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World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 69 kg/152 lbs.

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Sept. 02, 2015, 12:10 p.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Elena Pirozhkova (USA) dec. Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia), 2014 World Championships

Date of competition: Wednesday, September 9

The creation of 69 kg as an Olympic weight class has transformed the competition here, which should be very competitive in Las Vegas. Many of the stars from the former 67 kg division have remained and a number of talents have moved either down in weight or up in weight to test themselves here.

The 2014 World champion was considered a surprise, as Germany’s Aline Focken emerged with the gold medal. Focken was fifth at the 2013 World Championships, and had her best effort ever last summer. A 2011 Junior World silver medalist, Focken has had an up-and-down season, perhaps with a bronze medal at the European Games as her best performance.

Going in as No. 1 in the UWW rankings is 2012 Olympic champion Natalia Vorobieva of Russia, one of the athletes who dropped down in weight. She has won World silver and World bronze the last two seasons. She has medals in five consecutive international meets this year, with a European Games bronze and golds in events in Russia and Germany. Vorobieva has won at every level, including three Junior World titles.

Sara Dosho of Japan has won World medals the last two years, a silver in 2014 and a bronze in 2013. She has not wrestled in any major events since last year’s Worlds. Japan has left open the option of entering young star Masako Furuichi, who has won the last two Junior World gold medals as well as two Cadet World gold medals. She has limited Senior experience, but an amazing upside in her abilities.

Three other past World champions are expected to be pushing for another gold, Elena Pirozhkova of the United States, Alina Makhinya of Ukraine and Jenny Fransson of Sweden.

Pirozhkova moves up from 63 kg, where she won four World medals including a 2012 World title. She has been competitive at her new weight, with a win over Focken at the Cerro Pelado in Cuba. She also had to emerge from a tough weight back home, which included 2008 Olympic medalist Randi Miller.

Makhinya won the Worlds at 67 kg in 2013 and placed seventh at this weight class last year. She was the 2015 European Games champion, and won a medal in five straight international meets since last year’s Worlds. A two-time Junior World champion, she is capable of winning gold medals at the highest levels.

Fransson was a 2012 World champion at 72 kg and has moved down in weight. She was fifth in the World at this weight class last year. After a very strong 2014 season on the international circuit, she has been less active this season, with her best effort a gold at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria.

China’s Feng Zhou is ranked No. 2 by UWW at this time, winning four straight international events after missing the medal rounds at last year’s Worlds. She won the 2014 Asian Games, the 2015 Asian Championships and events in Sweden and Spain. Zhou was a 2012 Junior World champion.

Although not on the Latvian roster, Laura Skujina was a 2014 World bronze medalist and has won two medals this winter. If she enters, she will be a top challenger.

Canada’s Dorothy Yeats is a rising young star, who was eighth in last year’s World meet. She was a 2012 and 2013 Junior World champion, as well as a 2010 Youth Olympic Games champion. Yeats won the 2015 Pan American Games and two other international medals this season. Add in a 2014 University World title and a 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medal and she stacks up with anybody in the division.

Mongolia has medal hopes for Nasanburmaa Ochirbat, a three-time World bronze medalist (2008, 2011 and 2013) and the winner of a top World tune-up event, the Poland Open. She has also won medals at the University and Junior World levels, with a wealth of experience competing all over the world.

2008 Olympic bronze medalist Agnieszka Wieszczek-Kordus of Poland is one of the athletes who dropped down to 69 kg. She is still seeking her first World medal. Wieszczek-Kordus is very tall and gives opponents trouble because of her style. She won a silver at the Poland Open, a good tune-up for Las Vegas.

Pan American nations are well represented in this field, including Luz Clara Vazquez of Argentina, who was third at the Pan American Games and second at the Pan American Championships in 2015, and boasts five medals this year. Also Pan American Games silver medalist Maria Acosta of Venezuela and bronze medalist Diana Miranda Gonzalez of Mexico hope to challenge for a medal. Leidy Izquierdo of Colombia was ninth in the World Championships last year.

