2021 USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials Watch Party

Maroulis & Gray Return To The Games: Women's Olympic Team Trials Recap

Maroulis & Gray Return To The Games: Women's Olympic Team Trials Recap

A thorough recap of the women's brackets at the 2021 USA Wrestling Olympic Team Trials from Fort Worth, Texas.

Apr 5, 2021 by Derek Levendusky
Maroulis & Gray Return To The Games: Women's Olympic Team Trials Recap
What a night in Fort Worth. When Helen Maroulis pinned Jenna Burkert in match 3 of the 57 kg finals, it capped off a weekend of high drama playing out on the biggest stage in domestic wrestling, the Olympic Team Trials. For some, all the hard work and dreams came down to a moment, but none more emotional than the final Maroulis-Burkert match.

Unlock this article, live events, and more with a subscription!

Get Started

Already a subscriber? Log In

What a night in Fort Worth. When Helen Maroulis pinned Jenna Burkert in match 3 of the 57 kg finals, it capped off a weekend of high drama playing out on the biggest stage in domestic wrestling, the Olympic Team Trials. For some, all the hard work and dreams came down to a moment, but none more emotional than the final Maroulis-Burkert match.

Seemingly motivated by her mother’s passing last week, Burkert wrestled all weekend with dominance and passion. After she shocked the arena and watching fans on NBC by defeating the 2016 Olympic gold medalist 6-5 in match 2, Maroulis wouldn’t have it in the third and deciding match. Moments after the whistle, she hit a foot sweep to put Burkert on her back and 23 seconds into the match, it was over. Burkert lay on the mat sobbing while Maroulis celebrated, but moments later, they were in an embrace.

“I’m all over the place, so many emotions,” said Maroulis shortly after the match. “Wrestling and in any sport, there’s so many highs and lows. There’s a lot on one day [today]. I’m excited…I literally don’t have words.”

There were big moments and great runs by many, but in the end, all six #1 national team members held their spots against their finals challengers to punch their tickets to Tokyo. Sarah Hildebrandt defeated Victoria Anthony at 50 kg; Jacarra Winchester defeated Ronna Heaton at 57 kg; Kayla Miracle held off Macey Kilty at 62 kg, Tamyra Mensah-Stock stopped the Cinderella run of high school junior Kennedy Blades; and Adeline Gray took care of another high school phenom, Kylie Welker, at 76kg.

For Mensah-Stock, Hildebrandt, Winchester, and Miracle, it’s their first Olympic team. Five-time world champion Adeline Gray makes her second team, but seeks her first Olympic medal, and Maroulis makes her second straight team, seeking her second Olympic gold.

After Mensah-Stock defeated one of the main stories of the tournament—high school junior Kennedy Blades making the championship finals—she withered to the mat, overcome with the emotion of the moment. Mensah-Stock won the team spot in 2016, but after Team USA failed to qualify the weight, she couldn’t go to Rio. It wouldn’t be the same this time, as the U.S. women have already qualified all six weights, meaning that to win the Olympic Team Trials is to assure a trip to Tokyo this summer.

It’s finally here and I thank God that I’m actually able to call myself an Olympian.

“I’m not done yet, but I’m so proud of the fact that in 2016—five years ago—I wasn’t able to claim that title [of Olympian],” said Mensah-Stock through tears, “and now, I did! And that makes me so happy. I’ve been wanting this and it gets tiring y’all! It gets frustrating knowing that you’re capable of doing something and it’s been pushed back again and again and again. It’s finally here and I thank God that I’m actually able to call myself an Olympian.”

After the crowd gave Mensah-Stock a standing ovation, they stood to their feet again to applaud young Blades as she left the arena after her remarkable performance at the Trials.

Adeline Gray dominated surprise finalist Kylie Welker 10-0 and 11-0 in match 1 and match 2, respectively. It was a similar script in both bouts. Once Gray got the first takedown, it was match over as Welker couldn’t stop Gray’s crafty and powerful turns on top.

It was also an emotional moment for 53 kg Jacarra Winchester, after defeating Ronna Heaton in two straight matches 7-4 and 12-2. The Titan Mercury wrestler fell to her knees and cried out so loud that she could still be heard throughout the arena even as crowds cheered, earning the distinction of being an Olympian for the first time.

50 kg Sarah Hildebrandt was unstoppable. After finals opponent Victoria Anthony had an impressive performance in the challenge tournament, she hit a brick wall against Hildebrandt, who won the first two matches 12-2 and 10-0. Hildebrandt, the 2018 world silver medalist, said after the final match, “I don’t even know how to talk about it. I feel like I’m going to keep squealing. I’m so excited! There have been so many people who have helped me and I feel so emotional towards them…it’s really a culmination of so many things.”

