2018 World Championships preview at 76 kg/167.5 lbs in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Oct. 15, 2018, 11:46 a.m. (ET)
Adeline Gray of the USA, shown competing at the Women's World Cup, has three World gold medals and seeks to add another.

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

When United World Wrestling put in a system for seeding, based upon results from major competitions, the idea was to find a way to separate the best athletes in each weight class in a fair and objective way. This is exactly what happened in the women’s 76 kg weight class, which has a deep field of proven stars.

When three-time World champion Adeline Gray of the United States returned to the mat after missing the 2017 season, and the rest of the best from the old 75 kg class remained in the field, the quality at this division is impressive. Better yet, the stars at the division were all very active in 2018, and the best wrestlers actually earned seeds here.

Claiming the first seed was 2017 World champion Yasemin Adar of Turkey, who U.S. fans saw for the first time at the 2013 Worlds, when Adeline Gray beat her for the 72 kg bronze medal. Adar has improved over time, and put it all together last year in winning her World title. So far in 2018, she won the gold medal at the European Championships, captured silver medals at the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden and the Yasar Dogu in Turkey and placed fifth at the Poland Open. She placed eighth in the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Second seeded Gray spent 2017 healing from surgery and recharging her batteries, after becoming one of the greatest U.S. wrestlers in history. In addition to World titles in 2012, 2014 and 2015, Gray boasts a pair of World bronze medals from 2011 and 2013. She was also seventh at the 2016 Olympics. Gray boasts age-group World titles on the Junior and University levels. When her offense is going well, she is turning opponents often and racking up technical falls. Gray showed she was back in a big way with a win over Adar in the finals at the 2018 Klippan Lady Open. Gray wrestled often this season, adding a Pan American gold medal and a silver medal at the Grand Prix of Spain.

2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe of Canada secured the No. 3 seed after a strong 2018 season with five gold medals. She defeated Gray in the finals of the Grand Prix of Spain, and added titles at the Ukrainian Memorial International, the Commonwealth Games, the Canada Cup and the Poland Open. She also had to defeat 2017 World bronze medalist Justina Di Stasio to make the Canadian World Team. Also a 2014 University World champion, Wiebe is capable of great things as she heads towards the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Getting the No. 4 seed is four-time World medalist Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus, who won a silver medal at the 2017 World Championships, and added bronze medals at the 2011, 2012 and 2015 World Championships. Marzaliuk was also fifth at the both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games. A 2006 Junior World champion, Marzaliuk has shown consistency over a long time period. She defeated Gray in the 2016 Olympic Games, then lost to Wiebe in the semifinals. Marzaliuk won bronze medals at the European Championships and the Poland Open this year.

Once you get past the top four seeds, there are plenty of other Olympic and World medals in the rest of the field to make the draw meaningful. In fact, there are as many as 11 past World or Olympic medalists who may enter. Even though the seeds are strong, there will be some fantastic battles leading up to the semifinals in Budapest.

Aline Focken of Germany, a 2014 World champion and three-time World medalist down at 69 kg, is moving up to heavyweight and making a run for the medals. She won a 2017 World silver medal and a 2015 World bronze medal, and also finished fifth at the 2013 World Championships. She won gold medals at 76 kg this year at the Ion Corneanu Memorial in Romania, the Yasar Dogu in Turkey and the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria. Focken beat Adar in the finals at the Yasar Dogu, and has a pair of wins over 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Ekaterina Bukina of Russia as well this season.

Russia’s Bukina has been a consistent contender for years. In addition to her 2016 Olympic bronze medal, she boasts a 2011 World silver medal, a 2010 World bronze medal, a 2013 World University Games gold and two Junior World medals. This year, Bukina was the 2018 Russian National champion and won gold at the Medved International in Belarus. She also took second behind Adar at the European Championships, added silvers at the Ion Corneanu Memorial in Romania and the Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia and the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria. Bukina did not compete in 2017.

We can’t overlook 2015 World silver medalist and 2014 World bronze medalist Zhou Qian of China, who won 2018 gold medals at both the Asian Championships and the Asian Games. Zhou was also the champion at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia, beating Bukina in the finals. China is traditionally very strong at heavyweight in women’s wrestling, and Zhou is adding to that legacy.

Another star moving up in weight is Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan, who won a 2016 Olympic bronze medal at 69 kg. In 2017, she was fifth at the World Championships, also at 69 kg. Syzdykova has competed in six different international events at 75 kg this year, with a gold medal at the Mongolia Open, plus bronze medals at the Asian Championships, the Grand Prix of Spain and the Asian Games. A 2011 Junior World bronze medalist, Syzdykova has a wealth of experience, but will face a new challenge at the higher weight class.

2015 World bronze medalist Epp Mae of Estonia doesn’t appear on preliminary rosters, but she has been active in 2018 and if she enters, she is another top contender. Mae was fifth at the 2014 and 2017 World Championships. She won bronze medals this year at the Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia and the World Military Championshps. She was also fifth at the 2018 European Championships. Mae has wins over many of the other top athletes at this weight class.

Japan will enter 2017 World bronze medalist Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki, who enters her fifth Senior World Championships. Minagawa won silver medals at the Asian Championships and Asian Games this year, falling the China’s Zhou in both finals. She was also a 2010 World University silver medalist.

