| Elena Pirozhkova works a single leg on Tamyra Mensah in the 69 kg
women's freestyle finals at the U.S. Senior Nationals in Las Vegas.
Photo: Robbert Wijtman, CSC Photography.
LAS VEGAS – The poise of two-time Olympian Elena Pirozhkova carried the day in the finals of the U.S. Senior Nationals.
In her first competition since finishing in fifth place at the Olympic Games, Pirozhkova held off a second-period charge from Olympic Trials champion Tamyra Mensah to win the 69 kg/152 lbs. women’s freestyle title.
“Me and [Mensah] know each other pretty well. She was my training partner for Rio, so we’ve been sparring with each other a lot. I think we’re very beneficial to each other, so we just grow off each other,” Pirozhkova said following her victory on Saturday night.
The first period saw several back-and-forth exchanges, but neither Pirozhkova nor Mensah could muster an offensive point. Mensah surrendered a shot clock point to give Pirozhkova a 1-0 lead at the break. Pirozhkova extended her lead to 3-0 after scoring a takedown in the early stages of the second period. Mensah stormed back with a fireman’s carry to the back and a shot clock point, but ultimately fell short in her comeback bid, 4-3.
“As far as mentally, I think taking time off from Rio was great. I had a disappointing loss for my third-place match. At that moment, I just hated wrestling, and I was like, I don’t think I’m going to wrestle again, but I decided to wrestle one more year,” Pirozhkova added.
Pirozhkova has now won eight titles at the U.S. Senior Nationals in her illustrious career. On top of competing at the Olympic Games in 2012 and 2016, Pirozhkova has won four World medals, including a World championship in 2012.
Back on the mat for the first time since the U.S. Olympic Team Trials held in April, Jenna Burkert thoroughly dominated the 60 kg/132 lbs. field to win her first U.S. Senior Nationals title.
Burkert won all three of her bouts by 10-0 technical fall. She topped Bill Farrell International bronze medalist Carla Ponce in the championship bout.
“This whole tournament was about staying to how I wrestle, not getting frazzled, who I’m wrestling next,” Burkert said. “I want to break people. I want to make sure they know they’re wrestling Jenna Burkert. They know it’s going to be heavy hands. They know it’s going to be a dog fight and I’m going to win the dog fight.”
Jennifer Page returned to the top step at the Senior Nationals for the second time in her career with a narrow 3-1 win over 2016 Junior World bronze medalist Maya Nelson in the 63 kg/138.75 lbs. finals.
“I feel like it was a pretty good tournament overall. I lost a match in New York a month ago against Velte, so I knew I had to be ready for her coming into this tournament, and everyone else also. It’s nice to be back,” Page said of her gold-medal performance.
Page finished in third place at the 60 kg World Team Trials last month in New York City. In 2016, she has earned a gold medal at the Guelph Open and University Nationals, in addition to a silver medal at the Dave Schultz Memorial International.
In the 75 kg/165 lbs. championship match, Erin Clodgo secured her third Senior Nationals championship with a controlled 5-2 decision over Julia Salata.
“Earlier today, I’ve kind of been wrestling sloppy, but just kind of pushing through for every little point I can,” Clodgo said. “Tonight, I knew I need to be smarter and patient to win. I definitely did not feel the biggest or the strongest in the weight class like I normally do at 63…but it was ok. It was a good experience. I had fun. It felt really good to be back on the mat and get some matches in.”
Clodgo was a member of the 2015 U.S. World Team and was the 63-kg runner-up to Pirozhkova at this year’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials. She also won gold at the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier and a bronze at the Olympic Games Test Event in 2016.
The U.S. Senior Nationals will resume tomorrow morning in Las Vegas with the remaining women’s freestyle and Greco-Roman weight classes. Action will begin at 9 a.m. (PT) with the finals being wrestled at 4 p.m. (PT).
Complete brackets, match-by-match results and a live stream of the U.S. Senior Nationals can be found at Flowrestling.com.
2017 U.S. SENIOR WOMEN’S FREESTYLE NATIONALS
Dec. 17-18 at Las Vegas, Nev.
Women’s Freestyle Results
60 kg/132 lbs.
1st – Jenna Burkert (U.S. Army WCAP) tech. fall Carla Ponce (Aries WC), 10-0
3rd – Nicole Joseph (King University) dec. Abigail Nette (Lions WC), 7-0
5th – Cheyenne Bates (Wayland Baptist) dec. Arian Carpio (Sunkist Kids), 9-0
7th – Darla Allen (Bearcat WC) tech. fall Daniela Flores (Aries WC), 10-0
63 kg/138.75 lbs.
1st – Jennifer Page (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Maya Nelson (Sunkist Kids), 3-1
3rd – Mallory Velte (Titan Mercury WC) tech. fall Alexis Porter (New York AC), 10-0
5th – Jessica Kee (New York AC) tech. fall Margaret Douma (Aries WC), 11-0
7th – Marina Briceno (Wayland Baptist) tech. fall Brianna Holcomb (Aries WC), 10-0
69 kg/152 lbs.
1st – Elena Pirozhkova (Titan Mercury WC) dec. Tamyra Mensah (Titan Mercury WC), 4-3
3rd – Forrest Molinari (Titan Mercury WC) tech. fall Alexandria Glaude (Bearcat WC), 10-0
5th – Andrea Sennett (Bearcat WC) forfeit Rachel Watters (Aries WC)
7th – Cara Romeike (Jamestown) dec. Ophelia Lara (Lions WC), 6-4
75 kg/165 lbs.
1st – Erin Clodgo (Sunkist Kids) dec. Julia Salata (New York AC), 5-2
3rd – Brandy Lowe (Bearcat WC) tech. fall Yvette Garcia (AAJJ), 10-0
5th – Nahiela Magee (Bearcat WC) dec. Brittany Marshall (Wayland Baptist), 11-10