2019 World Championships preview at 53 kg/116.5 lbs. in women's freestyle

By JD Rader, USA Wrestling | Aug. 16, 2019, 4:43 p.m. (ET)
Photo: Sarah Hildebrandt at the 2019 Pan American Games. Photo by Robbert Wijtman.

Dates of competition:
Tuesday, September 17 and Wednesday, September 18

At the start of 2019, most people would have had Japanese wrestler Mayu Mukaida as the large favorite to win the 53 kg bracket in Nur-Sultan. Mukaida is 2018 and 2016 Senior World champion, 2016 Junior World champion, 2014 Youth Olympic Games champion and 2013 and 2012 Cadet World champion. She spent 2018 up at 55 kg, where she won a World title, but has dropped back down to the Olympic weight class this year. 

Mukaida had only taken one loss since February of 2016. In the 2017 World finals, Mukaida gave up a four-point move to Vanesa Kaladzinkskaya with just four seconds left to lose, 8-6. 

In addition to all of that, Mukaida was fresh off of winning Japan Nationals in December. She defeated 2015 Junior World champion and two-time Cadet World champion Nanami Irie in the finals to secure the 53 kg spot. In July, Irie secured Japan’s 55 kg spot with a 3-1 victory over last year’s 53 kg World champion Haruna Okuno at a special wrestle-off.

However, Mukaida took a 4-3 loss to current world No. 16 Youngmi Pak of DPR Korea in April at the Asian Championships. Similar to her 2017 World Championships loss, she was leading with short time left and gave up a takedown to lose. 

Another top wrestler moving down from 55 kg is Sofia Mattsson of Sweden. Having been on the Senior level circuit since 2007, Mattsson is a seasoned veteran. She is an Olympic bronze medalist and a six-time World medalist, including a gold medal in 2009 at 51 kg. Mattsson gave Mukaida her closest match of the 2018 World Championships, a 6-4 victory for Mukaida. 

Yet another potential medal threat dropping down to the Olympic weight class will most likely be Roksana Zasina of Poland. While it is not official yet, Zasina represented Poland at 53 kg at the European Championships and the Poland Open. Before going 0-1 at last year’s World Championships at 55 kg, Zasina won a bronze medal at the 2017 World Championships at 53 kg. She took fifth at European Championships, losing on the front side to current world No. 15 Stalvira Orshush, 2-2, and runner-up at the Poland Open, losing to current world No. 6 Vinesh Vinesh of India, 3-2, in the finals.

This is Vinesh’s first year up at 53 kg. She is a three-time Indian World Team member and 2016 Olympian. This season, she took silver at the Dan Kolov - Nikola Petrov Tournament, bronze at the Asian Championships, silver at the Alexander Medved and won the Grand Prix of Spain, Yasar Dogu and Poland Open. Her three loses came to Mukaida, current world No. 3 Qianyu Pang of China and former Russian Senior World Team member and Junior World champion Natalya Malysheva.

Vinesh’s biggest win of 2019 came when she pinned 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt of the U.S. at the Kolov. Despite this, Hildebrandt will go into Nur-Sultan with the top seed. She earned 86 Ranking Series points by taking silver at last year’s World Championships, winning the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and Pan American Championships and taking silver at the Kolov.

Although currently ranked third, Pang will receive the second seed with Mukaida representing Japan and not Okuno, who is currently ranked second. Pang made her first Senior World Team in 2014, but didn’t earn a medal until she won bronze last year. Although she beat Vinesh, 9-2, in February at the Kolov, she lost to her at the Asian Championships, 8-1, in April. Also at the Asian Championships, Pang fell to Mukaida, 10-4, in the semifinals.

Last year’s other bronze medalist, Diana Weicker of Canada, will hold the three seed. Despite being a solid wrestler, Weicker has taken a handful of loses this year, including a 10-2 loss to Hildebrandt at the Pan American Championships. She did, however, beat Mattsson at the German Grand Prix in February.

The woman who finished ahead of Weicker at this year’s Pan American Championships, but will be one seed behind her, is Valverde Melendres. Valverde Melendres finished seventh at last year’s World Championships. 

Although Ekaterina Poleshcuk is currently ranked seventh, Russia will more than likely send fifteenth ranked Orshush as she defeated Poleshcuk at Russian Nationals and then won the European Championships. Orshush has been Russia’s World Team representative the past two years. In 2017, she took seventh. Last year, she went 0-1, but was defeated by Pang and then eliminated when Pang lost to Okuno the next round.

