USA Wrestling World Championships ...

World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 75 kg/165.3 lbs.

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Sept. 04, 2014, 12:23 p.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Adeline Gray (USA) dec.Yasemin Adar (TUR), 2013 World Championships bronze medal bout

Date of competition: Thursday, September 11

Although some stars from 72 kg have dropped to 69 kg this year, there is a healthy group of past World and Olympic medalists competing at the new 75 kg division to make this a strong and interesting group. Based on the performances during the 2014 season, there are a variety of athletes who have a legitimate opportunity to come home with the World title here from Tashkent.

The returning World champion is China’s Fengliu Zhang, who upset Olympic champion Natalia Vorobieva in the 72 kg finals last year. Vorobieva dropped to 69 kg, and Zhang has not been very active this year, with a silver medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial and an appearance at the Women’s World Cup. China also has Zhou Feng in the stable, who was second in the Asian Championships but might drop to 69 kg. China has won two of the three Olympic gold medals at the highest weight class, so they are always ready for a strong performance.

One of the greatest women wrestlers of all time, Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria, has returned after taking a year off. Zlateva has won five World titles, two Olympic silver medals and another World bronze medal. This year, she has only been in two big meets, winning the European Championships and taking third in the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals. Even if her performance is showing a bit of rust, Zlateva is a proven champion who will be ready for the big show.

Defeating Zlateva in the semifinals of the Golden Grand Prix Finals by technical fall was 2012 World champion Adeline Gray of the United States. Gray moved up to the highest weight last year and won the World bronze medal, her third career World medal. In four World events, she has been in a medal match every time. Gray has had some ups and downs this season, but has proven that she is a money wrestler at the most important events.

Holding a No. 1 FILA ranking is Canada’s Erica Wiebe, who has made big strides in recent years. Since placing seventh in the 2013 World Championships, Wiebe has won eight international medals. Included have been gold medals in her last four competitions, the Commonwealth Games, the World University Championships, the Austrian Open and the Grand Prix of Germany. Add in golds at the Klippan Lady Open and the Dave Schultz Memorial, and she has proven she can win against a variety of top competitors.

Japan’s Hiroe Suzuki is coming off a gold medal at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals, with a razor-close win over Gray in the finals. She seeks her first World medal on the Senior level. Her titles this season have included the New York AC International and the Mongolian Open, with a bronze at the Asian Championships. FILA ranks her at No. 2, and there is little doubt that she has put herself in a position to challenge for top honors.

Vasalisa Marzaliuk of Belarus has emerged in recent years, with her 2011 and 2013 World bronze medals and fifth place at the 2012 Olympic Games. She has been very active since falling out of the medals at the 2013 Worlds, winning seven medals this season. Her golds were at the Medved International in Belarus and the Grand Prix of Spain. She was second behind Zlateva at the European Championships this year.

With Vorobieva dropping a weight for Russia, it opens the door for talented Ekaterina Bukina to make another run at the title. Bukina was second in the 2011 World Championships and third in the 2010 World Championships before falling behind Vorobieva on the Russian team. She won the 2013 World University Games and has been effective this season, winning the Poland Open, taking second at the Klippan Lady Open and third at the European Championships.

Ochirbat Burmaa of Mongolia boasts a 2009 World silver medal and a 2013 World bronze medal, and has been solid this season so far, with golds at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia and the Dan Kolov International in Bulgaria plus two other medals. Most recently, she was fifth at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals.

There is another past World champion in the field who is sometimes overlooked, Katerina Burmistrova of Ukraine. She won her World title way back in 2002 at 67 kg, and has been a consistent performer ever since. She has competed at both 69 kg and 75 kg this season, although she is listed at 75 kg in preliminary rosters. Her bronze medals at the 2013 and 2014 European Championships at the highest weight shows her potential for a medal run in Tashkent.

Ranked No. 6 by FILA is 2004 Olympic silver medalist Gouzel Manyurova of Kazakhstan, who boasts two other World medals in her career. She was fifth at the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals this year. The Kazakhstan roster does not list her, with young Gulmaral Erkebayeva on the list. Erkebayeva was fifth at the Poland Open this year. If Manyurova does not come to Tashkent, Erkebayeva will need to big effort to be a contender.