At 62 kg, Macey Kilty took Miracle to the brink, something she had not been able to do previously, winning the second match 4-3 after falling to her 8-4 in the first match. The third match promised to be a showdown for the Olympic spot when Miracle got an early takedown and converted it to a leg lace. During the first turn, Kilty cried out in obvious pain. After injury time she stepped back to the line, but it was soon obvious she wouldn’t be able to finish, making Miracle the Team USA Olympic rep at 62 kg. Miracle took 4th in the challenge tournament in 2016, having developed since then into a legitimate Olympic medal contender.

Young stars perform

During the challenge tournament, Kilty proved that she’s arrived, dominating #7 seed Desiree Zavala 12-2 before beating 2018 world bronze medalist Mallory Velte in the semis, then shutting down #1 seed Maya Nelson 5-0 in the finals to advance to best-of-three with Miracle.

68 kg Kennedy Blades and 76 kg Kylie Welker stunned the wrestling world as they both ran the gauntlet to make the championship finals. Blades beat #7 seed Rachel Watters 10-0, #2 seed Alexandria Glaude 5-0, and #1 seed Forrest Molinari 11-1 before falling to Mensah-Stock in the championship finals.

“Mensah-Stock is now but Blades is future,” wrote one Twitter follower.

At 76 kg, Welker beat #4 seed Randi Beltz 12-2, #5 seed Yelena Makoyed 11-4, and #1 seed Dymond Guilford 8-0 before losing the best-of-three to Gray. “I’ll be back,” wrote the high school junior on Twitter.

At 53 kg, Ronna Heaton also impressed with a 4-0 win over #4 seed Alex Hedrick, upsetting the #1 seed Dominique Parrish by fall at the 5:58 mark, then defeating #2 seed Katherine Shai by fall at 2:59. The Sunkist Kids/Wisconsin RTC athlete has been very active during the pandemic and she seemed to peak this weekend in Fort Worth.

2021 Olympic Team

50 kg

1. Sarah Hildebrandt (New York AC)

2. Victoria Anthony (ASU RTC/Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)

3. Alyssa Lampe (Beaver Dam RTC/Sunkist Kids WC)

53 kg

1. Jacarra Winchester (Titan Mercury WC)

2. Ronna Heaton (Sunkist Kids WC)

3. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids WC)

57 kg

1. Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids WC)

2. Jenna Burkert (Army WCAP)

3. Abigail Nette (Sunkist Kids WC)

62 kg

1. Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids WC)

2. Macey Kilty (Sunkist Kids WC)

3. Maya Nelson (Sunkist Kids WC)

68 kg

1. Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Titan Mercury WC)

2. Kennedy Blades (Sunkist Kids WC)

3. Forrest Molinari (Sunkist Kids WC)

76 kg

1. Adeline Gray (New York AC)

2. Kylie Welker (Titan Mercury WC)

3. Victoria Francis (Titan Mercury WC)

All results

50 kg - Sarah Hildebrandt (New York AC) vs. Victoria Anthony (ASU RTC/Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)

Bout One – Hildebrandt tech. fall Anthony, 12-2

Bout Two – Hildebrandt tech. fall Anthony, 10-0

Hildebrandt qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 

53 kg - Jacarra Winchester (Titan Mercury WC) vs. Ronna Heaton (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)

Bout One – Winchester over Heaton, 7-4

Bout Two – Winchester over Heaton, 12-2

Winchester qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 

57 kg - Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) vs. Jenna Burkert (ARMY WCAP) 

Bout One – Maroulis over Burkert, 5-3

Bout Two – Burkert over Maroulis, 6-5

Bout Three – Maroulis over Burkert by fall 0:24

Maroulis qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 

62 kg - Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids) vs. Macey Kilty (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)

Bout One – Miracle over Kilty, 8-4

Bout Two – Kilty over Miracle, 4-3

Bouth Three – Miracle over Kilty by injury default at :32

Miracle qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 

68 kg - Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Kennedy Blades (Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club), two matches to none

Bout One – Mensah-Stock over Blades, 12-4

Bout Two – Mensah-Stock over Blades, 8-1

Mensah-Stock qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 

76 kg - Adeline Gray (New York AC) vs. Kylie Welker (Titan Mercury WC)

Bout One – Gray over Welker, 10-0

Bout Two – Gray over Welker, 11-0

Gray qualifies for U.S. Olympic Team. 


Derek Levendusky is a freelance writer for American Women’s Wrestling and FloWrestling. You can find him on Twitter @awwnewsfeed and @AWWderek.