Other athletes to watch are Ilana Kratysh of Israel, Martina Kuenz of Autria, Maria Vryoni of Greece, Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan, Cynthia Vescan of France, Dalma Caneva of Italy and Navjot Kaur of India.

1. Natalia Vorobieva (Russia)
2. Feng Zhou (China)
3. Alina Makhinya (Ukraine)
4. Ochirbat Nasanburmaa (Mongolia)
5. Dorothy Yeats (Canada)
6. Aline Focken (Germany)
7. Luz Clara Vazquez (Argentina)
8. Elena Pirozhkova (USA)
9. Jenny Fransson (Sweden)
10. Ilana Kratysh (Israel)
11. Martina Kuenz (Austria)
12. Laura Skujina (Latvia)
13. Sara Dosho (Japan)
14. Leah Ferguston (Canada)
15. Agnieszka Wieszczek-Kordus (Poland)
16. Anna Schell (Germany)
17. Yudaris Rodriguez (Cuba)
18. Maria Vryoni (Greece)
19. Maria Acosta (Venezuela)
20. Elmira Syzdykova (Kazakhstan)


2014 World Championships
69 kg/152 lbs. - Gold – Aline Focken (Germany); Silver – Sara Dosho (Japan); Bronze – Natalia Vorobieva (Russia); Bronze – Laura Skujina (Latvia); 5th – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); 5th – Diana Gonzalez (Mexico); 7th – Alina Makhinia (Ukraine); 8th – Dorothy Yeats (Canada); 9th – Leidy Izquierdo (Colombia); 10th – Agnieszka Wieszczek-Kordus (Poland)

2013 World Championships
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Gold – Alina Stadnik-Makhynia (Ukraine); Silver – Stacie Anaka (Canada); Bronze – Nasanburmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); Bronze – Sara Dosho (Japan); 5th – Zhanting Zhou (China); 5th – Aline Focken (Germany); 7th – Laura Skujina (Latvia); 8th – Leidy Izquierdo Mendez (Colombia); 9th – Gozal Zutova (Azerbaijan); 10th – Veronica Carlson (USA)

2012 World Championships
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Gold – Adeline Gray (USA); Silver – Dorothy Yeats (Canada); Bronze – Yan Hong (China); Bronze – Yoshiko Inoue (Japan); 5th - Alina Stadnik-Makhynia (Ukraine); 5th - Kaur Navjot (India); 7th - Darya Khamdiyeva (Kazakhstan); 8th - Nadya Sementsova (Azerbaijan); 9th - Irina Bogdanova (Russia); 10th - Ilana Kratysh (Israel)

2011 World Championships
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Gold - Luozhuoma Xi (China); Silver - Oyunsuren Banzragch (Mongolia); Bronze - Yoshiko Inoue (Japan); Bronze - Adeline Gray (USA); 5th - Alina Makhynia (Ukraine); 5th - Burcu Orskaya (Turkey); 7th - Martine Dugrenier (Canada); 8th - Iryna Ysyrkevich (Belarus); 9th - Nadya Sementsova (Azerbaijan); 10th - Natalia Kuksina (Russia)

2010 World Championships
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Gold – Martine Dugrenier (Canada); Silver – Elena Shalygina (Kazakhstan); Bronze –Ifeoma Iheanacho (Nigeria); Bronze –Alla Cherkosova (Ukraine); 5th – Mami Shinkai (Japan); 5th – Nadya Sementsova (Azerbaijan); 7th – Burcu Orskaya (Turkey); 8th – Maria Selmaier (Germany); 9th – Ying Chen (China); 10th – Yanira Morales (Cuba)

2009 World Championships
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Gold - Martine Dugrenier (Canada); Silver - Julia Bartnovskaia (Russia); Bronze - Ifeoma Ihenacho (Nigeria); Bronze - Nadrakh Odonchimeg (Mongolia); 5th - Adeline Gray (USA); 5th - Yoshiko Inoue (Japan); 7th - Kateryna Burmistrova (Ukraine); 8th - Zumrud Gurganhajiyeva (Azerbaijan); 9th - Maher Hasan Salem Doaa Ahmed (Egypt); 10th - Ji-Eun Kim (Korea)