2021 Senior World Championships

Star-Studded USA Women's Squad Takes Aim At Team Title In Oslo

Star-Studded USA Women's Squad Takes Aim At Team Title In Oslo

Olympic champ Tamyra Mensah Stock leads a highly credentialed USA women's freestyle squad into Oslo, where the Americans are chasing a World team title.

Sep 28, 2021 by Derek Levendusky
Star-Studded USA Women's Squad Takes Aim At Team Title In Oslo

It feels like just yesterday that I wrote that the U.S. was sending its best women’s freestyle team ever to the Olympics in our Olympic preview, and it feels like just yesterday that the Americans came home from Tokyo with four Olympic medals. 

Well, I’m going to say it again, but this time Team USA is heading to Oslo, Norway, for the 2021 UWW World Championships starting this weekend and running through the following week, October 2-10. With the six Olympic weights now expanding back to 10 for the UWW World Championships, the U.S. women’s program is sending a group that will contend for the team title.

The four Olympic medalists each accepted their invites to Oslo, led by Olympic champ Tamrya Mensah Stock at 68 kg, Olympic silver medalist and five-time world champ Adeline Gray, and two-time Olympic medalist and two-time UWW world champion Helen Maroulis, who won Olympic gold in 2016. 50 kg Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Hildebrandt is also on the squad—a competitor who also won a World silver in 2018.

“Less than four weeks ago, we were at the Olympic Games,” U.S. women’s head coach Terry Steiner recently told FloWrestling’s Kyle Klingman and Andy Hamilton earlier this month. “And now we’re already four weeks from the World Championships. We’re gonna have to dig deep a little bit. This is not easy to come back from. They haven’t had enough downtime and now we’re already trying to build back up again. So they’re gonna need a little extra motivation and a little extra purpose behind them to climb on top. I’d like to think that we’re going to handle this short off time better than the rest of the world.”

The USA women will face a powerhouse Japanese squad that has proven that they’re the best in the world for most of the last three decades. The last time the U.S. women’s team won a team world title was in 1999.

“I really think there’s a time coming when the U.S. will be on top of the world in women’s wrestling, and I think it’s sooner rather than later,” Steiner said. “But make no mistake about it—Japan is there right now. And I think we are closing that gap, but I’m going to give [Japan] the credit until we make that move.”

Although there is no official team race at the Olympics, the Japanese team won the unofficial title with 120 points over USA’s second-place finish at 85 points, while China landed in third with 69 points. At the last UWW World Championships in 2019 (2020 was canceled due to the pandemic), the final standings were: 1. Japan, 2. Russia, 3. United States, 4. China, 5. Ukraine. 

Japan has dominated the lighter weights in recent years, though the U.S. women have had the upper hand at some of the heavier weights and have been more competitive overall at higher weights.

At 68 kg, Mensah Stock won the world title in 2019 and followed that up with her gold medal performance in Tokyo where the darling of American fans faced off with Nigerian hammer Oborududu of Nigeria in the Olympic finals and won it 4-1. Meanwhile, 76 kg Adeline Gray followed her 2019 World title with her Olympic silver medal performance, falling to Germany’s Aline Rotter Focken 7-3, a match she could perhaps avenge in Norway next week.

At 62 kg, Olympian Kayla Miracle looks to rebound from her heartbreaking first-round exit in Tokyo, while World team veteran Forrest Molinari will compete at 65 kg again, her third visit to the World Championships after taking fifth in 2018 and 2019 at that weight. Rounding out the upper weights, 17-year-old phenom Kylie Welker, after defeating another young star in Kennedy Blades at World Team Trials, will represent her country at 72 kg.  

Japan swept the four lightest weights in Tokyo with young star Yui Susaki dominating the field at 50 kg, while Mayu Mukaida won gold at 53 kg, and sisters Risako and Yukako Kawai both won gold at 57 kg and 62 kg, respectively. But Japan's top stars are staying home from Oslo. In their place is a collection of rising stars who have won big at the age-group levels.

In spite of Japan’s dominance in the lighter weights, no one will dispute that it’s reasonable to have high expectations for U.S. star Sarah Hildebrandt at 50 kg. She was very close to making the finals at the Olympics, the victim of a ferocious comeback by Sun Yanan of China, as Hildebrandt surrendered a 7-0 lead to ultimately fall 10-7 in the semis, a rematch she may see in Oslo. Yunan went on to lose by tech fall to Susaki in the finals.

Helen Maroulis only lost 2-1 to Olympic champ Risako Kawai in an activity-clock battle. The 2016 Olympic champ looks to have a chance to get back on top on the World stage in Oslo.

Everyone will be rooting for 55 kg Jenna Burkert as she returns to the World Championships for the third time, hoping to come home with her first medal. Burkert lost in dramatic fashion to Maroulis at Olympic Team Trials last April, only weeks after her mother passed away, but then followed it up earlier this month with perhaps the most dramatic series in the history of women’s wrestling by defeating 2019 World champion Jacarra Winchester at the World Team Trials. Every match in the best-of-three series came down to a last-second score to win the match, Burkert coming out on top 2-1 in the matches.

At 53 kg, Amy Fearnside shocked the field by making her first world team, while 59 kg Maya Nelson, the 2017 Junior world champ, also made her first Senior world team when she defeated Army/WCAP’s Megan Black in the finals of World Team Trials earlier this month.

The hopes and eyes of American fans will be on these women as they step on the mats starting this weekend.

U.S. Women’s 2021 Freestyle World Team

50 kg - Sarah Hildebrandt
53 kg - Amy Fearnside
55 kg - Jenna Burkert
57 kg - Helen Maroulis
59 kg - Maya Nelson
62 kg - Kayla Miracle
65 kg - Forrest Molinari
68 kg - Tamyra Mensah Stock
72 kg - Kylie Welker
76 kg - Adeline Gray

The UWW World Championships will stream live on FloWrestling from October 2-10.