2021 Senior World Championships

U.S. Women Shine in Oslo

U.S. Women Shine in Oslo

Behind champions Helen Maroulis and Adeline Gray and five other medalists, the USA women turned in another strong showing at the World Championships.

Oct 11, 2021 by Derek Levendusky
U.S. Women Shine in Oslo

The USA women’s freestyle squad turned in another historic performance at the World Championships in Oslo, taking second to Japan in the team race while matching an American women’s record with seven medalists, including champions Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis.

Sarah Hildebrandt seized her second World silver, and first since 2018, at 50 kg. Jenna Burkert took bronze at 55 kg. Maroulis grabbed gold at 57 kg; Kayla Miracle secured a silver at 62 kg; Forrest Molinari claimed bronze at 65 kg; Tamyra Mensah Stock was bronze at 68 kg; and Gray did her work at 76 kg. In all, it was two golds, two silvers, and three bronze for U.S. women. 

Japan won the team race with 196 points, with the USA coming in second with 147 and Mongolia in third with 78.

It was only four months ago that Maroulis lost two matches at the Poland Open, including a 13-0 loss to Nigeria’s Odunayo Adekuoroye. Within the next 120 days, she returned to old form, winning an Olympic bronze and her fourth World-level title in Olso. It was her first gold since 2017, the culminating moment of a long comeback marked by coaching changes and concussions.

“It feels incredible,” Maroulis said after pinning India’s Anshu Anshu at the 3:59 mark. “It’s such a good feeling. There’s nothing like holding your flag and representing your country.”

Maroulis went down 1-0 in the first period after Anshu scored an activity clock point, but the Maryland native owned the second period, getting a takedown that she converted into an arm bar for the fall at 3:59. Including her 2016 Olympic gold and 2021 Olympic bronze, Maroulis now has four world titles and seven total world medals.

Adeline Gray became a six-time world champion and nine-time world medalist in Oslo, tying Jordan Burroughs and John Smith for the most World-level titles all-time by a U.S. wrestler (including his Olympic gold), and tying legend Kristi Marano-Davis for the most medals all-time for U.S. women. Marano-Davis won two World titles (2000 and 2003), though she was never able to compete in the Olympics.

Beaver Dam RTC member Gray pinned her way to the title with four falls, though it didn’t come easy in her final match against Estonia’s Epp Mae. Down 4-0 entering the second period, Gray had to come back for the win,, taking over the match with her first takedown halfway through the second to make it 4-2. Moments later, the Olympic silver medalist countered a shot by Mae and secured a trapped arm to work the position into the fall at 5:58. For the sixth time on the world stage, Gray ran around the mat draped in the U.S. flag.

“It’s about opening up and finding the moments,” Gray said afterward. “People are smart. They understand what my first attacks are and a lot of time are able to score with my first attacks…but I’m a smart wrestler and can adjust and that’s what a smart wrestler does is make those mid-match adjustments.”

One of the most dramatic and shocking moments in Oslo happened when Rin Miyaji of Japan pinned Olympic gold medalist Tamyra Mensah Stock with a cradle in 21 seconds. Mensah Stock took a shot early in the first and was knocked to her hip when Miyaji defended the attack. The Japanese wrestler immediately locked up a cradle and secured the fall, much to the shock of U.S. wrestling fans and dismay of the gold medalist. Even so, Mensah-Stock went to the line and immediately held up the “love” sign with her hands, like the Team USA women were doing in Tokyo, showing the character and heart many fans have grown to love. 

The next day, Mensah Stock came back from the devastating loss to win the bronze with a dominant performance over Adela Hanzlickova of Czechoslovakia. She showed her world-class skills in neutral position with five takedowns to win the match 10-1 and claim the bronze, her fourth World-level medal. 

It was ever so close for top-seeded Hildebrandt in the 50 kg final against Japan’s Remina Yoshimoto. The American star scored first with an activity clock point and takedown from a hip-to-hip scramble, jumping ahead 3-0. Yoshimoto scored late in the first to make it 3-2 at the break, then added a step out point of her own to make it 3-3 with a criteria lead. In the middle of the second, Hildebrandt got in trouble after an outside trip attempt, resulting in a wild scramble that eventually led to Yoshimoto getting a turn to make it 5-3, which would ultimately be the final score.

In the 55 kg bronze match, Jenna Burkert faced Pinki Pinki from India, winning the bronze with a 5-2 decision. By winning a medal, Burkert fulfilled a personal dream and completed the story many American fans wanted after her heartbreaking loss at Olympic Trials to Maroulis last April. It was only weeks after her mother passed away, and in her final loss of the three-match series, she famously uttered in view of the watching world on NBC, “I’m sorry Mom.” In the bronze match, Burkert wrestled like she had no plans to lose. Going up 5-0 in the second, she had to fend off some late attacks, but held on to make the podium on her fourth visit to the World Championships.  

At 62 kg, Kayla Miracle broke through to win her first World medal by making the finals, ultimately falling to Olympic silver medalist Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan 7-0. After securing tech falls in the first round and quarters, she had a much closer match in the semis, a 2-0 position battle over Lais Nunes De Oliveira of Brazil. After the heartbreaking exit Miracle had in the first round at the Olympics, the Campbellsville grad vindicated herself with her silver medal performance and like many other Senior level wrestlers around the world, will now reset and look toward the future after a long training cycle.

After taking fifth in 2018 and 2019, Molinari broke through to the podium in dominant fashion, earning a 12-1 win over Maryia Mamashuk (Belarus) in the bronze match. Her aggressive heavy hands and strong defensive approach served her well, fending off numerous attacks from Mamashuk, and even turning them into her own points. Leading 6-0 at the break, Molinari scored the tech fall in the middle of the second for the bronze. The King University grad needed a last-second score to defeat 2018 World silver medalist Koumba Larroque of France in the quarterfinals, though she would lose to Japan’s Miwa Morikawa 6-2 in the semis to land in the bronze match. 

At 59 kg, Maya Nelson landed in fifth place after a controversial loss in the bronze match. The 2017 Junior world champ was up 3-0 at break but suffered a shoulder injury early in the second. After she cried out in obvious pain and was attended to by trainers and coaches, she continued the match, having taken a few minutes of injury time. A few calls went against Nelson in the final few minutes, and she fell to Shoovdor Baatarjav of Mongolia 4-3.

Amy Fearnside (53 kg) and Kylie Welker (72 kg) both lost their first-round matches and were ultimately eliminated from repechage.

In the end, the U.S. women’s team continued to prove that it’s one of the best programs in the world, capping off a year of exploits at the Olympics and Worlds.