Wrestling Preview

USA Wrestling heads into the Olympic year with momentum and confidence. The U.S. wrestling teams in the three Olympic disciplines should be a mix of proven veterans and young talent, each aiming to reach the podium.

There are 18 weight classes for wrestling – six in each discipline – at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, which will now take place in 2021. The first phase in qualifying took place in September 2019 at the world championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan. The second phase was the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier, which was held in Canada in March. With one phase of qualification left, USA Wrestling has qualified in 15 of the 18 weight classes, with a chance to still retain the other three weights.

In men’s freestyle, the U.S. is very talented, winning the world team title in 2017, placing second at the 2018 world championships and third in the 2019 world championships. Team USA earned six podium spots in 2017 and seven in 2018, including five world titles. In 2019, the USA added four more medals, with two more individual gold medals.

Stars to watch in men’s freestyle are 2012 Olympic champion and four-time world champion Jordan Burroughs (74 kg.), 2016 Olympic champion and two-time world champion Kyle Snyder (97 kg.), two-time world champions Kyle Dake (74 kg.) and J’den Cox (86 kg.), who is also a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, as well as 2018 world champion David Taylor (86 kg.). Other past world medalists in the hunt include Nick Gwiazdowski (125 kg.), James Green (74 kg.), Joe Colon (57 kg.) and Thomas Gilman (57 kg.).

In women’s freestyle, Team USA placed second in 2017, and third in 2018 and 2019 at the world championships. Top U.S. stars aiming for Tokyo are 2016 Olympic champion and two-time world champion Helen Maroulis (57 kg.), five-time world champion and 2016 Olympian Adeline Gray (76 kg.), 2019 world champions Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68 kg.) and Jacarra Winchester (53 kg.), and world medalists Sarah Hildebrandt (50 kg.), Mallory Velte (62 kg.), Alli Ragan (57 kg.) and Becka Leathers (57 kg.).

In Greco-Roman, Adam Coon (130 kg.) won a world silver medal in 2018, the first U.S. athlete to do so since 2015. Other contenders with past international success include G’Angelo Hancock (97 kg.), 2017 junior world champion Kamal Bey (77 kg.), two-time Olympian Ben Provisor (87 kg.) and past Olympians Ellis Coleman (67 kg.) and Ildar Hafizov (60 kg.).

Updated on July 22, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.

Can Olympic champions Burroughs, Snyder and Maroulis return to the podium in Tokyo?
There are three past U.S. Olympic champions seeking another Olympic title in Tokyo: 2012 Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs at 74 kg. in men’s freestyle, 2016 Olympic champion Helen Maroulis at 57 kg. in women’s freestyle and 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder at 97 kg. in men’s freestyle. Only three American wrestlers in history have won two Olympic gold medals – George Mehnert (1904, 1908), John Smith (1988, 1992) and Bruce Baumgartner (1984, 1992). Burroughs, Maroulis and Snyder have all won multiple senior world championship titles, and they are aiming to make history in Tokyo.

Will Adeline Gray add Olympic gold to her record number of world titles?  
Adeline Gray is one of the best U.S. wrestlers in history, regardless of gender or wrestling style. Last year, she became the first American, male or female, to win five world titles, surpassing legends John Smith, Tricia Saunders and Jordan Burroughs. Gray was a favorite to win at the Rio Games, but finished seventh. After resting throughout the 2017 season to heal from injuries and refocus on her career, Gray won her fourth world title in 2018 and went on to add her record-breaking fifth world title in 2019.
There have been changes for Gray since the Rio Games, including getting married, changing her training location and taking a coaching job, but she is back at the top of her game heading into Tokyo.

How will top U.S. stars in non-Olympic weight classes fare after changing divisions for Tokyo?
In international wrestling, there are 10 weight classes in each of the three Olympic disciplines. However, at the Olympic Games, these athletes must fit into six Olympic weight classes in each discipline, forcing numerous athletes to change their weight class for the Olympic year. In 2018 and 2019, two U.S. men’s freestyle wrestlers won world titles at non-Olympic weight classes: Kyle Dake at 79 kg. and J’den Cox at 92 kg. These athletes, among others on the U.S. team, have picked their weights for the 2020 season with Dake moving down to 74 kg to take on 2012 Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs and Cox moving up to 97 kg to face 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder. Some of the top women stars have changed weight classes, with world champion Jacarra Winchester dropping to 53 kg, World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt moving to 50 kg and world silver medalist Alli Ragan switching to 57 kg. 

