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World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs.

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 21, 2015, 12:20 p.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Helen Maroulis (USA) dec. Katarzyna Krawczyk (POL), 2014 World Championships bronze match

Date of competition: Thursday, September 10

The dynamics at the 55 kg has changed dramatically. Going back to the start of women’s wrestling, this was one of the Olympic weight classes and it featured the greatest star in women’s history, Saori Icho of Japan, who won World and Olympic titles a record 14 times. Last season, Icho moved down to an Olympic weight at 53 kg and won again.

Last season, it was more of the same, with Japan’s Chiho Hamada keeping the gold medal in country. Hamada was a 2012 Junior World Champion. Hamada is not on the Japanese roster, which lists either Anri Kimura, the 2015 Asian champion, or Ayaka Ito, who was fifth in the 2013 World Championships. It will be a challenge for Japan to continue their streak at this weight class in Las Vegas.

The No. 1 ranked wrestler in the world going into Las Vegas is Helen Maroulis of the United States, a 2012 World silver medalist and 2014 World bronze medalist. Unlike some of her peers from last year, Maroulis stayed at 55 kg this year and has been dominant, winning six international gold medals, plus a great performance at the World Cup. Maroulis competed in her first Senior Worlds as a 17-year-old, and has the confidence and experience to make a gold medal run.

Russia’s Irina Ologonova won the 2014 World silver medal, and has been very active this year, winning gold medals at the Grand Prix of Germany and the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia. She was fifth at the European Games and the Poland Open, her last two big events.

The finalists at 55 kg at the European Games were Sofia Mattson of Sweden and Katarzyna Krawczyk of Poland, both expected down to 53 kg for Worlds. The bronze medalists at the European Games were Natalya Synyshyn of Azerbaijan and Evelina Nikolava of Bulgaria.

Synyshyn was second in the Paris Grand Prix and won the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria this year. Her best finishes were World bronze medals back in 2006 and 2007. Azerbaijan lists two options at this weight, with European U23 champion Alyona Kolsesnik as another option. She was tested at the Junior World Championships, where she did not medal.

Nikolova has been very active since the 2014 Worlds, taking second at the European U23 Championships and claiming five international medals. She is still seeking her first World medal at age age group.

Poland has listed Anna Zwirydowska on its roster, an athlete who has wrestled in three Senior World Championships and is a past Junior World bronze medalist. Her best effort was a silver medal in the 2014 European Championships.

Belarus brings a medal contender, Katsiaryna Hanchar-Yanushkevich, who was second at the Medved International in Belarus this year and third in the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia. Ukraine will enter Tatyana Kit, who was a Junior World silver medalist in 2014 and was fifth in the European Games this year.

Making a big slash in recent seasons has been African champion Marwa Amri of Tunisia, who was seventh in the World Championships last year. She was the first African wrestler to hold a No. 1 World ranking since UWW created its ranking system. She won the Poland Open this summer. She was also eighth at the 2012 Olympic Games, and has beaten some of the top contenders in this weight class.

Europe boasts a large number of contenders in this weight class. Placing fifth in the World Championships last year was Spain’s Karima Sanchez, who has not competed in any major events since. Italy’s Patricia Liuzzi was the European Junior champion and has been competitive in many Senior competitions. She was fifth at the recent Junior World Championships.

Turkey’s Bediha Gun placed seventh in the European Games and was fifth in the European U23 Championships, a young talent to watch out for. Simona Pricob of Romania won the Ion Corneaunu Memorial in her home nation and has shown improved performances all season.

China’s roster list Qianyu Pang, who won a silver at the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden and bronzes at the Grand Prix events in France and Spain. She did not medal at last year’s worlds at 53 kg. China could also go with Jiahui Dong of China, who was 10th in the World Championships last year and won the Grand Prix of Paris this winter.

Also watch out for Asian silver medalist Han Kum-Ok of North Korea and Aishan Ismagulova of Kazakhstan, who won international tournaments in Kazakhstan and Italy this year.

Mongolia has two strong options, 2011 Asian bronze medalist Nomin-Erdine Batbaatar and veteran Byambatseren Sundev, who competed at the 2012 Olympics and was third in this year’s Mongolian Open. India is expected to bring Lalita, the Asian bronze medalist this year a silver medalist at the President’s Cup of Kazakhstan and a silver medalist at last year’s Commonwealth Games. Add in Elza Abdykadyrova of Kygyzstan, who was fifth in last year’s Asian Championships.

As a non-Olympic weight class, the field could include some young stars who are seeking to make a name for themselves. There are enough top veteran stars including Maroulis, Olgonova and Synyshyn in the mix to make it difficult for newcomers to break through this time around.

UWW WORLD RANKINGS
1. Helen Maroulis (USA)
2. Natalya Sinishin (Azerbaijan)
3. Evelina Nikolova (Bulgaria)
4. Irina Ologonova (Russia)
5. Chiho Hamada (Japan)
6. Alyona Kolesnik (Azerbaijan)
7. Zalina Sidakova (Belarus)
8. Katsiaryna Hanchar (Belarus)
9. Tatyana Kit (Ukraine)
10. Dong Jiahui (China)
11. Anri Kimura (Japan)
12. Han Kum-Ok (North Korea)
13. Aishan Ismagulova (Kazakhstan)
14. Patricia Liuzzi (Italy)
15. Sarah Hildebrandt (USA)
16. Purevdorj Orkhon (Mongolia)
17. Larisa Skoblyuk (Ukraine)
18. Bediha Gun (Turkey)
19. Sonia Baudin (France)
20. Simona Pricob (Romania)

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2014 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Chiho Hamada (Japan); Silver – Irina Ologonova (Russia); Bronze – Helen Maroulis (USA); Bronze – Iryna Khariv (Ukraine); 5th – Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 5th – Karima Sanchez (Spain); 7th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 8th – Giullia Rodrigues (Brazil); 9th – Zalina Sidakova (Belarus); 10th – Jiahui Dong (China)

2013 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Emese Barka (Hungary); Bronze – Valeriia Koblova (Russia); 5th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 5th – Iryna Husyak (Ukraine); 7th – Helen Maroulis (USA); 8th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 9th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 10th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia)

2012 Olympic Games
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze – Jackeline Renteria (Colombia); Bronze – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine); 5th – Valeria Zholobova (Russia); 7th – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 8th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 9th – Lissette Antes Castillo (Ecuador); 10th – Kum Ok Han (North Korea)

2012 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Helen Maroulis (USA); Bronze – Geeta Geeta (India); Bronze – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 5th - Nataliya Synyshyn (Ukraine); 5th - Brittanee Laverdure (Canada); 7th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 8th - Chen Yang (China); 9th - Joice Da Silva (Brazil); 10th - Maria Gurova (Russia)

2011 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze - Tatyana Lazareva (Ukraine); Bronze - Ida-Theres Nerell (Sweden); 5th - Maria Gurova (Russia); 5th - Helen Maroulis (United States); 7th - Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 8th - Geeta (India); 9th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 10th - Alma Valencia Escoto (Mexico)

2010 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); Bronze –Anna Gomis (France); Bronze – Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th – Aiym Abdilina (Kazakhstan); 5th – Maria Gurova (Russia); 7th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 8th – Jillian Gallays (Canada); 9th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 10th – Sylwia Bilenska (Poland)

2009 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Sona Ahmedli (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Alena Filipava (Belarus); Bronze - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); 5th - Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th - Anna Gomis (France); 7th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 8th - Aiyim Abdildina (Kazakhstan); 9th - Yura Gandolgor (Mongolia); 10th - Geeta (India)