Four U.S. women’s wrestlers traveled to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on a mission to qualify their weight class for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Two will return home with their mission accomplished.
Haley Augello and Helen Maroulis each earned their ticket to Brazil by winning their respective semifinals and reaching the gold-medal match of the first Olympic Games World Qualifying Tournament. Kelsey Campbell, who fell in the first round, and Tamyra Mensah, who earned bronze, will reset their focus on Istanbul, Turkey, where the last-chance qualifier will be held May 6-8.
Although this marks her first trip to the Olympic Games, Maroulis is no stranger to success in international competition. In the past four years she has collected a medal of every hue at the world championships, beginning with a silver in 2012, followed by a bronze in 2014 and capped with a gold at the 2015 tournament in Las Vegas. She also has a Pan American Games gold medal to her credit, won in Guadalajara in 2011.
Wrestling at 53 kg. – down from the non-Olympic 55 kg. from the 2015 worlds – Maroulis opened her tournament with an 8-2 win over Alma Jane Valencia Escoto of Mexico, followed by a 10-0 technical fall victory against India’s Kumari Babita. The semifinal round saw her square off against Ukraine’s Lilya Horishna, ranked No. 13 in the world, and Maroulis scored a win by fall to secure her spot in Rio. She capped the tournament by taking the gold medal with a 10-0 technical fall win over Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki.
As a freshman at Magruder High School in Rockville, Maryland, Maroulis became the first female wrestler to place at the state championships, taking sixth. She also was the first female wrestler to win a match at the state championship.
Augello nailed down a spot on her first Olympic team by taking silver in the 48 kg. weight class. She opened with a 12-1 technical fall against Viyaleta Chyryk of Belarus, then backed that with a 10-0 technical fall over Finland’s Sarianne Savola. In the semifinal, she continued her run with yet another 10-0 technical fall over Mariya Livach of Ukraine. She finally lost steam in the championship match, where she fell to South Korea’s Hyon Gyong Kim, 9-2, settling for the silver medal.
A two-time WCWA national champion at 116 pounds, Augello has dominated as a collegiate wrestler at King University. She is undefeated in 35 collegiate matches, with a 29-0 record in technical falls. Ranked No. 3 on the U.S. ladder at 53 kg., she earned USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week honors March 28 after dominating her weight class at the Women’s University Nationals.
Two weeks later she won her weight class at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – and an opportunity to qualify her weight class and herself for Rio in Mongolia – by defeating 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Clarissa Chun.
Campbell entered the tournament looking to qualify for her second trip to the Games. She competed in the 55 kg. class at the London 2012 Olympic Games after beating Maroulis at Olympic Trials. In London, Campbell fell to eventual Olympic champion Saori Yoshida in her opening match. Entering the Olympic Trials ranked No. 3 in her weight class of 58 kg., she upset U.S. No. 1-ranked Alli Ragan to earn the opportunity to compete for a spot in Rio. In Ulaanbaatar, she lost in the qualification round to Hungary’s Emese Barka.
Mensah fell victim to the bracket in her 69 kg. class. After opening with a technical fall victory over India’s Kaur Navjot, she scored a 10-7 win against Gozal Zutova of Azerbaijan. That led to a semifinal clash with No. 1 seed Ilana Kratysh of Israel, who edged Mensah 6-5.
Augello and Maroulis join nine other wrestlers on the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team. They are Andy Bisek (75 kg.), Ben Provisor (85 kg.) and Robby Smith (130 kg.) in Greco-Roman; Elena Pirozhkova (63 kg.) and Adeline Gray (75 kg.) in women’s freestyle; and Daniel Dennis (57 kg.), Jordan Burroughs (74 kg.), Kyle Snyder (97 kg.) and Tervel Dlagnev (125 kg.) in men’s freestyle.
In addition to Campbell and Mensha, five other Americans who won at Olympic Trials still must qualify their weight class to compete in Rio. Frank Molinaro (65 kg.) and J’den Cox (86 kg.) will compete in Ulaanbaatar Sunday attempting to earn their ticket, while Greco-Roman wrestlers Jesse Thielke (59 kg.), RaVaughn Perkins (66 kg.) and Joe Rau (98 kg.) will head to Istanbul with Campbell and Mensah after falling Friday in Mongolia.