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2018 World Championships preview at 65 kg/143 lbs. in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 06, 2018, 2:40 p.m. (ET)

Forrest Molinari celebrates her victory in Final X, which qualified her for her first U.S. Senior World Team. Photo by Justin Hoch.

Dates of competition: Tuesday, October 23 and Wednesday, October 24

Want to talk about a wide open weight class in Budapest at the 2018 Worlds? Check out the potential field at 65 kg in women’s freestyle!

This is a brand new weight class and a non-Olympic weight class. And although there is some great young talent expected in the tournament, there is very little experience or past World-level success.

The top seed at this weight class is 2015 World silver medalist Petra Olli of Finland. Olli has put together a spectacular season, with gold medals at the European Championships, the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden and the Ukrainian Memorial International, all up at 65 kg. However, it has been reported that Olli may drop down to 62 kg, the Olympic weight class, which would eliminate the top favorite at this weight class.

The No. 2 seed? Talented and tough Forrest Molinari of the United States gets that position, based upon her second place finish in the 2018 UWW Ranking Series. Molinari will be competing in her first Senior World Championships, although she has past age-group World Championships experience on the Junior and U23 levels. On the international level this year, Molinari won the Pan American Championships and the Flatz Open in Austria, won a bronze medal at the Poland Open, and placed fifth in the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden and the Grand Prix of Spain. She also won both of her matches at the 2018 World Cup. Molinari earned a lot of fans in her gritty Final X victory over past King teammate Julia Salata to make the Senior World Team.

If Olli does drop to 62 kg, the most decorated and experienced athlete in the field is 2010 World bronze medalist Henna Johansson of Sweden, the No. 3 seed for Budapest. In addition to her World medal, she has four other top 10 finishes at the Worlds, placing fifth at the 2014 Worlds, seventh at the 2017 Worlds and 10th at the 2015 Worlds and the 2012 Olympics. A two-time Olympian, Johansson was also a 2009 Junior World champion and a 2008 Junior World bronze medalist. She has three bronze medals this year at 65 kg, at the European Championships, the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden and the Grand Prix of Spain.

The other athlete in the anticipated field who has reached a World medal match is Irina Netreba of Azerbaijan, who placed fifth at the 2015 World Championships down at 58 kg. She also added a 10th place finish at the 2014 Worlds at 60 kg. Netreba has a few impressive placements in her career, including a European silver medal in 2014 and a 2013 World University Games bronze medal. This year at 65 kg, she won silver medals at Yasar Dogu in Turkey and the Ukrainian Memorial International, plus a bronze medal at the Medved International in Belarus. She did not medal at the European Championships.

A serious gold medal contender is 2010 Junior World champion Danielle Lappage of Canada, who competed most of this year up at 68 kg. Lappage won the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden, the Ukrainian Memorial International and the Canada Cup at 68 kg, plus a silver at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Grand Prix of Spain. She recently dropped to 65 kg and won the tough Poland Open, a tune-up event for the Worlds. Lappage was injured in her opening match at the 2016 Olympic Games at 63 kg and could not continue, and missed the 2017 season. She has some impressive victories, such as the 2014 Commonwealth Games and the 2014 World University Championships. She has one previous Senior World placement, taking eighth at the 2014 Senior Worlds at 63 kg.

So what about the athletes from some of the other World powers such as Japan and Russia? It would not be out of the question for these nations to push athletes into the medal rounds or even into the gold-medal finals.

Japan is expected to enter to Ayana Gempei, the 2017 U23 World champion who will be in her first Senior World tournament. Gempei needed a victory in a Special Wrestle-off against Ayaka Ito, who was fifth in the 2013 World Championships, to make the Japan team. Gempei was third in the 2018 Asian Games, but up at 68 kg. She also was a 2016 Junior World champion. Although her resume is not as long as some of her Japanese teammates, her past efforts make her a medal contender.

Russia is slated to bring 2018 Russian National champion Maria Kuznetzova to her first Senior Worlds as well. Kuznetzova was a 2015 Junior World bronze medalist, and also placed fifth at two other Junior World Championships in 2016 and 2017. Competing at 65 kg this year, she won the European U23 Championships and the Grand Prix of Spain, and added silver medals at the China Open and the Medved International in Belarus. With her background, she will also be expected to battle tough in Budapest.

There are a pair of women in the field who placed ninth in a previous Senior World Championships, Adela Hanzlickova of Czechia and Tayla Tuahine Ford of New Zealand.

Hanzlickova secured the No. 4 seed for Budapest. She won a gold medal at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria, a silver medal at the Grand Prix of Spain, a bronze at the Ukrainian Memorial International and fifth place at the Poland Open. A 2016 Olympian, her other top performance was a bronze medal at the 2017 U23 World Championships.

Ford is relatively unknown, except among Commonwealth nations, as she was third in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and fourth in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She has also won five Oceania Championships titles.
A 2018 European bronze medalist at 62 kg, Ilona Prokopevniuk of Ukraine also added a gold medal at 65 kg this year at the Yasar Dogu in Turkey. She was a 2017 U23 World silver medalist and also won the 2018 European U23 gold medal.

2018 European bronze medalist Krystina Fedorashko of Belarus has been on the international circuit for some time, going back to a Cadet World bronze medal in 2011. 2018 European U23 silver medalist Sofia Georgieva of Bulgaria won two Senior medals at 65 kg this year at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria and the Ion Corneanu in Romania. Host Hungary’s Gabriella Sleisz has won a silver and bronze at past World University Championships, and placed fifth at the 2018 European Senior Championships. Ritu of India was a 2017 Commonwealth champion and fifth in the 2017 Asian Championships. Hanbit Lee of Korea was third at the 2018 Asian Championships.

Any way you look at this, it should be a wide-open shootout for the medals in Budapest at 65 kg. You can look to those with the most experience, or perhaps it’s time that a new generation of young stars have big breakout performances. Do you bet on the major women’s powers pushing through some new stars, or will those who have paid their dues have a chance to cash in at the World level? It will be fun watching it all sort out.

Note: TheMat.com will be posting daily weight class previews for the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, October 20-28

RECENT WORLD RESULTS

65 kg is a new international weight class in Greco-Roman and has no past World results.

Current UWW Ranking Series standings (for seeding)
1 Petra Olli (Finland)
2 Forrest Molinari (USA)
3 Henna Katarina Johansson (Sweden)
4 Adela Hanzlickova (Czechia)
5 Chuying Tang (China)
6 Mariia Kuznetsova (Russia)
7 Miwa Morikawa (Japan)
8 Yulia Prontsevitch (Russia)
9 Elis Manolova (Azerbaijan)
10 Hanbit Lee (Korea)