Final X Preview: Erin Clodgo vs. Rachel Watters, 72 kg women

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | June 12, 2018, 3:05 p.m. (ET)
Photo of Erin Clodgo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors. Photo of Rachel Watters by Richard Immel.

Who: Erin Clodgo vs. Rachel Watters
What: Final X
Where: State College, Pa.
When: June 16
Why: Women’s freestyle World Team spot at 72 kg
Tickets: FinalX.tv

Erin Clodgo

How she got to Final X:
This was a weight class without a World medalist from 2017. Clodgo earned her spot in Final X by winning the U.S. Open in April, where she edged Rachel Watters in the finals. It was Clodgo’s fourth career U.S. Open title.

Background:
Of the Final X participants on the women’s side, Erin Clodgo is one of the most experienced in the field. Hailing from the small town of Richmond, Vermont, Clodgo made a name for herself in USA Wrestling’s age-group programs. This gave her the opportunity to be included as a member of the U.S. Olympic Education Center women’s freestyle program at Northern Michigan University, where she went to Marquette High School and trained with the college athletes on the team full-time. Only a few high school girls got this chance. Clodgo made great progress there, and became a national-level competitor in short order.

Clodgo made a pair of Junior World Teams, and began placing on the Senior level while still at Northern Michigan. She attended college at NMU for a while, then became a U.S. Olympic Training Center resident athlete. She started her career mostly at 67 kg. She made her first Senior National team in 2009-10. She won her first U.S. Open title in 2011. Clodgo also started winning medals on the international level as early as 2009, and won a Pan American Championships silver medal in 2011. Ultimately, Clodgo has made Women’s Team USA nine times.

A big step in her career came when she made the move down to 63 kg, where she combined strength and skill at a high level. Domestically, Clodgo had some memorable battles with two-time Olympian and four-time World medalist Elena Pirozhkova, who was able to stay ahead of Clodgo. She has been second in the World Team Trials five times and was a 2016 Olympic Trials runner-up. Clodgo had her chance to compete in the Senior World Championships in 2015, where she did not reach the medal rounds.

After the 2016 season, Clodgo moved back to her native Vermont and moved back up in weight. She has won two-straight U.S. Open titles, including her 2018 win that placed her in Final X. Clodgo helps coach a college men’s team and has a different set of workout partners. Her vast experience is a key factor in her current success and her opportunity to make a second Senior World Team through Final X.
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Erin Clodgo’s World Championship experience:
2007 Junior World Championships in Beijing, China – EIGHTH
2010 Junior World Championships in Budapest, Hungary – 12th
2015 Senior World Championships in Las Vegas, Nev., USA – 16th

Rachel Watters

How she got to Final X:
Watters won a gold medal at the Freestyle World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in May, defeating Hannah Gladden in the championship series in two-straight matches, with an 11-1 technical fall and a 10-3 decision.

Background:

Rachel Watters is the product of the USA Wrestling age-group development system. A successful wrestler in Iowa, Watters wrestled in major national events and made her first big impact as a Cadet athlete. Her first big national title was a Junior Folkstyle National crown in 2014, and she won a pair of Junior National freestyle titles in Fargo.

Watters made her first Junior World Team while still in high school in 2015, and represented the USA three-straight years at the Junior World Championships, with a high-water mark of fifth place in 2015. She chose Oklahoma City University for college and was quickly one of the most successful on that storied team. Watters has been a two-time All-American for OCU, placing as high as third in 2018. Her college career has included some time away for injuries, as well as moving up from her best weight class to help the overall team effort.

Watters has also done well in Senior-level events. Her most recent U.S. World Team was in 2017, when she went to the first U23 World Championships and finished in seventh. Watters lost a close match to Erin Clodgo in the 2018 U.S. Open finals, then earned the right for a rematch by capturing the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in May to get into Final X.

This is a talented freestyler, with the opportunity for her biggest win of her Senior career. She is also driven to win her first World medal, and nothing would be better than to achieve that goal at the Senior level.

Watters’ World Championship experience
2015 Junior World Championships in Salvador, Brazil – FIFTH
2016 Junior World Championships in Macon, France – NINTH
2017 Junior World Championships in Tampere, Finland – TENTH
2017 U23 World Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland - SEVENTH

Notes
• The score of the 2018 U.S. Open finals between Clodgo and Watters was 6-5, which makes the rematch series quite compelling.
• Throughout her Senior career, Watters has landed in different weight classes than Clodgo in the events that they both attended until this season.
• When Clodgo made her first Senior World Team in 2008, Watters was 10 years old.
• On her OCU bio, Watters indicated her first job was bailing hay.
• Clodgo is a renowned baker. (Ask anybody who has had the opportunity to taste it).
• Follow Clodgo on Twitter @ErinClodgo
• Follow Watters on Twitter and Instagram @RachelTheDachel

72 kg/158.5 lbs. WOMEN

Erin Clodgo, Richmond, Va. (Sunkist Kids)

College: Northern Michigan High School: Marquette (Mich.), Richmond (Vermont) Born: Aug. 23, 1990
• 2015 U.S. World Team member
• Four-time U.S. Open champion (2010, 2015, 2017, 2018)
• 2016 Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier champion
• Third in 2015 Pan American Games
• Third in 2016 Olympic Test Event (Brazil)
• Second in 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials
• Second in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014, 2017 World Team Trials
• 2015 and 2018 Dave Schultz Memorial International champion
• Second in 2011 Pan American Championships
• 2007 and 2010 U.S. Junior World Team member

Rachel Watters, Ankeny, Iowa (New York AC/Aires WC)
College: Oklahoma City Univ. High School: Ballard, Iowa Born: October 24, 1997
• Second at 2018 U.S. Open
• 2018 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament champion
• 2017 and 2018 U23 World Team Trials champion
• Three-time Junior World Team member
• Second in 2016 Bill Farrell International
• Fifth in 2015 Junior World Championships
• Third in 2018 Klippan Lady Open (Sweden)
• Third at 2018 WCWA College Nationals for Oklahoma City
• Three-time Fargo champion (2015-2016 Junior and 2013 Cadet)