 

Jordan Burroughs (Sicklerville, New Jersey) 
One of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Burroughs boasts a 2012 Olympic gold medal, four world gold medals and three world bronze medals. He was also a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, where he did not earn a medal. His five combined Olympic and world gold medals trail only the legendary John Smith with six. For the Tokyo Games, Burroughs would be 33 years old and have a tough challenge to make the U.S. team. Already a hero and role model to many, he aims to cement his legacy with a second Olympic title in 2021.

Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Maryland)
History was made during the Rio Games, when Maroulis defeated three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan in the 53 kg. finals to become the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. Maroulis had an amazing three-year run, where she won a 2015 world title, 2016 Olympic title and 2017 world title, at three different weight classes. But in 2018, she suffered a concussion in a professional league contest in India, which led to a long and challenging recovery period. Maroulis is expected to attempt to make the Olympic team in a new weight class, 57 kg. Her victory at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier shows she is back in top form.

Kyle Snyder (Woodbine, Maryland)
Snyder is used to making history. In 2015, he became the youngest U.S. wrestler at age 19 to win a senior world title with his gold medal at 97 kg. in Las Vegas. In 2016, he became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win an Olympic title, with his gold-medal run in Rio at age 20. Snyder kept it rolling in 2017, when he beat world and Olympic champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev of Russia in the last bout of the world finals, giving the U.S. a one-point victory and its first world team title in 26 years. Snyder has won a 2018 world silver and 2019 world bronze. Still in the prime of his career, Snyder is looking to claim his second Olympic gold medal.

J’den Cox (Columbia, Missouri)
In 2016, after his junior year at University of Missouri, Cox decided to pursue a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team. He dropped down to 86 kg., won the U.S. Olympic Trials, then went to Mongolia to qualify his weight for the Rio Games. In Rio, Cox won an Olympic bronze medal, before returning to Missouri to finish his collegiate career. In 2018, Cox moved up to the non-Olympic 92 kg. weight class and became a U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center resident in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He powered to a world title at 92 kg. that same year. In 2019, he defended his 92 kg. world title without surrendering a single point the entire tournament. With the domestic challenge he faces to make the Olympic team, will Cox be able to turn his 2016 Olympic bronze medal into a gold in Tokyo?

 

There will be 16 athletes from around the world in each of the 18 Olympic weight classes, and United World Wrestling has created a three-stage qualifying process for determining the field for the Tokyo Games. Only one athlete per nation can qualify in a weight class, and in doing so, they qualify their nation for the Olympic quota spot.

The first phase was the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, where the top-six athletes in each of the 18 Olympic weight classes earned a Tokyo quota spot for their nation. The USA had four of its 18 weights qualified. 

The second phase included four continental Olympic qualifiers in early 2020. Team USA competed in the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier, March 13-15 in Ottawa, Ontario. The USA qualified for Tokyo in 11 more weight classes in Ottawa, bringing the U.S. total to 15 Olympic berths.

The final opportunity to qualify the three final weight classes for the Tokyo Games is the World Olympic Qualification Tournament, where the top-two athletes in each weight class qualify their nation for the Tokyo Games. This event will be held in the spring of 2021 Sofia, Bulgaria.

 

To compete in the Olympic Games, not only does an athlete need to be in a weight class which the U.S. has qualified in for the Tokyo Games, but they also must win their weight class at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling, which is set for April 2021, tentatively at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania.

There are several qualifying events which will determine the field for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling. Each of the three Olympic disciplines has its own Olympic Trials qualifying procedures, which have been approved by the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

 
  • April TBA, 2021: U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling (tentative: State College, Pennsylvania)
  • April TBA, 2021: World Olympic Qualification Tournament (Sofia, Bulgaria)