matchup, Jacarra had Bolortuya Bat Ochir of Mongolia, whom she also dominated to the tune of 13-2. Her semifinal matchup with the tournament’s No. 2 seed, Turkey’s Bediha Gun, proved to be her first real challenge of the tournament. Winchester took care of business, 6-4, to move on to the finals and secure her first World medal. In the finals, Jacarra faced another first-time Senior World medalist, Nanami Irie of Japan. Irie beat Haruan Okuno, a two time reigning World champion, to make the Japanese team, so she was certainly a formidable opponent. That being said, nothing was standing between Jacarra and gold, as she defeated Irie 5-3 to secure America’s first gold of the tournament.
Winchester now has a decision to make: She must choose to go up in weight to 57 kg or cut down to 53 kg for next year’s Olympic trials, as 55 is not an Olympic weight. She could stay at 55 kg and compete at non-Olympic weight Worlds, but with her taste of World gold, her next goal must certainly be Olympic gold.
Our next weight featured returning World teamer Jenna Burkert. Burkert was unable to medal last year at 59 kg, so hopes were that she could reach the medal rounds down at 57 kg this year. However, things didn't go exactly as planned for Burkert.
In round one, Jenna looked fantastic, securing an 8-0 win over Lenka Hockova Martinakova of Czechia. In round two, Burkert faced the Russian Marina Simonyan, and lost by pinfall. When Simonyan fell in the quarterfinals, Burkert was eliminated. In the finals, Risako Kawai of Japan defeated Ningning Rong of China, 9-6.
As it stands, Burkert is in the top spot at 57 kg heading into next year’s Olympic Trials, but the weight still needs to be qualified for the Games, and since Jenna did not medal, she will need to make it through the Olympic Team Trials to reclaim her spot on the team.
At 59 kg, Alli Ragan made her return to the World stage after missing last year with an injury. Ragan hoped to return to her finals performances of 2016 and 2017. Unfortunately, she was unable to make it out of round one.
In her first match, Ragan was up against Anzehlina Lysak of Ukraine. Ragan led 2-0, then fell victim to a double overhook throw, and that was it as Lysak secured the fall. When Lysak fell to eventual champion Linda Morais of Canada in the following round, Ragan was eliminated from competing in repechage.
Ragan, a two-time silver medalist, can be expected to either make the weight cut to 57 kg or make the bump up to 62 kg for next year’s Olympic Trials.
At 62 kg, Team USA had a first-time Senior World teamer in Kayla Miracle. Miracle was looking to add a Senior World medal to her collection of age-level World medals. This didn’t quite pan out, though Miracle had an impressive showing.
In round one, Kayla took on Nabria Esenbaeva of Uzbekistan, who she handily defeated 11-0 to advance. In the following round, she took on the No. 2 seed from Brazil, Lais Nunes de Olivera. Down 4-3 in the second period, Miracle threw de Olivera for four then laced her to win a 15-4 tech fall. In the third round, Miracle suffered her only defeat, and a heartbreaking one at that. Miracle lost to Korea’s Jong-Sim Rim 6-6 on criteria. Kayla was eliminated when Rim lost in the semifinals to eventual champion Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan, who went on to defeat Bulgaria’s Taybe Mustafa Yusein for gold.
Going forward, Kayla will almost assuredly remain at 62 kg, as it is an Olympic weight. The weight still needs to be qualified, and Miracle will have to wrestle through the Olympic Team Trials next year.
Forrest Molinari served as the United States’ lone No. 1 seed in Women’s Freestyle at Worlds, so expectations were high. Through her first few rounds, Forrest looked very solid. After that, things took a turn for the worse.
In her first match, Molinari easily dispatched of her Vietnamese opponent, Thi Vinh Nguyen, via a first-period pin. In her quarterfinal match, Forrest defeated Malin Johanna Mattsson of Sweden, 3-0, to land her a spot in the semifinals. Forrest looked very solid through the majority of the semifinal matchup against Iryna Koliadenko of Ukraine and led up until the last few seconds. At the end of the match, Molinari was turned and lost 5-5 on criteria, 6-5 after a failed challenge. Koliadenko would go on to lose the finals match to Russia’s Inna Trazhukova. She dropped down to the bronze medal match and there lost a 10-0 tech fall to Wang Xiaoqian of China after a takedown and a few gut wrenches to take fifth for a second straight year.
