Kaori Icho (Japan)
Kaori Icho (Photo/T.R. Foley)Much of the attention around women's freestyle wrestling has been directed at the dominance of the Japanese side. Kaori Icho is one-half of that dominant force, winning three Olympic gold medals and eight World titles. Unlike her compatriot Saori Yoshida, Icho took some time off to train in Canada, learned English and pursued other interests. Those travels cost her a few World titles, but ultimately gave her the opportunity to work on new techniques.
Icho's technique is simply the best among female wrestlers. She reads opponents better than most of her male counterparts and finds creative, if not abusive, finishes. This year in the finals of the Ivan Yariguin she seemed unphased in dismantling a stronger Tserenchimed Sukhee of Mongolia, the No. 3 wrestler in the world, using her straight double leg attacks and snatch singles.
Want something else to impress you? Icho's winning streak dwarfs that of Jordan Burroughs, with the Japanese wrestler having won an incredible 165 straight matches. That's one record you can be certain will never be broken.
Saori Yoshida (Japan)
Saori Yoshida (Photo/T.R. Foley)The other half of the Japanese wonder team, Saori Yoshida has won three Olympic gold medals and 11 World championships, making her the most successful World title holder in the history of wrestling. Her 14 straight titles is a feat unlikely to ever be broken
More raw than Icho, Yoshida has taken a few losses on her path to greatness. She's less creative and more straight forward, but when the pressure is on there is arguably no one better at closing out a match. She's got a nice front headlock and a powerful straight single.
Natalia Vorobieva (Russia)
The young and dominant Russian stunned Stanka Zlateva in the 2012 Olympic finals to put herself in position to become the face of women's wrestling in Europe. The outgoing and charismatic Natalia Vorobieva is the reigning queen of social media with Instagram and Facebook updates seen by tens of thousands of fans around the world.
Though popular online, her real talents are on the mat where an attack-first attitude has translated into a 2014 European championship and a runner-up performance at the 2013 World Championships. Her fireman's carry is one of the best single moves in all of wrestling and was the key to her fall over Zlateva.
Vorobieva is wrestling better than almost anyone in the world, and if she can stay as focused on the mats as she has online she'll end up winning several more World and Olympic titles.
Sofia Mattsson (Sweden)
Sofia Mattsson (Photo/Tony Rotundo)Nicknamed the "Glamour Girl of Wrestling," Sofia Mattsson is one of the most technically efficient wrestlers in the world. A 2009 World champion and three-time European champion, Mattsson is consistently finding her way into the finals of tournaments.
Now separated from Yoshida and competing in the non-Olympic weight, it's likely that Mattsson will find her way to several more World titles. Will she bump back down and take on Yoshida for 2016? Yes. Will she win? Too early to tell.
Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan)
Pound-for-pound one of the strongest female wrestlers in the world, Yuliya Ratkevich is having a dominant season. The 2013 World bronze medalist won the Klippan Lady Open in dominant fashion and looks to be the heavy favorite to win the non-Olympic weight class in Tashkent.
Eri Tosaka (Japan)
A 2013 World champion, the young Eri Tosaka looks to become the next star for Japanese wrestling. To do that she will need to keep up her early season results, most impressive of which is a 5-3 victory over 53-kilo World champion Sun Yanan of China, who made her debut at the lower weight class during this year's World Cup in Japan.
Tosaka has the tools to be great, but with Sun on her tail, she will be challenged more consistently than her Japanese teammates.
Adeline Gray (United States)
Adeline Gray is staking claim to the new weight class by defeating 2013 World champion Zhang Fengliu of China and 2013 World bronze medalist Ochirbatyn Burmaa of Mongolia at the World Cup. The 2012 World champion at 67 kilos is showing speed and strength at her new weight class and if she can stay healthy her rematch with Zhang is likely to be one of the best matches from this year's World Championships.
Sun Yanan (China)
One of the most aggressive wrestlers in the world, Sun Yanan is not afraid to lift opponents off the mat to finish shots. Well-coached, well-trained and highly technical, her upcoming battles with Eri Tosaka of Japan at the World Championships and Asian Games will be decided by her ability to get on top and look for her ridiculous trap-arm series.
Anastasija Grigorjeva (Latvia)
Anastasija Grigorjeva won the Klippan Lady Open and has been solid all season, earning the top FILA ranking and holding on by winning her third European championship. She will be tested by No. 2 Soronzonbold Battsetseg of Mongolia at the Worlds, but if she stays consistent will be the favorite to win her first World title.
Soronzonbold Battsetseg (Mongolia)
The 2010 World champion Soronzonbold Battsetseg helped usher in the recent success of the Mongolian women's freestyle wrestling team. Impossibly tough, Battsetseg's biggest problem has been matching the speed of her opponents at 63 kilos. Though she came up, her dominance at 59 kilos came from being so much stronger than her opponents. Some of that is gone, but in its place is a determination to succeed that matches or exceeds anyone in wrestling.
Battsetseg, like many of her Mongolian teammates, is also known to launch throws early and late in matches, making her an exciting competitor to keep an eye on at the World Championships.