Germany’s Maria Selmaier has won three medals in international events this year and seeks to reach the medal rounds at the Senior Worlds for the first time this year. Epp Mae of Estonia was 10th in the World last year and has won five medals this season, including a silver medal at the World University Championships. Placing fifth at the 2013 World Championships was Yasemin Adar of Turkey, who was ninth at the 2014 European Championships and has not won a medal yet this year.

Zsanett Nemeth of Hungary was fifth at the Senior European Championships and third at the Junior European Championships this year, but missed the medal rounds at the Junior World Championships this summer. Another young hopeful is Andrea Olaya Gutierrez of Colombia, second in the Senior Pan American Championships and the Junior Pan Am champion this season.

The 75 kg weight class should be a great battle, with many athletes entering the event with the confidence and capability of winning a gold medal. Can a veteran star like Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria add to her long list of achievements? Can past World champions Zhang Fengliu of China or Adeline Gray of the USA put it together again? Will this be the breakthrough Worlds for Eric Wiebe of Canada or Hiroe Suzuki of Japan? Will Russia retain the title with a motivated Ekaterina Bukina? Who else is ready for stardom? There are lots of good questions, and it will be fun to see who comes up with the right answer.

FILA WORLD RANKINGS

1. Erica Wiebe (CAN); 2. Hiroe Suzuki (JPN); 3. Vasilisa Marzaliuk (BLR); 4. Adeline Gray (USA); 5. Ekaterina Bukina (RUS); 6. Gouzel Manyurova (KAZ); 7. Stanka Zlateva (BUL); 8. Zhou Feng (CHN); 9. Ochirbat Burmaa (MGL); 10. Aline Silva Ferreira (BRA); 11. Alena Starodubtseva (RUS); 12. Maria Selmaier (GER); 13. Lisset Hechevarria Medina (CUB); 14. Andrea Olaya Gutierrez (COL); 15. Zhang Fengliu (CHN); 16. Katerina Burmistrova (UKR); 17. Zsanett Nemeth (HUN); 18. Epp Mae (EST); 19. Laure Ali Annabel (CMR); 20. Jarismit Weffer (VEN)

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2013 World Championships

72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Fengliu Zhang (China); Silver – Natalia Vorobeva (Russia); Bronze – Adeline Gray (USA); Bronze – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); 5th – Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 5th – Svetlana Saenko (Moldova); 7th – Erica Wiebe (Canada); 8th – Cynthia Vescan (France); 9th – Hiroe Suzuki (Japan); 10th – Epp Mae (Estonia)

2012 Olympic Games
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Natalia Vorobieva (Russia); Silver – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); Bronze – Gouzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Madier Unda Gonzales (Spain); 5th – Jiao Wang (China); 5th – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); 7th – Laure Ali Annabel (Cameroon); 8th – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); 9th – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); 10th – Svetlana Saenco (Moldova)

2012 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); Silver – Guzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); Bronze – Qing Xu (China); 5th - Nataliya Palamarchuk (Azerbaijan); 5th - Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 7th - Ekatina Bukina (Russia); 8th - Maria Selmaier (Germany); 9th - Oksana Vashchuk (Ukraine); 10th - Aline Da Silva (Brazil)

2011 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 pounds - Gold - Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); Silver - Ekaterina Bukina (Russia); Bronze - Ali Bernard (United States); Bronze - Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus) 5th - Laure Ali Annabel (Cameroon); 5th - Gouzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan), 7th - Maja Erslanden (Norway); 8th - Epp Mae (Estonia); 9th- Cynthia Vescan (France); 10th - Aline da Silva Ferreira (Brazil)

2010 World Championships
72 kg/158 lbs. - Gold – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); Silver – Ohenewa Akuffo (Canada); Bronze –Ekatarina Bukina (Russia); Bronze –Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan); 5th – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); 5th – Maider Unda (Spain); 7th – Dan Li (China); 8th – Stephany Lee (United States); 9th – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); 10th – Maria Muller (Germany)

2009 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold - Xiaoqing Qin (China); Silver - Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); Bronze - Maider Under (Spain); Bronze - Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); 5th - Marina Gastl (Austria); 5th - Svitlana Sayenko (Ukraine); 7th - Dina Ivanova (Azerbaijan); 8th - Simge Yilmaz (Turkey); 9th - Anabel Laure Ali (Cameroon); 10th - Ohenewa Akuffo (Canada)