2021 World Medalists Jenna Burkert (left) and Kayla Miracle (Burkert Photo/Kadir Caliskan; Miracle Photo/Tony Rotundo; UWW)
Will Sarah Hildebrandt finally taste gold?
The pre-tournament favorites both advanced at 50 kg as Sarah Hildebrandt will meet Japan's Remina Yoshimoto in tomorrow's final. Olympic bronze medalist Hildebrandt continues to shine at 50 and dispatched all three of her opponents today with little trouble. She outscored her trio of competitors by a 22-1 margin. Yoshimoto was equally as dominant, distancing herself from her opponents 31-0, with a fall. The 2017 Cadet world champion will pose a credible threat to Hildebrandt finally standing on the top of the world podium. She has taken home silver on two occasions.
Age-group star Nadezhda Sokolova (Russia) and two-time world medalist Emilia Vuc (Romania) are both semifinal losers that will compete for bronze tomorrow. 2020 Individual World Cup bronze medalist Lisa Ersel (Germany) could pose a serious threat to Sokolova's medal chances.
The berth of Japan's next superstar?
In our 53 kg preview, Olivia Lichti mentioned that Japan's Akari Fujanami has created a lot of buzz about her ability to hold her own against Japan's top stars, while at 17 years old. Those rumors proved to be accurate as Fujanami cruised through the field with three straight techs and didn't surrender a point in the process. Pretty good for someone who needed a parental signature just to enter the tournament. She'll cap off her amazing run against Iulia Leorda (Moldova) in the gold medal match. Leorda picked up two falls in her trek to the finals; her semifinal win was her second pin and it came as she was trailing 10-6 on the scoreboard.
Khrystyna Bereza (Ukraine) and Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland) both fell in the semifinal and will drop into the bronze medal bouts. Both are looking for their first Senior-level world medals. Krawczyk suffered a loss in a bronze medal contest in 2018. She earned wins over American Amy Fearnside and 2021 Junior World Champion Emma Malmgren (Sweden).
Japan wins Tournament's first gold medal; Burkert claims first career Senior medal
In one of the two weight classes that wrapped up on Tuesday, it was Tsugumi Sakurai (Japan) that took home the first gold medal in the women's competition. Sakurai did so with a 10-0 tech of Nina Hemmer (Germany). Perhaps the most significant win of the tournament for the Japanese star came in the semis as she knocked off two-time European champion and 2019 World bronze medalist Olga Khoroshavtseva (Russia).
Khoroshavtseva wasn't able to replicate her medal-winning ways from two years ago as she fell in a bronze medal shootout to Oleksandra Khomenets (Ukraine) 10-8. Khomenets also posted a strong win over Roksana Zasina (Poland), who wrestled Sakurai closer than anyone in the tournament.
Hemmer had an unlikely run to the finals that almost was crushed in the semis as she spent a significant portion of the first period fighting off her back against Pinki (India). She also had a challenge overturned at the buzzer in the quarterfinals against Andreea Ana (Romania). Had Hemmer lost either bout, American Jenna Burkert would have been eliminated.
Hemmer's persistence worked to Burkert's favor and she took advantage of the opportunity. Jenna defeated Ana in the repechage round and Pinki for a bronze medal, 5-2. The medal is the first for Burkert, who made her first Senior World team in 2014 and has competed at four different weights at the World Championships.
Top-Seeded Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan) holds serve against Miracle in World Finals
The well-decorated favorite, Aisuluu Tynybekova, added more hardware to her collection as she captured her second world title at the weight. It caps off a remarkable year for Tynybekova, who also became an Olympic silver medalist. The toughest bout of the tournament for Tynybekova came in the opening round as she came back to defeat young Japanese star Nonoka Ozaki, 6-4. Ozaki would rebound to claim a bronze medal with a win via tech over Ilona Prokopevniuk (Ukraine).
This tournament marked the Senior-level breakthrough for American Kayla Miracle. Miracle has been near the top of the international heap, but fell in her only bout at the Olympics. This time, Miracle gave up four quick points in the Round of 16, before reeling off 14 for a tech. After another tech, Miracle had to face Pan-American rival Lais Nunes de Oliveira (Brazil) to lock up a medal. In a guarded, defensive contest, Miracle prevailed 2-0 and made the world final. That win guaranteed that Miracle would have earned medals at each age group (Cadet/Junior/U23/Senior).
In the finals, Miracle was unable to penetrate the normally stingy defend of Tynybekova and fell 7-0. Miracle's first opponent, Gantuya Enkhbat (Mongolia), edged Nunes de Oliveira 7-6 for the second bronze medal.
Morikawa emerges from loaded half of the bracket to face Moldova's Ringaci
American Forrest Molinari was a semifinalist in perhaps the most loaded half of a bracket in any of the ten women's weights. After two quick wins, Molinari engaged in a tight 3-3 win over 2018 World silver medalist Koumba Larroque (France). Molinari pulled out a clutch victory over her French opponent, by trying to finish a leg attack within the final ten seconds. Rather than completing the takedown, Molinari exposed Larroque for two points and the win. Larroque almost wasn't able to advance to meet Molinari because she was pushed by European U23 champion Tetiana Rizhko (Ukraine) in a 4-3 bout.
2019 Junior World champion Miwa Morikawa was able to out-tactic Molinari for the bulk of their semifinal match. Once Molinari pushed too hard on a seemingly gassed Morikawa, the Japanese woman took advantage of the openings and prevailed, 6-2. Molinari has the winner of Maryia Mamashuk (Belarus) and Aina Temirtassova (Kazakhstan) standing between her and a bronze medal.
The other half of the bracket saw Irina Ringaci (Moldova) become her country's second finalist of the tournament. Like Leorda, Ringaci pulled off a fall while she was trailing in the semifinals against 2020 European champion Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria). Hristova will await the winner of Eyleen Sewina (Germany) and Malin Mattsson (Sweden) in the bronze medal match.
Adeline Gray on the cusp of American history
Yesterday, the American wrestling community saluted Jordan Burroughs as he tied John Smith with six World/Olympic gold medals. Just two days later, Adeline Gray will have the opportunity to join the club. Gray can actually put her own spin on the accomplishment. If she were to win, Gray would be the only American, man or woman, to have won six world titles.
In her three bouts today, Gray looked very close to top form as she pinned her first two opponents then teched Samar Hamza (Egypt), 11-1 in the semis. Hamza was able to keep the American legend in check for the first period, though she trailed 1-1 on criteria. Gray turned up the pace in the second period and quickly put the match out of reach. After a four-point takedown, Gray quickly racked up six more points on the mat to stun her Egyptian foe. Hamza will drop down to meet the winner of Kiran (India) and Aysegul Ozbege (Turkey) with a bronze medal in the balance.
Standing between Gray and history is longtime rival Epp Maee (Estonia). Maee is a two-time world bronze medalist that has wrestled for a medal on three other occasions. Generally, she's in the mix with the best in the world at 76 kg. Maee pulled out some late-match heroics to knock off Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan) in the semifinals. The Estonian exposed the 2019 U23 World bronze medalist, Medet Kyzy, in the waning second of their bout to earn her first trip to the world finals.