USA Wrestling Pirozhkova powers in...

Pirozhkova powers into finals, Bisek going for bronze at World Championships

By Craig Sesker USA Wrestling | Sept. 12, 2014, 6:32 a.m. (ET)

Elena Pirozhkova won four matches to advance to the finals of the World Championships on Friday afternoon. Robbert Wijtman photo.

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan – Elena Pirozhkova is back in the finals of the World Championships for the third time.

Pirozhkova navigated her way through a brutal bottom half of the bracket at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. to land a spot in the gold-medal bout in women’s freestyle on Friday at the Gymnastics Palace.

Pirozkhova won four straight bouts in the first session, defeating two wrestlers she was winless against before earning a 3-0 semifinal win over two-time World bronze medalist Monika Michalik of Poland.

“Elena is a true champion,” U.S. coach Terry Steiner said. “She had a very tough bracket and she did a great job competing. Elena has made some changes since last year’s World Championships. She has worked on developing more offensive attacks and it’s paying off for her.”

Pirozhkova now advances to face Ukraine’s Yulia Tkach in the gold-medal match. Tkach is a Junior World and University World champion, and a two-time Olympian.

Pirozhkova beat Tkach 8-2 in July’s Golden Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. Pirozhkova is ranked third in the World and Tkach is fifth.

“She’s a tough girl and a tough competitor,” Pirozhkova said. “I can’t relax out there. She’s definitely beatable. I need one more match to get that gold.”

American Andy Bisek has advanced to the bronze-medal match against Japan’s Hiroyuki Shimizu in Greco-Roman at 75 kg/165 lbs. Bisek delivered a stunning upset victory over Olympic and World champion Roman Vlasov of Russia in the second round.

The finals are set for 6 p.m. in Tashkent (9 a.m. Eastern).

Pirozhkova will look to join teammate Adeline Gray as a gold medalist in Tashkent. Gray won her second World title on Friday night. Pirozhkova and Gray also won World titles in 2012.

Pirozhkova becomes the fifth American woman to win four World medals. She also has won World silver and bronze medals.

Pirozhkova is looking to become the fourth American woman to win at least two World titles. Trish Saunders has four with Gray and Kristie Marano winning two.

Pirozhkova opened with a 5-4 win over World No. 1 Anastasia Grigorjeva of Latvia. Pirozhkova scored four points on a foot sweep just before time expired in the first period. Grigorjeva beat Pirozhkova in the first round of the 2012 Olympics.

Pirozhkova followed with a last-second takedown to rally past World champion and Olympic medalist Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Mongolia 6-4 in the second round. Soronzonbold, ranked second in the World, pinned Pirozhkova at the 2013 Worlds. Pirozhkova was 0-3 against her before Friday.

Pirozhkova used a first-period takedown to edge Junior World champion Danielle Lappage of Canada 2-1 in the quarterfinals.

“When I saw my draw, I was like ‘dang it,’ but my training has prepared me for this,” Pirozhkova said. “I came out and wrestled relaxed, and tried not to worry about it. Coach Valentin (Kalika) trained me to beat all these girls and I trust him with what he’s done for me.”

Andy Bisek opened with a 5-0 win over Greece’s Petros Manoulidis in Greco-Roman at 75 kg/165 lbs.

Bisek rallied from deficits of 4-0 and 5-2 to knock off the explosive Vlasov. Down 5-2, Bisek turned Vlasov twice in the final minute on a pair of gut wrenches where he was awarded one point for each turn. After a U.S. challenge failed, Vlasov was awarded a point with 30 seconds left.

Bisek then powered in near the edge of the mat, taking Vlasov down to tie the match 6-6 with just five seconds left. Bisek won on criteria by virtue of scoring last.

Bisek followed by dropping a 1-0 decision to World bronze medalist Neven Zugaj of Croatia in the quarterfinals. Bisek was called for passivity early in the second period and Zugaj was given a point that proved to be the match winner.

Bisek rallied past Finland’s Veli-Karri Suominen 6-5 in the repechage. Bisek trailed 5-2 before scoring a takedown and gut wrench to pull out the dramatic win. Suominen placed fifth in the World last year.

American Jordan Holm dropped a 5-0 first-round decision to Uzbekistan’s Rustam Assakalov in Greco-Roman at 85 kg/187 lbs.

Holm was headlocked to his back for four points early in the match and was unable to recover.

Holm, competing in his second World Championships, was eliminated when Assakalov failed to reach the finals after losing in the third round.

2014 World Championships
Sept. 8-14
Gymnastics Palace, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Finals matchups

Women’s freestyle

63 kg/138.75 lbs.
Elena Pirozhkova (USA) vs. Yulia Tkach (Ukraine)


75 kg/165 lbs.
Neven Zugaj (Croatia) vs. Arsen Julfalakyan (Armenia)

85 kg/187 lbs.
Saman Tahmasebi (Azerbaijan) vs. Melonin Noumonvi (France)

U.S. results

Women’s freestyle

63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Elena Pirozhkova, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
WIN Anastasia Grigorjeva (Latvia), 5-4
WIN Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia), 6-4
WIN Danielle Lappage (Canada), 2-1
WIN Monika Michalik (Poland), 3-0
vs. Yulia Tkach (Ukraine) in gold-medal match


75 kg/165 lbs. – Andy Bisek, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Minnesota Storm)
WIN Petros Maoulidis (Greece), 5-0
WIN Ramon Vlasov (Russia), 6-6 criteria
LOSS Neven Zugaj (Croatia), 0-1
WIN Veli-Karri Suominen (Finland), 6-5
vs. Hiroyuki Shimizu (Japan) in bronze-medal match

85 kg/187 lbs. – Jordan Holm, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Minnesota Storm)
LOSS Rustam Assakalov (Uzbekistan), 0-5