As of right now, it is unclear whether or not last year’s World fifth-place finisher Zhuldyz Eshimova of Kazakhstan will be returning to this year’s World Championships. In her one time competing since World Championships, Eshimova took third at the Kolov while up at 55 kg.

It is most likely that Tatyana Akhmetova Amanzhol will represent Kazakhstan in her home country, as she competed at four out of the five Ranking Series opportunities. Amanzhol is veteran who made her first Senior World Team in 2006. However, after taking 2017 and 2018 off, her results this year include a 10th-place finish at the Kolov, a ninth-place finish at the Asian Championships, a seventh-place finish at the City of Sassari Tournament and a 13th-place finish at the Yasar Dogu.

Other wrestlers to watch include Nina Hemmer of Germany, Aktenge Keunimyaeva of Uzebekistan, Hyungjoo Kim of Korea, and Lilya Horishna of Ukraine.

Note: TheMat.com will be posting weight class previews for the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 14-22.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2018 World Championships
53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold - Haruna Okuno (Japan); Silver - Sarah Hildebrandt (USA); Bronze - Qianyu Pang (China); Bronze - Diana Weicker (Canada); 5th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 5th - Zhuldyz Eshimova (Kazakhstan); 7th - Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres (Ecuador); 8th - Nina Hemmer (Germany); 9th - Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan)

2017 World Championships
53 kg/116.5 lbs.  - Gold - Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus); Silver - Mayu Mukaida (Japan); Bronze – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece) ; Bronze – Roksana Zasina (Poland); 5th - Estera Dobre (Romania),; 5th - Tong-Mi Pak (North Korea); 7th - Stalvira Orshush (Russia); 8th - Haley Augello (USA); 9th - Iryna Husyak (Ukraine); 10th - Sheetal Tomar (India)

2016 Olympic Games
53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Helen Maroulis (United States); Silver – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Bronze – Natalya Sinishin (Azerbaijan); Bronze – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 5th – Betzabeth Arguello (Venezuela); 5th – Xuechun Zhong (China); 7th – Jong Myong Suk (DPR Korea); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th- Kararzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 10th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece)

2015 World Championships
53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Myong Jong Suk (North Korea); Bronze – Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria); 5th – Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan); 5th – Xuechun Zhong (China); 7th – Kumari Bubita (India); 8th – Nina Hemmer (Germany); 9th – Thi Lua Nguyen (Vietnam); 10th – Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia) 

2014 World Championships
53 kg/116.5 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Jillian Gallays (Canada); Bronze – Jong Myong Suk (North Korea); 5th – Natalia Malysheva (Russia); 5th – Natalia Budu (Moldova); 7th – Alma Jane Valencia (Mexico); 8th – Yuliya Blahinya (Ukraine); 9th – Whitney Conder (USA); 10th – Sumiya Erdenchimeg (Mongolia)

2013 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Yanan Sun (China); Silver – Erdennechimeg Sumiya (Mongolia); Bronze – Sim Hyang So (North Korea); Bronze – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); 5th – Victoria Anthony (USA); 5th – Yuliya Blahinya (Ukraine); 7th – Iriyna Kurachkina (Belarus); 8th – Isabelle Sambou (Senegal); 9th – Yu Miyahara (Japan); 10th - Vinesh (India)

2012 World Championships
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gold – Jessica MacDonald (Canada); Silver – Yanan Sun (China); Bronze – Alyssa Lampe (USA); Bronze – Kumari Babita (India); 5th - Zamira Rakhmanova (Russia); 5th - Abdutalipova Abdutalipova (Kazakhstan); 7th - Risako Kawai (Japan); 8th - Roksana Zasina (Poland); 9th - Otgontsetseg Davaasukh (Mongolia); 10th - Alina Ryzhova (Belarus)

Current UWW Ranking Series standings (for seeding)
1 Sarah Ann Hildebrandt (USA) 
2 Haruna Okuno (Japan)
3 Qianyu Pang (China)
4 Diana Weikcer (Canada)
5 Luisa Elizabeth Valverde Melendres (Ecuador)
6 Vinesh Vinesh (India)
7 Ekaterina Poleshcuk (Russia)
8 Nina Hemmer (Germany)
9 Vanesa Kaladzinskaya (Belarus)
10 Lilya Horishna (Ukraine)