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Winchester becomes first finalist for USA at Worlds

Jacarra Winchester celebrates after winning in the semifinals at the World Championships (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan -- The United States has its first finalist at the 2019 World Championships.

Jacarra Winchester, a fifth-place finisher at last year's World Championships, advanced to the finals at 55 kilograms on the first day of the women's wrestling competition in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. She defeated Turkey's Bediha Gun, 6-4, in the semifinals.

Two other Americans, Sarah Hildebrandt (53 kilograms) and Victoria Francis (72 kilograms), lost in the quarterfinals. Both will compete in repechage on Wednesday.

Winchester, who entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed, found herself in a 2-0 hole in the semifinals after giving up two-point exposure when Gun was on the activity clock. The 26-year-old American came back with a takedown off a leg attack late in the first period to grab the lead on criteria.

In the second period, Winchester scored another takedown in just under a minute into the period to go up 4-2. A short time later, Gun was in a leg attack and drove Winchester out of bounds for a step out to make the score 4-3. Winchester responded with another takedown in the final minute to extend her lead to 6-3. Gun would add a late point off a caution, but Winchester would hold on to win by two.

She will face Japan's Nanami Irie for the gold medal on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Winchester cruised to a 13-2 technical superiority over Bolortuya Bat Ochir of Mongolia in the quarterfinals. She scored two two-point takedowns and a step out before getting a four-point takedown late in the first period and nearly securing the fall before the period ended. In the second period, the Mongolian scored her first points off an arm spin before Winchester turned the tables, getting four points to close the match.

Winchester started her day with a 10-0 technical superiority over Madina Nadirova of Kyrgyzstan. After getting a takedown, Winchester blew the match open with a four-point throw to go up 6-0. She added a turn and another takedown a short time later to end the match.

Sarah Hildebrandt fell in the quarterfinals to Japan's Mayu Mukaida (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

Returning world silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt reached the quarterfinals at 53 kilograms before losing to two-time world champion Mayu Mukaida of Japan, 12-1. After a scoreless first period, Mukaida scored a takedown off a go-behind to take a 2-0 lead. The Japanese star scored a second takedown midway through the first period off a single leg to extend her lead to 4-0. Late in the first period, Mukaida scored a third takedown and followed it up with a gut wrench before Hildebrandt came behind for a reversal, making the score 8-1 in favor of Mukaida at the break. In the second period, Mukaida picked up another takedown and closed out the technical superiority with a gut wrench.

Hildebrandt dominated her first opponent, Thi Dao Bui of Vietnam, getting a first-period technical superiority. She scored a takedown before locking up a lace and getting four turns to end the match in just over a minute.

The 25-year-old Hildebrandt will have a chance to wrestle back for a bronze medal after Mukaida reached the finals. She will face the winner of a match between Vinesh of India and Yuliia Khavaldzhy Blahinya of Ukraine. If Hildebrandt win that match, she will wrestle for the bronze medal and also qualify the weight class for the United States at the Olympic Games.

Victoria Francis, like Hildebrandt, reached the quarterfinals before losing. She was shut out by Ukraine's Alina Stadnik Makhynia, 4-0. Makhynia, a 2013 world champion, threw Francis in a headlock in the first period, nearly securing a fall before settling for a 4-0 lead. The headlock would prove to the difference in the match as neither wrestler scored the rest of the way.

Victoria Francis gets her hand raised after beating Dejah Slater of Canada in her first match (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

Francis started her tournament with a first-period fall over 2019 Pan American champion Dejah Slater of Canada. She scored with a step out and takedown to go up 3-0 before driving Slater to her back and securing the fall with 30 seconds remaining in the period.

Whitney Conder walks off the mat after losing her first match to Son-Hyang Kim of North Korea (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

Whitney Conder dropped her first match at 50 kilograms to Son-Hyang Kim of North Korea, 6-0. It was the second straight year that Conder drew Kim in the first round at the World Championships. Kim scored two takedowns in the first periods and added another one in the second period while shutting down Conder's offense.

Conder was eliminated from the tournament when Kim lost her next match to 2013 world champion Yanan Sun of China.

Four more American women will begin their tournaments on Wednesday: Jenna Burkert (57 kilograms), Alli Ragan (59 kilograms) Forrest Molinari (65 kilograms), and Adeline Gray (72 kilograms).

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