Sarah Hildebrandt (left), Jacarra Winchester (center), and Helen Maroulis (Photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
Over the next six days, we will bring you weight class previews for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Each preview will include three Olympic weights. They will highlight notable past achievements of the competitors in each weight, the American entry, and what to look for during the competition. Today we'll move on to the women's freestyle competition with the first three weights (50, 53, and 57 kg).
If you missed our Greco-Roman previews, they are below.
Greco-Roman Part One (60, 67, 77kg)
Greco-Roman Part Two (87, 97, 130kg)
50 kg Women's Freestyle
Seema Bisla (India) - 2021 Asian Bronze Medalist
Evin Demirhan (Turkey) - 2017 World Bronze Medalist, 2x European Bronze Medalist
Yusneylys Guzman (Cuba) - 2019 Pan-American Champion
Sarra Hamdi (Tunisia) - 2x African Silver Medalist
Adijat Idriss (Nigeria) -
Valentina Islamova (Kazakhstan) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2021 Asian Champion
Oksana Livach (Ukraine) - 2018 World Bronze Medalist, 2019 European Champion
Tsogt-Ochiryn Namuuntsetseg (Mongolia) - 2018 U23 World Bronze Medalist
Stalvira Orhush (Russia) - 3x European Champion
Mariya Stadnik (Azerbaijan) - 3x Olympic Medalist, 2x World Champion, 6x World Medalist, 8x European Champion
Miglena Selishka (Bulgaria) - 2020 European Champion
Yanan Sun (China) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2013 World Champion, 3x World Medalist
Yui Susaki (Japan) - 2x World Champion, 2x Junior World Champion, 3x Cadet World Champion
Alina Vuc (Romania) - 2x World Silver Medalist, 2016 Olympian, 2x European Silver Medalist
Lucia Yepez (Ecuador) -
The American Entry
Sarah Hildebrandt - Sarah Hildebrandt spent the bulk of the last quad establishing herself as a consistent medal threat at 53 kilos. She reached the medal stand in Budapest for the first time, taking silver at the 2018 World Championships. After missing out on placing in 2019, Hildebrandt decided to drop to 50 kg for the Olympic year. The leadoff weight (48/50kg) for the US has been one of the deepest, but has failed to yield a medal in World/Olympic competition since Alyssa Lampe in 2013. The move has been a sound one and Hildebrandt has been dominant at 50 kg.
Hildebrandt's first competition at the new weight was the Matteo Pellicone and she came away with the gold medal in an impressive field. That gave her the nod to travel to Ottawa to the 2020 Pan-American Olympic qualifying event. There Hildebrandt demolished 2012 world champion Jessica MacDonald (Canada) to make the tournament finals and qualify America for the Olympics at 50 kg. Her performance in the qualifier led to a bye to the finals of the Olympic Team Trials. There Hildebrandt would square off with two-time world team member Victoria Anthony. Hildebrandt won both of her bouts via tech and had little trouble with the dangerous Anthony.
Aside from the Trials, Hildebrandt has competed twice in 2021, winning titles at both the Henri DeGlane and the Pan-American Championships. Though the weight has some imposing threats atop class, Hildebrandt should be on the shortlist of gold medal contenders.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 3 (Stadnik, Sun, Susaki)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 8 (Demirhan, Hildebrandt, Islamova, Livach, Stadnik, Sun, Susaki, Vuc)
The top seed at this weight, Mariya Stadnik, is one of the most decorated women competing in this tournament. She's also in the mix for the gold and figures to be here, again. Of course, her and the rest of this weight will have to contend with Yui Susaki. The Japanese sensation has never lost to an international opponent and won her first Senior world title at just 18 years old (in 2017). She'll get drawn into the bracket somewhere. Hildebrandt will, as well. Since dropping to 50 kg, Hildebrandt has a win over the second seed Alina Vuc (2020 Pellicone) and past world medalist Evin Demirhan. She also placed higher than the third seed Oksana Livach. The other non-seeded title threat is China's Yanan Sun. However, the bulk of her accomplishments were accumulated in the prior quad.
53 kg Women's Freestyle
Tatyana Akhmetova (Kazakhstan) - 3x World fifth-place finisher, 4x Asian Champion
Andreea Ana (Romania) - 2x European Bronze Medalist
Rckaela Aquina (Guam) - 2x Oceania Champion
Bat-Ochiryn Bolortuyaa (Mongolia) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist
Joseph Essombe (Cameroon) - 2020 African Champion, 2016 Olympian
Laura Herin Avila (Cuba) -
Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus) - 2x World Champion, 2012 Olympian, 2x European Champion
Olga Khoroshavtseva (Russia) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2x European Champion
Sofia Mattsson (Sweden) - 2016 Olympic Bronze Medalist, 2009 World Champion, 6x World Medalist, 4x European Champion
Mayu Mukaida (Japan) - 2x World Champion, 4x World Medalist, 2019 Asian Silver Medalist
Qianyu Pang (China) - 2x World Bronze Medalist, 2016 Asian Champion
Vinesh Phogat (India) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2018 Asian Champion
Maria Prevolaraki (Greece) - 2x Olympian, 2x World Bronze Medalist, 3x European Silver Medalist
Luisa Valverde (Ecuador) - 2020 Pan-American Champion
Roksana Zasina (Poland) - 2017 World Bronze Medalist, 2013 European Champion
The American Entry
Jacarra Winchester - One of the most improved US women's freestylers over the past three years has to be Jacarra Winchester. From 2018 to 2019, Winchester went from losing in a bronze medal match to winning a 55 kg world title. Since 55 is a non-Olympic weight, Winchester had to move down to 53. That is a bit of a cut for someone who had been at 57 kg, even for the bulk of the 2018 season.
