The U.S. women's freestyle wrestling team is coming off a fifth-place finish at the 2010 World Championships. Elena Pirozhkova and Tatiana Padilla earned World medals last year. Pirozhkova won a silver medal at 63 kg, while Padilla took home a bronze medal at 55 kg. Several U.S. women wrestlers have performed well in international events this year.
Because the 2011 World Championship is a qualifying event for the 2012 Olympic Games, a decision was made to have only the four women's freestyle Olympic weight classes be contested at this year's Trials.
Below is a weight-by-weight breakdown of the women's freestyle competition.
Clarissa Chun (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)48 kg: Clarissa Chun, a 2008 World champion, gets an automatic berth in the best-of-three finals after cruising to her fourth U.S. Open title in April. Chun, who battled a shoulder injury last year, came up short of making the 2010 U.S. World Team, losing to Alyssa Lampe in the best-of-three finals. Lampe did not compete at this year's U.S. Open, but is expected compete at the Trials. She has won medals in international events this season, including a gold medal at the Guelph Open in Canada. Nicole Woody, a past Junior World champion, was runner-up at this year's U.S. Open to Chun. Sara Fulp-Allen is a past U.S. Open champion who has the tools to challenge at this weight class. Whitney Conder, a past Junior World champion, won the U.S. Open at 51 kilos and will be one of the top contenders in this weight class. Jessica Medina, who was runner-up to Condor at the U.S. Open, is also dropping from 51 kilos and will be looking to make her third straight U.S. World Team. Another wrestler to keep your eye on in this weight class is Mary Kelly, who is expected to compete for the first time since suffering an injury at last year's Trials. Kelly, a 2006 U.S. World Team member, has been a top contender for more than a decade and is still only 27. Others who could figure into the mix include C.C. Weber, Erin Golston, and Victoria Anthony.
Prediction: Chun over Lampe
55 kg: Helen Maroulis came out victorious at this year's U.S. Open, which automatically puts her in the best-of-three finals. Maroulis was a member of the 2008 U.S. World Team and won the U.S. Open in 2009. She has been successful in age group events, winning two Junior World bronze medals and two WCWA women's college championships. Tatiana Padilla, who has represented the U.S. at the past three World Championships, is not expected to compete due to injury. Kelsey Campbell, who won both the U.S. Open and U.S World Team Trials in 2010 at 59 kilos, has put together solid season. She won the Sunkist Kids International this season and was runner-up to Maroulis at the U.S. Open. Schuyler Brown, who has been on the Junior World Team twice and placed third at the U.S. Open, is another contender in this weight class. Sharon Jacobson, a past U.S. Open champion, should figure into the mix, as should Shauna Isbell and Michaela Hutchison. Isbell and Hutchinson, both college wrestlers, placed fifth and sixth respectively at the U.S. Open. Others to watch if they compete in this weight class include Trinity Plessinger, Katherine Fulp-Allen, and Ashley Hudson.
Prediction: Maroulis over Campbell
63 kg: Elena Pirozhkova captured the U.S. Open title at this weight class and will face the winner of the Challenge Tournament. Pirozhkova had a tremendous year in 2010, winning a World silver medal, a second University World title, and a Pan American title. She is looking to make her fourth straight U.S. World Team. Kristie Davis and Adeline Gray are two of the frontrunners in the Challenge Tournament. Davis, a two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist, was runner-up to Pirozhkova at this year's U.S. Open. Davis made the U.S. World Team last year at 67 kilos. Gray, who placed fifth at the 2009 World Championships, was out of competition most of last year because of a knee injury, but has looked strong since returning to the mat this year. Gray claimed the U.S. Open title at 67 kilos, and won gold medals at the Dan Kolov International in Bulgaria and Mongolian Nationals. Davis and Gray are the clear frontrunners, but others like Alli Regan, Othella Lucas, and Veronica Carlson could figure into the mix. Regan, a member of the King College women's wrestling team, placed third at this year's U.S. Open. Lucas, who is a part of the U.S. Army's World Class Athlete Program, placed fourth at this year's U.S. Open. Carlson, a 2009 Junior World bronze medalist, was runner-up to Pirozhkova at the Trials a year ago. Another wrestler who could challenge in this weight class if she enters is Erin Clodgo, who was runner-up to Gray at the U.S. Open at 67 kilos. In 2010, Clodgo won a U.S. Open title and was runner-up to Davis at the Trials.
Prediction: Gray over Pirozhkova
Ali Bernard (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)72 kg: Stephany Lee entered this season as the top wrestler in this weight class after finishing eighth at the World Championships a year ago. However, Lee did not compete at this year's U.S. Open, clearing the path for Ali Bernard to win her third U.S. Open title and earn an automatic berth in the best-of-three finals. Iris Smith, a 2007 World champion, finished runner-up to Bernard at the U.S. Open. Lee, if she competes, and Smith will likely be the top two seeds in the Challenge Tournament. Others who could make noise in this weight class include Kendra Lewis, Melissa Simmons, Emma Randall, and Brittany Delgado.
Prediction: Bernard over Lee