World champs Maroulis, Pirozhkova, Gray get draws for Olympic women’s freestyle on Thursday

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 17, 2016, 1:56 p.m. (ET)
Three-time World champion Adeline Gray, waving the U.S. flag after her Pan Am Games win, is one of three World champions for the USA on the mats on Thursday. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil – The United States enters three past World champions for the women’s freestyle wrestling competition on Thursday.

Helen Maroulis (Huntington Beach, Calif./Sunkist Kids) at 53 kg/116.5 lbs., Elena Pirozhkova (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC) at 63 kg/138.75 lbs. and Adeline Gray (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) at 75 kg/165 lbs. have all weighed in and received their first round draws for the Olympic Games, which continue on Thursday in Carioca 2 Arena.

Maroulis in the bottom half of the bracket, in the fourth quarter-bracket. She has a pigtail match, and opens against Yulia Khavaldzhy of Ukraine.

If Maroulis wins her first bout, she would face the winner of another pigtail match between Xuechun Zhong of China and Nina Hemmer of Germany. Potential opponents in a third match could be Bediha Gun of Turkey, two-time World bronze medalist Myoung Suk Jong of North Korea and 2014 World bronze medalist Jillian Gallays of Canada.

In the upper portion of Maroulis’s half-bracket are Sofia Mattsson of Sweden, Odunye Adekuoroye of Nigeria, Katarzyna Krawczyk of Poland and Sumiya Erdenechimeg of Mongolia. Mattsson was a 2009 World champion and has was second in the last two World Championships at 53 kg. Adekouroye was a 2015 World bronze medalist.

The Maryland native won her World title at 55 kg/121 lbs., a non-Olympic weight now, and moved down in weight for her Olympic quest. A three-time World medalist, she also boasts a 2012 World silver medal and 2014 World bronze medal. Add in three Junior World medals and a 2011 Pan American Games gold to her healthy resume.

Pirozhkova is in the top half of the bracket, in the first quarter-bracket. She opens against Taybe Yusein of Bulgaria, a four-time World medalist, with two silvers and two bronzes. Pirozhkova beat Yusein in the finals of the 2012 World Championships in Canada.

If Pirozhkova wins her first bout, she would face the winner of the match between two-time World champion Battsetseg Soronzonbold of Mongolia and Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria

In the bottom portion of Pirozhkova’s half-bracket are Yekatarina Larionova of Kazakhstan, Maryia Mamashuk of Belarus, Henna Johansson of Sweden and Adela Hanzlickova of the Czech Republic. Larionova was a 2013 World bronze medalist and Johansson was a 2010 World bronze medalist. Mamashuk is the 2016 European champion.

The Massachusetts native has won four World medals, including a 2012 World gold medal, a pair of World silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and a 2013 World bronze medal. She was also a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team. 

Gray is the top seed, and is in the top half of the bracket, in the first quarter-bracket. She opens against Andrea Olaya Gutierrez of Colombia, who was fifth in the 2014 and 2015 World Championships.

If Gray wins her first bout, she would face the winner of the match between three-time World bronze medalist Vasalisa Marzaliuk of Belarus and two-time Junior World silver medalist Cynthia Vescan of France

In the bottom portion of Gray’s half-bracket are Erica Wiebe of Canada, Maria Selmaier of Germany, Fengliu Zhang of China and Epp Mae of Estonia. Zhang was a 2013 World champion. Mae was a 2015 World bronze medalist. Wiebe is a past University World champion and is ranked No. 2 in the world by UWW.

The Colorado native has won three World titles, including the last two at 75 kg in 2014 and 2015. She was also a 2012 World champion at 68 kg. A model of consistency, Gray has won a World medal for five straight years, adding World bronze medals in 2011 and 2013. Gray has not lost a match in more than two years. Among her other major titles are the Pan American Games and the World Cup. She is the only U.S. athlete to win a Junior World, University World and Senior World title during her career.

“All three of them have had great preparation. We have done a lot of individual work with all three of them. They know what they need to do. These three are here for one purpose, that is to get that gold medal around their necks. They are coming in with a lot of confidence. They know who they are and they know where they want to be. There is a lot of purpose behind what they are doing. I feel very good about this group,” said National Women’s Coach Terry Steiner.

Of special note is the quest of three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida of Japan at 53 kg/116.5 lbs., who is seeking to become a four-time Olympic champion.

The preliminaries are set for 10:00 a.m. Rio time, with the medal rounds set at 4:00 p.m. (This is one hour ahead of U.S. Eastern time).

Fans can see every match streamed live through NBC, with television coverage expected on other NBC platforms. United World Wrestling will have live results and brackets.

2016 OLYMPIC GAMES
At Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

U.S. women’s draw for Thursday


53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Helen Maroulis (Huntington Beach, Calif./Sunkist Kids)
Vs. Yulia Khavaldzhy (Ukraine), 3rd in 2015 European Championships, 5th in 2013 World Championships, 3rd in 2013 University World Games, 2009 Junior World champion

63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Elena Pirozhkova (Colorado Springs, Colo./Titan Mercury WC)
Vs. Taybe Yusein (Bulgaria), 2nd in 2012 and 2013 World Championships, 3rd in 2014 and 2015 World Championships, 2011 Junior World champion

75 kg/165 lbs. - Adeline Gray (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC)
Vs. Andrea Olaya Gutierrez (Colombia), 5th in 2014 and 2015 World Championships, 2nd in 2016 Pan American Championships, 2013 and 2014 Pan American Junior champion