USA Wrestling World Championships ...

World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 58 kg/128 lbs.

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Aug. 26, 2014, 12:22 p.m. (ET)

VIDEO: All Ragan (USA) dec. Michelle Fazzari (CAN), 2013 NYAC International finals

Date of competition: Thursday, September 11

With the change in weight classes, the new 58 kg division should become very competitive in a hurry. In the past, 59 kg was a non-Olympic weight. The new 58 kg is an Olympic weight. It will attract athletes who used to compete at 55 kg also (which in now non-Olympic) as well as some athletes who wrestled as high as 63 kg in the past.

The top star in this new weight class is coming down from 63 kg, three-time Olympic champion and eight-time World champion Kaori Icho. Like Saori Yoshida, the other superstar in Japan’s lineup, Icho has won every World Championships and Olympics she has entered. Icho skipped three World meets during her impressive run, which puts her behind Yoshida in total titles. But like Yoshida, she has been dominant when it most counts, combining great technique, an effective defense and an aggressive style of wrestling.

Icho is not the only past World champion in the field. 2009 World champion Yulia Ratkevich of Azerbaijan, who won her gold medal at 55 kg. She also has a 2010 World silver medal and a 2013 World bronze medal. Add in her 2012 Olympic bronze medal and she quickly becomes a top medal contender. Ratkevich wrestled at 60 kg most of this season, with gold medals at the Klippan Lady Open and the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals.

Ukraine is bringing talented Anna Vasilenko, who was a 2011 World Champion at 59 kg and a World bronze medalist in 2009. She has competed at 63 kg at times during her career. Since moving down to 58 kg, Vasilenko won the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals and the Medved International in Belarus, and was second at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia. Her eighth place at the European Championships was a bit disappointing.

2012 and 2013 World bronze medalist Munkhtuya Tungalag of Mongolia returns at this weight class. She dabbled a bit at 60 kg for some events this year, but has been down to 58 kg for her last two tournaments. She placed second to Ratkevich at the 2013 FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals event.

The 59 kg World champion last year was veteran Mariana Sastin of Hungary, who is expected to jump to 60 kg this year. Hungary’s entry will be another medal hopeful, Emese Barka, who has a No. 5 FILA ranking. Barka was third in the World last year at 55 kg, and won the World University Championships and was third in the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals this year at 58 kg. FILA ranked Barka at No. 5 based on her strong season.

Another wrestler with high expectations is Russia’s Valeria Koblova-Zholobova, who was also a World bronze medalist at 55 kg last year. Since moving up to 58 kg, Koblova-Zholobova has added a European Championships gold medal, a Poland Open title and a strong second place finish at the Klippan Lady Open. She also boasts a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Olympic Games.

The United States has high hopes for Alli Ragan, the two-time Junior World bronze medalist who placed ninth in the Senior Worlds at 59 kg last year. Ragan returns to the Worlds with some positive momentum, after taking second at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals this summer. Ragan wrapped up her college career at King University this spring, and has been training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center fulltime since then.

North America can also boast Canada’s young star Braxton Stone, who holds a No. 8 FILA ranking. Stone burst onto the Senior scene as a teenager, and wrestled in her first World Championships last year. On the age-group level, she was a 2012 Cadet World bronze medalist and a 2013 Junior World silver medalist. This year has been a bit uneven for her, winning the Pan American Championships, taking a bronze at the Commonwealth Games, but placing only fifth at the Junior World Championships. Her skill set is very high, making her capable of challenging in Tashkent.

Two other athletes who were in the top 10 at Worlds last year at 59 kg are back, eighth place Joice Souza DeSilva of Brazil and 10th place Karima Sanchez of Spain. Souza reached the medal match of six straight events since last year’s Worlds, with her top efforts being bronze medals at the Copa Brazil, the Golden Grand Prix of Paris and the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria.

China is strong in every weight class, and although their roster is not yet available, we can expect a competitive entry. Zhou Zhangting won the Dave Schultz Memorial at 63 kg and competed in the World Cup at 58 kg this year, after a fifth-place finish way up at 67 kg at the 2013 World Championships. Another option is Zhou Feng, who won the Dave Schultz Memorial at 58 kg.