Even though Winchester was a 2019 world champion, she still needed to qualify 53 kg for the US at the 2020 Pan-American Olympic Qualifier. In her first match at 53 kg, Winchester got by her stiffest competition, Lianna Montero Herrera (Cuba), 6-2. She then defeated opponents from Mexico and Canada to make the qualifier finals and ensure the US was going to Tokyo at 53 kg. Winchester confirmed she would be the one heading to the Olympics by holding off Ronna Heaton in two matches at the Olympic Team Trials. Heaton made things interesting in bout one, before falling, 7-4. In the second match, Winchester pulled away for a 12-2 tech.
Winchester has competed twice in 2021, aside from the Trials. She was a silver medalist at the Henri DeGlane, losing in the finals to veteran Sofia Mattsson (Sweden), 7-4. While Mattsson's only world title came in 2009, she's typically in the mix for a medal at world-level events. Winchester also moved up to 55 kg and captured a Pan-American Championship.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 4 (Kaladzinskaya, Mattsson, Mukaida, Winchester)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 10 (Bolortuyaa, Kaladzinskaya, Khoroshavtseva, Mattsson, Mukaida, Pang, Phogat, Prevolaraki, Winchester, Zasina)
You saw that right! 10 of the 16 entrants at 53 kilos have at least a world medal on their resumes. Some weights will have a "bad draw" or two based on unseeded stars getting paired up with seeded wrestlers. 53 kg won't have any of that. The outliers will be the lopsided first-round matches. The favorite, Mukaida, is seeded, but second. First seeded Vinesh Phogat defeated Hildebrandt at the 2019 World Championships, but still is considered a step or two behind Mukaida. Aside from a strong push from Mukaida, good luck at trying to forecast anything with this weight. Something to consider, though, is that some of these competitors (Mattsson, Kaladzinskaya, Zasina) are now a few years removed from some of their best performances.
57 kg Women's Freestyle
Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria) - 2019 World Bronze Medalist, 2016 Olympian, 5x African Champion
Siwar Bousetta (Tunisia) -
Fatoumata Camara (Guinea) -
Alina Hrushyna (Ukraine) - 2020 European Silver Medalist
Risako Kawai (Japan) - 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist, 3x World Champion, 4x World Medalist, 4x Asian Champion
Boldsaikhany Khongorzul (Mongolia) - 2017 Cadet World Bronze Medalist
Valeria Koblova (Russia) - 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist, 2014 World Silver Medalist, 2x World Medalist, 2014 European Champion
Irina Kurachkina (Belarus) - 2x World Bronze Medalist, 2018 European Champion
Anshu Malik (India) - 2021 Asian Champion, 2017 Cadet World Champion
Anastasia Nichita (Moldova) - 2019 World fifth-place finisher, 2020 European Champion
Evelina Nikolova (Bulgaria) - 2015 World Bronze Medalist, 2019 European Silver Medalist
Mathilde Riviere (France) - 2017 World fifth-place finisher, 2017 European Bronze Medalist
Ningning Rong (China) - 2018 World Champion, 2x World Medalist, 2x Asian Champion
Alma Valencia (Mexico) -
Jowita Wrzesien (Poland) -
The American Entry
Helen Maroulis - Five years ago, Helen Maroulis made wrestling history by becoming the first American woman to capture a gold medal in the sport. She also pulled one of the biggest upsets in women's wrestling history by knocking off three-time Olympic champion and 13-time world champion Saori Yoshida (Japan). The trip back to the Olympics has been anything but a smooth ride for Maroulis, though. In 2017, Maroulis absolutely dismantled the field at the World Championships for her second world title.
After winning worlds in 2017, Maroulis traveled to India to compete in their pro league and suffered a severe concussion. That kept her out of action for the bulk of 2018 and delayed her Final X wrestle-off. When she did wrestle at the 2018 World Championships, Maroulis suffered a shoulder injury, which kept her out of action for 2019. Maroulis returned in 2020 to qualify 57 kg for the Olympics as she blew through the Pan-American Olympic Qualifier.
That win gave her a bye to the finals of the Trials, where she met up with Jenna Burkert. In a series that will be remembered for the ages, Maroulis prevailed in match one, before getting edged by Burkert in the second bout. With an Olympic berth hanging in the balance, Maroulis used her signature footsweep to shock Burkert and pin her in :24 seconds.
Since the Trials, Maroulis has competed once at the Poland Open. She did not look her usual self in a lopsided 13-0 loss to Adekuoroye. She is obviously a wild card. In top form, she is a threat to claim gold medal number two.
Number of Senior World/Olympic Champions: 3 (Kawai, Maroulis, Rong)
Number of Senior World/Olympic Medalists: 7 (Adekuoroye , Kawai, Koblova, Kurachkina, Maroulis, Nkolova, Rong)
As with most women's weights, you have to look at the entry of the home team Japan first and foremost. At 57 kg is Risako Kawai, who won Olympic gold in 2016 at 63 kg. Kawai has steadily moved down to 57 kg and has not lost at the current weight. The other past world champion in this bracket, Ningning Rong, is slated to meet Kawai in the semifinals, provided chalk prevails. Rong is a young start that has only lost a few matches since 2018. Of course, since Maroulis is not seeded, she could run into either of the two, as well. The two and three seeds Adekuoroye and Kurachkina both have world medals to their credit, but neither has higher than bronze. Could Adekuoroye's victory over Maroulis be a signal that she's ready to put herself into the upper echelon at this weight? Finally, look out for the 2016 Olympic silver medalist Valeria Koblova. She is unseeded and has not competed frequently over the past three years. She'll be a wild card here.