Looking to 2020, Molinari has a tough decision to make: bump up to 68 kg to challenge a World champion for her Olympic spot, or drop to 62 kg and compete with Hawkeye Wrestling Club teammate Kayla Miracle for that spot. The Hawkeye Wrestling Club may be faced with a predicament, as they have three World Team members (Ragan, Miracle, Molinari) at three consecutive weights, with only one (62 kg) being Olympic.
At 68 kg we had our second of two first-time World champions. Tamyra Mensah-Stock came into this year’s Worlds with a ton of momentum behind her after winning tournament after tournament this year. She sought to improve on her bronze medal from last year, and she did exactly that.
In her first match, Tamyra won a 10-0 tech fall over Michelle Yvonne Montague of New Zealand. Her second match was her closest of the tournament, a 6-1 win over Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria. It was more smooth sailing in her quarterfinal matchup against 2016 Olympic champion Sara Dosho of Japan, where Tamyra won 10-1. In her semifinal match against Anna Schell of Germany, Mensah-Stock showed absolute dominance on her way to another 10-0 tech fall, sending her to the finals against Jenny Fransson of Sweden. In the gold medal match, Tamyra’s win was never in doubt, and she won 8-2 to claim her first World title.
When Tamyra made it to the semifinals, she qualified her weight for the Olympics in Tokyo, and then she secured her bye to the finals of the Olympic Team Trials with her gold medal. She will be favored over whoever makes it out of the challenge tournament, and will likely be the favorite to win in Tokyo.
After missing the 2018 season, Victoria Francis returned to the World team and the World stage. She came in with hopes of a medal, and while she fell short of that goal, she was able to score valuable points for Team USA.
In her round one matchup, she defeated 2019 Pan American Champion Dejah Slater of Canada by means of pinfall. She fell in the quarter-inals to Alina Berezhna Stadnik Makhynia of Ukraine 4-0, but was pulled back when Makhynia made the finals. Makhynia would fall in the finals to Vorobeva of Russia. This weight class, being a non-Olympic weight, fell victim to wrestlers moving out to adjust to Olympic weights early. As such, the field was smaller and when Victoria was pulled back into repechage, she was pulled right into the bronze medal match, where her opponent was Paliha Paliha of China. Unfortunately, Francis fell, 2-1, to place fifth, but those points were valuable in the team race.
Francis will also have to make the decision which weight to switch to try and make an Olympic team. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, though, as she has World Champions at Olympic weights on either side of her.
At our final weight, we had one of the greatest wrestlers in American history further cement her legacy. Adeline Gray won her fifth overall World title, making her the first American to do so; Gray was previously tied with Jordan Burroughs and John Smith with four (this does not include Olympic titles).
In her round one match, Adeline won the first of three straight 10-0 tech falls, this one against Elani Pjollai of Italy. Her second shutout tech fall came in round two against Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan, and her third came in the quarterfinals against Hui Tsz Chang of Taiwan. In the semifinals, Adeline took on 2014 World champion Aline Focken of Germany. In a close match, Gray used a late flurry to get a takedown and exposure to help her win a 5-2 decision to move on to the finals. There, she would face Hiroe Minagawa, a previous two-time World bronze medalist. In the finals, Gray would score a takedown and a tilt en route to a 4-2 win and her record-setting fifth World title.
Going into 2020, Adeline Gray is the clear favorite to make the Olympic team and return to the Games, where she will likely also be favored to win it all.
And that’s a wrap on the 2019 World Championships! The women’s team was the most successful of all styles, champion-wise, with three title winners. However, points scored from those who did not medal also contributed to the women taking third as a team. While some of the competitors may be leaving Kazakhstan without the result they were looking for, they should all hold their heads high, as they represented our nation well and all wrestled admirably. The lead up to April’s Olympic Team Trials should be a very exciting one!