2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials preview for 69 kg in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | April 04, 2016, 4:11 p.m. (ET)
Tamyra Mensah battles Randi Miller in a Special Wrestle-off in Iowa City earlier this year. Photo by Darren Miller.

Competition Day: Saturday, April 9

Is Weight Class Qualified Yet for Olympic Games: No

Who will step up and be the leader for the USA at 69 kg in the women’s program? This is the key answer for the Olympic Trials in Iowa City, where there will be more question marks than answers going into the competition.

In 2015, World champion and Olympian Elena Pirozhkova moved up to 69 kg and made the U.S. World Team. She fell short of a medal at the World Championships in Las Vegas, but has decided to drop down to her previous weight class, 63 kg, where she is expected to compete in Iowa City.

Placing second behind Pirozhkova at the World Team Trials was college star Tamyra Mensah of the Titan Mercury WC, who won a WCWA national title for Wayland Baptist. Mensah beat 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Randi Miller to make the finals of the World Team Trials, and has since beaten her at the 2016 U.S. Open and a Special Wrestle-off for the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier team. Mensah is on an Olympic redshirt year, and was third at the Olympic Test event. She was fifth at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier, meaning that the USA still must qualify the weight for the Olympics.

Miller took five years off from wrestling after winning her Olympic medal, joined the Army WCAP program and seeks a second Olympic berth. She won the 2014 U.S. Open, competed on the 2014 U.S. World Team and won a 2014 CISM World Military gold medal. Second in the U.S. Open the last two years, her strength and tough defense makes her a major threat in Iowa City. This weekend is the reason she made her comeback. Miller understands the challenges and opportunities at the Olympic Trials, after beating Olympic medalist Sara McMann to make that 2008 Olympic squad.

Veronica Carlson of the New York AC was 10th in the 2013 World Championships and is a past Junior World silver medalist. She was fifth at the 2016 U.S. Open, and her experience and toughness give her a great chance here.

Forrest Molinari of Titan Mercury, a 2016 WCWA college national champion for King Univ. and a 2015 U.S. Junior World Team member, placed a strong third at the 2016 U.S. Open. Expected to drop down from 75 kg is Julia Salata of the NYAC, who has competed on past U.S. Junior and University World Teams and is also a past WCWA college national champion for King Univ. Salata was second at the recent University Nationals and Molinari was third, so both will need stronger performances in Iowa City.

Brittney Roberts of the Sunkist Kids is moving to this weight class from 75 kg, and is fresh off a title at the Dave Schultz Memorial, where she defeated Molinari in the finals. She seems to have recovered from injuries, which have plagued her in recent seasons. High school star and 2015 Junior World Team member Rachel Watters of the Gator OKCU RTC is a tremendous talent who was fourth at the U.S. Senior Open. She has been very competitive with Senior-level athletes and has a bright future, regardless of her finish in Iowa City

Also advancing to the Trials from the U.S. Open were sixth place Lisa Gonzalez and seventh place Brittany David, both from Lindenwood’s club. Gonzalez has been consistently placing in major events, and David is a veteran who will be a tough match for anyone. WCWA nationals runner-up Jessika Rottier from the Univ. of the Cumberlands is another young athlete to watch. She was second at University Nationals at 75 kg.

The last two qualifiers were veteran Lorrie Ramos and college wrestler Hanna Gladden, who placed 1-2 at the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier. Ramos is a past Junior World Team member who is now a college coach at the Univ. of the Cumberlands, after being a multiple All-American for King Univ. Gladden is one of the many young athletes from Campbellsville University who are showing progress.

Although Mensah and Miller stand out above the other qualifiers coming in, this is a weight class which a number of athletes could make a serious run for the title. Once the event is over in Iowa, it will be off to Mongolia for another chance to qualify the weight for the Rio Games.

U.S. OLYMPIC TEAM TRIALS QUALIFIERS as of March 22

Women’s Freestyle - 69 kg/152 lbs.

Past World or Olympic Team member – Randi Miller, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
Past World or Olympic Team member – Veronica Carlson, Rock Hill, S.C. (New York AC)
’15 Grand Prix of Spain silver medalist– Tamyra Mensah, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place – Forrest Molinari, Benicia, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier third place at 75 kg – Julia Salata, Canton, Mich. (NYAC/OTC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Rachel Watters, Ankeny, Iowa (Gator/OKCU Women’s RTC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Lisa Gonzalez, Rio Grande City, Texas (Lindenwood Women`s WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier seventh place – Brittany David, St. Charles, Mo. (Lindenwood Women`s WC)
’16 Dave Schultz Memorial champion – Brittney Roberts, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
WCWA Nationals silver medalist at 155 - Jessika Rottier, Little Suamico, Wis. (Cumberlands)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Lorrie Ramos, Williamsburg, Ky. (Titan Mercury WC)
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier runner-up – Hanna Gladden, Gadsden, Ala. (EAWC)

Over the next 18 days, leading into the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, April 9-10, TheMat.com will post one weight class preview each day. There are six weight classes in each style at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, and the previews will start with the lightest weight classes and go through the heaviest.