Tamyra Mensa-Stock poses for a portrait during the Team USA Tokyo 2020 Olympics shoot on Nov. 21, 2019 in West Hollywood, Calif.
The new year is already off to an impressive start for some of the country’s top wrestlers.
In a highly-anticipated battle, world champions Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Adeline Gray faced off in the headline bout of a 10-match card sponsored by FloWrestling in Texas on Saturday night. Despite moving up a weight class, Mensah-Stock clamped down on defense and shut her opponent out in a 4-0 upset victory for the Olympic hopeful.
Just prior to the headline match, Olympic bronze medalist J’den Cox wrestled for the first time in nearly a year and won a 6-2 decision over Hayden Zillmer. The grudge match between Jordan Burroughs and David Taylor that was supposed to co-headline was moved to Wednesday night.
The top match of the night instead featured two women’s world champions facing off for just the second time ever. Mensah-Stock moved up from her usual weight class of 68 kg. to take on Olympian Gray at 76 kg.
Mensah-Stock, who was named United World Wrestling’s women’s wrestler of the year for 2019, is looking to make her Olympic debut in 2021. She won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling in 2016, but the U.S. failed to get a quota spot in her weight class for Rio.
Although most of 2020 was a wash because of COVID-19, Mensah-Stock was coming off a stellar 2019 that not only included her first-ever world title but also championships at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, Pan American Games, Pan American Championships, Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov Tournament and City of Sassari Tournament. She is the first American to win three Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix titles.
Gray, meanwhile, became the first five-time senior world champion in U.S. history when she won her 2019 title. The 2016 Olympian also won world titles in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
Both are ranked No. 1 in the world in their respective weight categories.
Gray was held without a point on Saturday, however, as she struggled to gain any offense against Mensah-Stock. Mensah-Stock held the 4-0 lead by the end of the first period.
The lead-up bout to the headlining battle featured Cox and Zillmer. Cox is the two-time defending world champion and top-ranked wrestler in the world at 92 kg., but because that weight class won’t be contested in Tokyo this summer, he’s now moved up to 97 kg. This was his first match at the new weight as well as his first match in almost a year. Cox last wrestled in February 2020, winning the Cerro Pelado in Cuba.
Cox, who battled COVID-19 in late November, started off slow. He came back with a strong second period, however, and a takedown and a turn saw him jump ahead with a 4-1 lead en route to the victory.