Past Junior World champion Anastasiya Huchok of Belarus was fifth in the European Championships at 58 kg. She won four medals this year competing up at 60 kg, including a gold at the Medved International in Belarus, a silver at the Grand Prix of Germany and bronzes at the Grand Prix of Spain and the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia. Add in a fifth place at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals and it becomes a very strong season for her.

There are other veteran athletes in the field who have the potential to make an impact. Poland’s Anna Zwirydowska was a 2014 European silver medalist at 55 kg and won a bronze medal at the Grand Prix of Spain at 58 kg. Mimi Hristova of Bulgaria won a bronze medal at the 2014 European Championships down at 55 kg, but is listed at 58 kg for the Worlds.

With one of the greatest wrestlers in history in this weight class, as Kaori Icho of Japan moves to a new weight class, it will be interesting to see how she fares. With two other World champions in the field, and a good mix of young and experienced talent also in the hunt, it should be a competitive division. We ask the same question about Icho as we did for Yoshida at 53 kg – Is anybody ready to step up and beat Icho when it most counts?

1. Kaori Icho (JPN); 2. Risako Kawai (JPN); 3. Valeria Koblova-Zholobova (RUS); 4. Petra Olli (FIN); 5. Emese Barka (HUN); 6. Anna Vasilenko (UKR); 7. Irina Netreva (AZE); 8. Braxton Stone (CAN); 9. Alli Ragan (USA); 10. Marianna Sastin (HUN); 11. Natalia Golts (RUS); 12. Joice Souza De Silva (BRA); 13. Zhou Zhangting (CHN); 14. Sandra Roa Valendi (COL); 15. Viktoria Bobeva (BUL); 16. Jazmyne Barker (CAN); 17. Lissette Antes Castillo (ECU); 18. Hela Riabi (TUN); 19. Baatarjav Shooydor (MGL); 20. Han Kum-Ok (PRK)


2013 World Championships

59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold – Mariana Sastin (Hungary); Silver – Taybe Yusein (Bulgaria); Bronze – Munkhtuya Tungalag (Mongolia); Bronze – Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Ayaka Ito (Japan); 5th – Tetyana Lavenchuk (Ukraine); 7th – Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); 8th – Joyce Souza Da Silva (Brazil); 9th – Alli Ragan (USA); 10th – Karima Sanchez (Spain)

2012 World Championships
59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold – Lan Zhang (China); Silver – Zalina Sidakova (Belarus); Bronze – Munkhtuya Tungalag (Mongolia); Bronze – Olga Butkevych (Great Britain); 5th - Sheoran Shilpi (India); 5th - Kayoko Shimada (Japan); 7th - Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 8th - Ekaterina Melnikova (Russia); 9th - Michelle Fazzari (Canada); 10th - Leigh Jaynes (USA)

2011 World Championships
59 kg/130 lbs. – Gold - Ganna Vasylenko (Ukraine); Silver - Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze - Takako Saito (Japan); Bronze - Sona Ahmadli (Azerbaijan); 5th - Dorj Narmandakh (Mongolia); 5th - Amanda Gerhart (Canada); 7th - Nadzeya Mikhalkova (Belarus) ; 8th - Adeline Vescan (France); 9th - Valeria Zholobova (Russia) ; 10th - Agata Pietrzyk (Poland)

2010 World Championships
59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold – Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia); Silver – Lian Zhang (China); Bronze – Ayako Shoda (Japan); Bronze – Johanna Mattsson (Sweden); 5th – Tonya Verbeek (Canada); 5th – Kelsey Campbell (USA); 7th – Laura Skujina (Lithuania); 8th – Olga Kalinina (Kazakhstan); 9th - Alka Tomar (India); 10th – Joice Souza da Silva (Brazil)

2009 World Championships
59 kg/130 lbs. - Gold - Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); Silver - Agata Pietrzyk (Poland); Bronze - Marianna Sastin (Hungary); Bronze - Ganna Vasylenko (Ukraine); 5th - Deanna Rix (USA); 5th - Katherine Patroch (Canada); 7th - Olga Kalinina (Kazakhstan); 8th - Ludmila Cristea (Moldova); 9th - Aurora Fajardo (Spain); 10th - Olga Kiosova (Russia)