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World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs.

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 01, 2017, 10:14 a.m. (ET)

Becka Leathers controls Kelsey Campbell, on the way to a gold medal at the 2017 Dave Schultz Memorial International. Leathers seeks her first Senior World medal this summer. Photo by John Sachs,

Date of competition: Wednesday, August 23

This is a non-Olympic weight class, but there was a World Championships in Budapest in November 2016 where Mayu Mukaida of Japan claimed the gold medal. Mukaida is dropping to 53 kg in Paris, so Haruna Okuno is expected to be Japan’s entry. Okuno is young and relatively inexperienced, but won a 2016 Cadet World title and captured the gold at the competitive Klippan Lady Open in Sweden. This will be her Senior World debut.

Russia’s tough Irina Ologonova of Russia has won World silver medals the last three years, losing to Mukaida in 2016, Helen Maroulis of the USA in 2015 and Chiho Hamada of Japan in 2014. She has not wrestled since her silver in Budapest last December. Russia is expected to enter its 2017 National champion Maria Gurova at 55 kg in Paris. Gurova was fifth at the 2011 and 2012 World Championships at this weight class. Gurova comes off a silver medal at the recent Grand Prix of Spain.

Maroulis, who won her Olympic title at 53 kg, boasts three World medals at 55 kg, but has jumped over the weight and is the U.S. entry at 58 kg. In 2016, Sara Hildebrandt was 10th in the World for the USA here. This season, 2015 Junior World bronze medalist Becka Leathers made her first U.S. World Team, beating Hildebrandt in the World Team Trials finals by injury default. Leathers, a 2016 WCWA champion at Oklahoma City, came to the Olympic Training Center this year. Leathers has put together a great season, winning golds at the Bill Farrell International, the Dave Schultz Memorial, the Pan American Championships and the Grand Prix of Spain since November. She is ranked at No. 17 by UWW, but her recent results could translate into medal contention in Paris.

Winning World bronze medals in 2016 were Aiym Abdildina of Kazakhstan and Otgontsetseg Davaasukh of Mongolia. Neither are on their nation’s preliminary rosters for the 2017 Worlds. Davaachimeg Erkembayar of Mongolia and Marina Sedniva of Kazakhstan will be the entries this year. Erkembayar won a bronze medal at the 2017 Asian Championships and was a 2012 Junior World champion on her first Senior World team. Sedniva was a 2016 Junior World silver medalist, who won a bronze at the Yasar Dogu in Turkey.

Moving up from 53 kg this year is 2015 World bronze medalist Odynayo Adekuoroye of Nigeria, who has won three straight gold medals since missing the medals at the Rio Olympics. This season, Adekuoroye won gold medals at the 2016 UWW Golden Grand Prix as well as the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games. She also won her second straight African Senior Championships gold.

2017 European Senior champion Bilyana Dudova of Bulgaria is a rising talent. She was fifth in the 2017 European U23 Championships this year, and added a bronze medal at the Grand Prix of Spain. She has competed at three age-group World Championships but did not medal.

Katsiaryna Hanchar of Belarus, fifth in the 2015 and 2016 World Championships, holds a No. 5 World ranking this year, after winning a silver medal at the 2017 European Championships. She also boasts a gold medal at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria this season. Belarus has good depth at this weight class, with 2012 World silver medalist and 2017 Klippan Open champion Zalina Sidakova also an option at this division.

Ukraine brings a veteran stare in 2015 World bronze medalist Tetyana Kit, who was seventh in the 2016 World Championships. Kit won a gold medal at the Poland Open, a major tune-up event for the Worlds this summer, and also boasts a 2017 European U23 Championships gold medal.

Veteran Michelle Fazzari of Canada drops down from 58 kg where she competed in the Rio Olympics. Fazzari will be competing in her fourth Senior World Championships, and seeking her first medal. She was a 2007 Commonwealth champion, and won the 2017 Pan American Championships.

Ramona Galambos of Hungary was fifth in the 2016 World Championships, but could compete down at 53 kg this year. If she stays up, she has a great record at 55 kg this season with five international medals, including the U23 European Championships and medals in France, Sweden, Ukraine and Spain.

Bediha Gun of Turkey moves up to 55 kg after competing at 53 kg in recent seasons, including an appearance at the Rio Olympics. She won a 2016 World University Championships gold medal and a European U23 Championships silver medal this year at her new weight class.