Then there is Svetlana Saenko of Moldova, who was a 2005 World bronze medalist for Ukraine, and also placed fourth in the 2004 Olympics. She competed at a high level for Ukraine on the Senior level from 2002-2010, then has been on Team Moldova ever since. Combined, she has wrestled in 11 Senior World Championships and two Olympic Games. This season, her top finish was third at the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria.

The preliminary rosters did not include 2014 World silver medalist Aline da Silva Ferreira of Brazil, who has competed twice this year, taking a silver medal at the South American Games and placing fifth at the Pan American Championships. A 2016 World Military champion, de Silva was also a 2016 Junior World silver medalist and placed fifth at the 2015 Senior Worlds. She is a dangerous thrower, who has the ability to pop a big move at any time. If da Silva enters Budapest, the field gets even better.

Once you consider the past medalists, there are still talented athletes who should be tough opponents. Cynthia Vescan of France is a two-time Junior World silver medalist and a 2016 University World silver medalist who competed in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

2006 University World champion Naranchimeg Gelegjamts of Mongolia has competed in five previous Senior World meets, with her best finish being fifth in the 2005 Worlds. 2012 Junior World bronze medalist Daria Osocka of Poland will be entering her third Senior World tournament, with an eighth place in 2015. Host Hungary enters 2012 Cadet World champion Zsanett Nemeth, who competed in the 2016 Olympic Games and has three previous Senior World appearances.

2018 European bronze medalist Sabira Aliyeva of Azerbaijan is a new talent in the weight class. 2016 Olympian Maria Jose Acosta of Venezuela has won four career Pan American medals. Kiran of India won the 2017 Commonwealth Championships and was third in the 2018 Commonwealth Games. 2017 U23 World bronze medalist Anastasia Shustova of Ukraine also won the 2018 European U23 Championships. Blessing Joy Onyebuchi of Nigeria was second at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

This weight class should be a drag-out war from the opening rounds, and the athletes who emerge with medals will have been put to the extreme test. It will be interesting to see how well the four seeded athletes stand up to the challenge.

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

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS


75 kg/165 lbs. - Gold - Yasemin Adar (Turkey); Silver - Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); Bronze –Hiroe Suzuki (Japan); Bronze –Justina Di Stasio (Canada); 5th - Epp Mae (Estonia); 5th - Paliha (China); 7th - Andrea Olaya Gutierrez (Colombia); 8th - Pooja (India); 9th - Urtnasan Gan Ochir (Mongolia); 10th - Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan)

2016 Olympic Games
75 kg/165 lbs. - Gold – Erica Wiebe (Canada); Silver – Guzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Fengliu Zhang (China); Bronze – Ekaterina Bukina (Russia); 5th – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); 5th – Annabel Laure Ali (Cameroon); 7th – Adeline Gray (United States); 8th – Yasmine Adar (Turkey); 9th- Aline Da Silva Ferrera (Brazil); 10th – Zsanett Nemeth (Hungary)

2015 World Championships
75 kg/165 lbs. - Gold – Adeline Gray (United States); Silver – Qian Zhou (China); Bronze – Epp Mae (Estonia); Bronze – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); 5th – Andrea Olaya Gutierrez (Colombia); 5th – Aline Da Silva Ferreira (Brazil); 7th – Ekaterina Bukina (Russia); 8th – Daria Osocka (Poland); 9th – Guzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); 10th – Yasemin Adar (Turkey)

2014 World Championships
75 kg/165 lbs. - Gold – Adeline Gray (USA); Silva – Aline Da Silva (Brazil); Bronze – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); Bronze – Zhou Qian (China); 5th – Andrea Olaya (Colombia); 5th – Epp Mae (Estonia); 7th – Hiroe Suzuki (Japan); 8th – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); 9th – Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 10th – Erica Wiebe (Canada)

2013 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Fengliu Zhang (China); Silver – Natalia Vorobeva (Russia); Bronze – Adeline Gray (USA); Bronze – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); 5th – Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 5th – Svetlana Saenko (Moldova); 7th – Erica Wiebe (Canada); 8th – Cynthia Vescan (France); 9th – Hiroe Suzuki (Japan); 10th – Epp Mae (Estonia)

2012 Olympic Games
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Natalia Vorobieva (Russia); Silver – Stanka Zlateva (Bulgaria); Bronze – Gouzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Madier Unda Gonzales (Spain); 5th – Jiao Wang (China); 5th – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); 7th – Laure Ali Annabel (Cameroon); 8th – Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); 9th – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); 10th – Svetlana Saenco (Moldova)

2012 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold – Jenny Fransson (Sweden); Silver – Guzel Manyurova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); Bronze – Qing Xu (China); 5th - Nataliya Palamarchuk (Azerbaijan); 5th - Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 7th - Ekatina Bukina (Russia); 8th - Maria Selmaier (Germany); 9th - Oksana Vashchuk (Ukraine); 10th - Aline Da Silva (Brazil)

Current UWW Ranking Series standings (for seeding)
1 Yasemin Adar (Turkey)
2 Adeline Gray (USA)
3 Erica Wiebe (Canada)
4 Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus)
5 Epp Mae (Estonia)
6 Elmira Syzdykova (Kazakhstan)
7 Paliha (China)
8 Eunju Hwang (Korea)
9 Zsanett Nemeth (Hungary)
10 Qian Zhou (China)