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

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 24, 2015, 10:38 a.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Ali Ragan (USA) dec. Aisylyy Tynbekova (Kyrgyzstan), 2014 World Championships

Date of competition: Thursday, September 10

When UWW changed the women’s weight classes, going from seven to eight, one of the interesting results was the decision by three-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho to drop down from 63 kg. Icho had dominated that weight class, which still remained an Olympic weight, but decided to make her run for an fourth Olympic medal down at 58 kg. She is one of the all-time greats, with nine World titles to go with three Olympic golds. She added an Asian Championships gold this year, going eight straight years without losing at a major event.

2009 World champion Yulia Ratkevich of Azerbaijan has vast success at the major events. She has a 2010 World silver medal and a 2013 World bronze medal, plus a 2012 Olympic bronze medal. Ratkevich was fifth at last year’s Worlds at 60 kg, but recently dropped back to 58 kg, winning a bronze at the Poland Open.

Another top contender is 2013 World champion Mariana Sastin of Hungary, is a four-time World medalist, also getting 2005 and 2011 World silver medals and a 2009 World bronze medal. She won a silver medal at 58 kg in a key tune-up event, the Poland Open.

Belarus brings highly regard Anastassia Huchok, a 2014 World bronze medalist who won three international golds this year at the Ivan Yarygin in Russia, the Grand Prix of Germany and the Poland Open. A 2012 Junior World champion, Huchok is in the medal rounds at most of the tournaments she enters.

The other returning World bronze medalist is Elif Jale Yesilmirmak of Turkey, who was third in the European Games this year and also won the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria. She has made some very big strides the last two seasons on the World stage.

China’s entry is Zhanting Zhou, who won the Klippan Open in Sweden and the Grand Prix of Paris this season and was ninth in last year’s World Championships. Her best performance was fifth in the 2013 World Championships.

The United States flag will be carried by Alli Ragan, fifth in the 2014 World Championships and wrestling in her third straight Senior Worlds. Ragan won a pair of Junior World bronze medals coming up through the system, and has won a number of other medals at major international events. She is a legitimate medal threat.

Russia is reportedly bringing one of its veteran greats, six-time World medalist Natalia Golts, who most recently won a World bronze medal in 2014 at 60 kg. Golts won the Russian Open in 2014, her most recent competition. Should Russia make a switch, expect Valeria Koblova, the 2014 World silver medalist, who won the U23 European title this year. Either way, the Russian will be tough here.

Another veteran star is listed for 58 kg in Las Vegas is two-time Olympic medalist Jackeline Renteria of Colombia. She has been wrestling at 63 kg ever since her bronze in the London Games at 55 kg. Most recently, she won a bronze at the Pan American Games up at 63 kg. If she truly makes the drop in weight, she becomes a prime candidate to win here. She has great athletic skills and mat sense, a tough match no matter what weight class.

A young star on the rise is Grace Bullen of Norway, the 2014 Youth Olympic Games champion who won the European Junior title this year. Bullen was third in the recent Poland Open, a key tune-up event for Worlds, and is hoping for a Senior-level breakthrough in Las Vegas.

Brazil has a strong entry in Joice Silva, who swept the Pan American Championships and the Pan American Games this year and won a bronze medal in the Military World Championships last fall. Silva has placed in the top 10 at the Worlds three different times, and is hoping to battle for a medal this time around.

Mimi Hristova of Bulgaria was seventh in the World Championships last year, and has strong showings in a number of recent events. She won silver at the European U23 Championships, and added a gold at the Ion Corneanu in Romania. In 2014, she boasted a bronze at the European Senior Championships.

Shoovdoor Baatarjav is Mongolia’s entry, the winner of the recent Poland Open, a key tune-up event for the Worlds. Baatarjav was second in 2014 Asian Championships. This will be her first Senior World competition.

Lisset Antes of Ecuador was fifth in the 2014 World Championships and was third at this year’s Pan American Games. Another tough Pan American star is Alejandro Romero Bonilla of Mexico, who won the 2015 Pan American Championships title, and was fifth at the 2015 Pan American Games.

Don’t overlook Canada’s Michelle Fazzari, who has been high in UWW rankings in recent years. Fazzari has placed in the top 10 at the Worlds on two occasions. She was the 2014 Pan American champion, and won a silver medal in one of the top tournaments each year, the Klippan Open in Sweden. She has won five international medals, including two golds, since she wrestled at last year’s Worlds at 60 kg.

Another tough European is Tatyan Lavenchuk of Ukraine, a European Games silver medalist who was fifth in the 2013 World Championships.

2015 Asian silver medalist Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan had personal best of seventh place at the 2013 World Championships. Both of the 2015 Asian bronze medalists are also top contenders, Geeta of India and Aiym Abdildina of Kazakhstan. Geeta was a 2012 World bronze medalist and a 2010 Commonwealth Games champion. Abdildina won golds in international events in Kazakhstan and Italy this year, plus a silver at the Medved International in Ukraine and a bronze at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia.

Petra Olli of Finland, who was fifth in the World last year at 60 kg, is making the drop for Las Vegas. Olli won gold medals at the European U23 Championships, the Klippan Lady Open and the Grand Prix of Paris up at 60 kg this season. It will be interesting to see how she does down a weight.

North Korea is bringing an unheralded entry, 2011 Asian Cadet bronze medalist Kuk-Hyang Ri. Her most recent result is a fifth at the 2012 Mongolian Open. North Korea does not bring large teams, but the athletes that do go to Worlds are usually ready for a run at a medal.

The big question is if anybody is ready to knock Icho off the top of the podium. Every year, she has a target on her back, but nobody has been able to dent her armor. Past World champions Ratkevich and Sastin want to be the ones to do it, along with every other entry in this division. Will the queen continue to reign?

UWW WORLD RANKINGS
1. Kaori Icho (Japan)
2. Risako Kawai (Japan)
3. Marianna Sastin (Hungary)
4. Emese Barka (Hungary)
5. Elif Jale Yesilirmak (Turkey)
6. Anastassia Huchok (Belarus)
7. Zhou Zhangting (China)
8. Grace Bullen (Norway)
9. Valeria Koblova (Russia)
10. Joice Silva (Brazil)
11. Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria)
12. Baatarjev Shoovdor (Mongolia)
13. Marwa Amri (Tunisia)
14. Irina Netreba (Azerbaijan
15. Tatyana Lavrenchuk (Ukraine)
16. Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan)
17. Tatyana Omelchenko (Ukraine)
18. Aiym Abdildina (Kazakhstan)
19. Yaquelin Estornell (Cuba)
20. Lissette Antes Castillo (Ecuador)

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2014 World Championships

58 kg/128 lbs. - Gold – Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver – Valeria Kolblova (Russia); Bronze – Anastasiya Huchok (Belarus); Bronze – Elif Jale Ysilirmak (Turkey); 5th – Alli Ragan (USA); 5th – Lisset Antes (Ecuador); 7th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 8th – Munkhtuya Tungalag (Mongolia); 9th – Zhou Zhangting (China); 10th – Irina Netreba (Azerbaijan)

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)