Winning bronze medals at the 2017 European Championships are Alyona Kolesnik of Azerbaijan and Mathilde Riviere of France, who will be a hometown favorite. Riviere is fresh off a gold medal at the 2017 German Grand Prix. Kolesnik competed in the 2016 Senior Worlds for Azerbaijan, who also could bring Solmaz Hashimzada, whose best performance was a bronze at the 2015 European U23 Championships.

China is expected to enter 2017 Asian bronze medalist Qi Zhang, who would be at her first Senior Worlds. The other 2017 Asian bronze medalist is Vinesh of India, who was 10th at the 2016 Olympics down at 48 kg.

Other athletes of interest are Lenka Hockova of the Czech Republic, Andribeth Rivera of Puerto Rico, Sandra Paruszewski of Germany and Paula Kozlow of Poland.

When reviewing this weight class, there is a great opportunity for new young stars to break through and make a name for themselves in the first year of the Olympic four-year cycle.

3. Sae NANJO (JPN)
5. Katsiaryna HANCHAR (BLR)
6. Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL)
7. Ramona GALAMBOS (HUN)
9. Alyona KOLESNIK (AZE)
11. DAVAASUKH Otgontsetseg (MGL)
12. Mathilde RIVIERE (FRA)
13. Bediha GUN (TUR)
14. Tatyana KIT (UKR)
15. ERKHEMBAYAR Davaanchimeg (MGL)
16. Olena KREMZER (UKR)
17. Becka LEATHERS (USA)
18. Elena BRUGGER (GER)
19. Alina AKOBIYA (UKR)
20. Zalina SIDAKOVA (BLR)


2016 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Mayu Mukaida (Japan); Silver - Irina Olgonova (Russia); Bronze – Aiym Abdildina (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia); 5th - Ramona Galambos (Hungary); 5th - Katsiaryna Hanchar Yanushkevich (Belarus); 7th – Tetyana Kit (Ukraine); 8th – Jaqueline Schellin (Germany); 9th – Iulia Leorda (Moldova); 10th – Sara Hildebrandt (USA)

2015 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Helen Maroulis (United States); Silver – Irina Ologonova (Russia); Bronze – Evelina Nikolova (Bulgaria); Bronze – Tetyana Kit (Ukraine); 5th – Qianyu Pang (China); 5th – Katsiaryna Yanushkevich (Belarus); 7th – Anri Kimura (Japan); 8th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 9th – Jasmine Mian (Canada); 10th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia)

2014 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Chiho Hamada (Japan); Silver – Irina Ologonova (Russia); Bronze – Helen Maroulis (USA); Bronze – Iryna Khariv (Ukraine); 5th – Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 5th – Karima Sanchez (Spain); 7th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 8th – Giullia Rodrigues (Brazil); 9th – Zalina Sidakova (Belarus); 10th – Jiahui Dong (China)

2013 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Emese Barka (Hungary); Bronze – Valeriia Koblova (Russia); 5th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 5th – Iryna Husyak (Ukraine); 7th – Helen Maroulis (USA); 8th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 9th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 10th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia)

2012 Olympic Games
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze – Jackeline Renteria (Colombia); Bronze – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine); 5th – Valeria Zholobova (Russia); 7th – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 8th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 9th – Lissette Antes Castillo (Ecuador); 10th – Kum Ok Han (North Korea)

2012 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Helen Maroulis (USA); Bronze – Geeta Geeta (India); Bronze – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 5th - Nataliya Synyshyn (Ukraine); 5th - Brittanee Laverdure (Canada); 7th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 8th - Chen Yang (China); 9th - Joice Da Silva (Brazil); 10th - Maria Gurova (Russia)

2011 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze - Tatyana Lazareva (Ukraine); Bronze - Ida-Theres Nerell (Sweden); 5th - Maria Gurova (Russia); 5th - Helen Maroulis (United States); 7th - Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 8th - Geeta (India); 9th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 10th - Alma Valencia Escoto (Mexico)

2010 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); Bronze –Anna Gomis (France); Bronze – Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th – Aiym Abdilina (Kazakhstan); 5th – Maria Gurova (Russia); 7th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 8th – Jillian Gallays (Canada); 9th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 10th – Sylwia Bilenska (Poland)

2009 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Sona Ahmedli (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Alena Filipava (Belarus); Bronze - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); 5th - Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th - Anna Gomis (France); 7th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 8th - Aiyim Abdildina (Kazakhstan); 9th - Yura Gandolgor (Mongolia); 10th - Geeta (India)