2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials preview for 63 kg in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | March 31, 2016, 5:58 p.m. (ET)
Erin Clodgo of the USA after winning the Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier, which qualified the USA to compete at the Rio Olympic Games.

Competition Day: Saturday, April 9

Is Weight Class Qualified Yet for Olympic Games: Yes

This is one of the two weight classes in women’s freestyle which the United States has already qualified for the Rio Olympic Games. 2015 World Team member Erin Clodgo was the entry at the 2016 Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier down in Frisco, Texas, and she got the job done there, winning the gold medal. In the semifinals, she dominated Cuban star Katerina Videaux to clinch the Olympic berth, stopping an athlete who had beaten her in two previous meetings.

Clodgo made her first U.S. World Team last year, after many years knocking on the door. She was second at the World Team Trials four times before making the USA team that competed at the Worlds in Las Vegas last summer. She boasts U.S. Open titles in 2010 and 2015, and has been a Dave Schultz Memorial International champion. She also has numerous international medals, including a bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games.

The athlete who kept Clodgo off of many World Teams will be returning to this weight class, 2012 World champion Elena Pirozhkova of the Titan Mercury WC. She boasts four World medals, winning silver medals in 2010 and 2014 and a bronze medal in 2013. She was also a 2012 Olympian, beating Adeline Gray in the 63 kg finals at the 2012 Olympic Trials in Iowa City. Pirozhkova made her first World Team in 2008, and has been on every U.S. World and Olympic Team since.

In 2015, Pirozhkova chose to compete at 69 kg, where she made the USA World Team and placed 10th at the World Championships in Las Vegas. She has been down to 63 kg this year, winning the UWW Golden Grand Prix in Azerbaijan, but has not been at scratch weight yet. Her 2016 Pan American Championships gold was up at 69 kg in February.

The 2016 U.S. Open champion was Amanda Hendey of the Titan Mercury WC, who defeated Jennifer Page of the Titan Mercury WC in the finals by fall. Hendey has really stepped up in recent years, placing second behind Clodgo at the 2015 U.S. Open and 2015 World Team Trials. Hendey pinned Clodgo in the first match of their best-of-three series at the World Team Trials, before dropping the next two bouts. She was a 2015 WCWA nationals champion for King University, and made a big splash while still in high school when she was second at the 2011 U.S. Open.

Another title hopeful is Jennifer Page of the Titan Mercury WC, who was considering going down to 58 kg for the Olympic year but has been competing at this weight class. She scored a 4-0 win over Clodgo in the semifinals of the 2016 U.S. Open, before falling to Hendey in the finals. Page was second in the 2015 World Team Trials down at 60 kg, and also made the 2013 and 2014 Women’s national team by placing third in the World Team Trials those seasons. She was a 2013 Junior World bronze medalist.

The college ranks are loaded at this weight, led by Mallory Velte of the Titan Mercury WC, who was a 2016 WCWA College national champion for Simon Fraser. Velte was fourth at the 2016 U.S. Open. She was a solid fifth at the 2015 Junior World Championships. Velte was out with injury for a year, but has competed very well on both the Senior and age-group levels since her return.

Two other college athletes placed at the U.S. Open and advanced to the Olympic Team Trials, Alexis Porter of McKendree University, who was fifth, and Hanna Jewell of King University who was sixth. At the 2016 WCWA Nationals, Jewell was fourth at 136 pounds and Porter was fifth at 143 pounds. Porter has competed on U.S. World Teams on the Cadet and Junior levels.

Four other college athletes joined the field based upon their placements at the WCWA Nationals in February, Winning silver medals were Monica Ramirez of Lindenwood at 136 and Maggie Douma of Oklahoma City at 143. Placing third were Francesca Giorgio of Simon Fraser at 136 and Olivia Seppinni of McKendree at 143.

Winning a silver medal at the University Nationals and qualifying was past national team member Shai Mason of the Titan Mercury WC. We could see one more qualifier from the Last Chance Qualifier in Cedar Falls, Iowa on April 3.

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

Women’s Freestyle - 63 kg/138.75 lbs.

’15 World Team member – Elena Pirozhkova, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 World Team member – Erin Clodgo, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Sunkist Kids)
Past World or Olympic Team member – Sally Roberts, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
’15 Grand Prix of Spain silver medalist – Jennifer Page, Colorado Springs, Colo. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier champion – Amanda Hendey, San Gabriel, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fourth place – Mallory Velte, Sacramento, Calif. (Titan Mercury WC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier fifth place – Alexis Porter, Ballston Lake, N.Y. (NYAC/MWC)
’15 Olympic Trials Qualifier sixth place – Hannah Jewell, Grand Blanc, Mich. (King University)
WCWA Nationals silver medalist at 136 - Monica Ramirez, Baldwin Park, Calif. (Lindenwood)
WCWA Nationals bronze medalist at 136 - Francesca Giorgio, Reading, Pa. (Simon Fraser)
WCWA Nationals silver medalist at 143 - Maggie Douma, Napa, Calif. (Oklahoma City)
WCWA Nationals bronze medalist at 143 - Olivia Seppinni, Rocklin, Calif. (McKendree)
’16 University Nationals runner-up – Shai Mason, Jamestown, N.D. (Titan Mercury WC)
International tour medalist within one year -
’16 Final Olympic Trials Qualifier champion –

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.