2019 World Championships preview at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 22, 2019, 12:44 p.m. (ET)
Jenna Burkert of the USA competing at the 2019 Pan American Games. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

Dates of competition: Wednesday, September 18 and Thursday, September 19

Risako Kawai of Japan made big news in the qualifying process for her nation, defeating four-time Olympic champion Kaori Icho to qualify for Nur-Sultan. Kawai has an impressive resume herself, which includes an Olympic gold medal at 63 kg in 2016, a World title at 60 kg in 2017 and another World title at 59 kg in 2018. Her age-group achievements include a Cadet World title and two Junior World titles. She immediately becomes a favorite to challenge for the World title again this year.

In 2018, a star was born at this weight class, as China’ Ningning Rong made the big step from contender to World champion. Fifth at the 2017 Worlds, Rong had a great performance in Budapest to stand at the top of the podium. Since winning the World gold medal last year, Rong has made the finals of every event she has entered, winning the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden, the Dan Kolov International in Bulgaria and the Asian Championships, and claiming silver at the U23 World Championships. She enters Nur-Sultan with the No. 1 seed and substantial momentum.

2019 World silver medalist Bilyana Dudova of Bulgaria will also receive a seed, coming in at No. 3 in the UWW Ranking Series. She was the European champion competing up a weight class at 59 kg, but also did well at two Ranking events at 57 kg, winning a bronze at the Ivan Yarygin in Russia and placing third at the Dan Kolov. With this being the Olympic weight class and the Worlds serving as the first Olympic qualifier, we can expect Dudova to be at 57 kg in Kazakhstan.

2018 World bronze medalist Emese Barka of Hungary won the 2019 European Championships at this weight class, but did not win a medal in any of the three UWW Ranking Tournaments she entered. However, a gold medal at the Poland Open tune-up event shows she is ready for another big run at Worlds. Barka is No. 5 in the UWW Ranking Series, so she only gets a seed if somebody in the top four doesn’t show up. Barka has won three World medals, all bronzes (in 2013, 2017, 2018) and is looking to reach her first World finals.

Pooja Dhanda of India won a 2018 World bronze medal at 57 kg, and also is No. 6 in the UWW Ranking Series here, but she is projected to compete up at 59 kg at the Worlds this year. India’s entry at this weight class will be Sarita, who has wrestled in four previous World Championships, including a fifth place finish at the seventh place finish at the 2018 Senior Worlds at 59 kg.

Grace Bullen of Norway, who was fifth at the 2018 Worlds, competed well enough this year to secure a seed, placing No. 2 in Ranking Series. Bullen won a medal in three of the UWW Ranking events, with a gold at the City of Sassari, a silver at the Dan Kolov and a bronze at the Ivan Yarygin. She did not medal at either the European Championships or the European Games. Bullen has a long list of major age group World medals including a 2014 Cadet World title and a 2018 U23 World title. A boost to her chances came when she beat Rong in the finals of the 2018 U23 Worlds. American fans remember Bullen as a 2018 WCWA champion for Campbellsville in her one year on the U.S. women’s college circuit.

Odunayo Adekuoroye of Nigeria,, a 2017 World silver medalist at 55 kg, placed fourth in the UWW Ranking Series to secure a seed. She moved up to 57 kg last year and missed the medals, placing ninth, but has been strong this year at this weight. She won gold at the last UWW Ranking event, the Yasar Dogu, and was third in the Dan Kolov. She won her fourth straight African Championships gold medal this year. Also a World bronze medalist in 2015, she has proven that she can compete with anybody in the world.

With this being an Olympic qualifier, we can expect some excellent wrestlers finding their way to Olympic weights, such as 57 kg. One such star is Tserenchimed Sukhee of Mongolia, a 2014 World champion and 2015 World silver medalist at 60 kg. Sukhee has been at 57 kg all year, winning the Ivan Yarygin and the Mongolia Open, and getting a bronze medal at the Asian Championships.

Elif Yesilirmak of Turkey is a two-time World medalist who is dropping down to this weight. She was a World silver medalist at 59 kg in 2018 and a 2015 World bronze medalist at 58 kg. This year, she was a European Championships silver medalist at 59 kg. She is a past European champion and has competed in two Olympic Games.

Lissette Antes Castillo of Ecuador, who finished seventh in UWW Ranking Series, had a great year with her continent, winning gold medals at both the 2019 Pan American Championships and the 2019 Pan American Games. Her top previous finish at a World Championships or Olympics was fifth in the 2014 Worlds. In UWW Ranking Tournaments, she reached medal matches both times, placing third at the City of Sassari and fifth at the Yasar Dogu. These results show an improvement, and Antes may be wrestling the highest level of her career ever.

The United States will bring Jenna Burkert, who is competing at the Senior Worlds for the third time in her career. Burkert won a silver medal at the 2019 Pan American Games, falling to Antes in the championship match. She looked very strong in defeating 2017 World bronze medalist Becka Leathers in Final X to make the World Team. Burkert is very experienced at World-level events, competing in three Junior World Championships, a Military World Championships and the Youth Olympic Games.

2017 World bronze medalist Iriyna Kurachkina of Belarus is coming off some major successes this year, winning a gold medal at the 2019 European Games and adding a title at the Medved International in Belarus. Although she fell short of the medals at this weight class in last year’s World Championships and was eighth at the 2019 European Championships, she has some big achievements which shows that she can compete at high levels, includind a 2018 European title and a silver medal at the 2017 U23 Worlds.

2014 World bronze medalist Iryna Khariv of Ukraine is another proven talent who can be in the mix. A 2010 University World silver medalist, Khariv did not medal at this weight class at last year’s World Championships. She won the Ukrainian Memorial International gold this year.

2016 University World champion Veronkia Chumikova of Russia, is competing on her first Senior World Team, but has had some strong finishes at international events this season. She won gold medals at the President’s Cup of Buryatia in Russia and at the Grand Prix of Spain, and was second behind Barka at the Polish Open tune-up event.

In Sun Jong of North Korea, a 2014 Asian champion, was eighth at the 2018 World Championships. Mathilde Riviere of France, who was fifth at the 2017 World Championships, placed fifth at the 2019 European Championships at this weight class.

Alyona Kolesnik of Azerbaijan, who was 10th at last year’s Worlds, is showing some strong efforts this year, including bronze medals at the 2019 European Championships and the 2019 European Games. Mimi Hristova of Bulgaria won a silver medal at the 2019 European Games, and placed fifth at the 2013 Senior Worlds, her highest World-level placement.

2019 Pan American silver medalist Hannah Taylor of Canada is in her first Senior Worlds, but placed as high as fifth at the 2018 Junior Worlds. Sara Lindborg of Sweden was a 2018 Junior World bronze medalist.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2018 World Championships
57 kg/128 lbs. - Gold - Ningning Rong (China); Silver - Bilyana Dudova (Bulgaria); Bronze - Emese Barka (Hungary); Bronze - Pooja Dhanda (India); 5th - Kateryna Zhydachevska (Romania); 5th - Grace Bullen (Norway); 7th - Jieun Um (Korea); 8th - In Sun Jong (North Korea); 9th - Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria); 10th - Alyona Kolesnik (Azerbaijan)

2017 World Championships
58 kg/128 lbs. - Gold - Helen Maroulis (United States); Silver - Marwa Amri (Tunisia); Bronze – Michelle Fazzari (Canada) ; Bronze –Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); 5th - Ningning Rong (China); 5th - Elin Nilsson (Sweden); 7th - Yessica Oviedo Perez (Dominican Republic); 8th - Iryna Khariv (Ukraine); 9th - Aminat Adeniyi (Nigeria); 10th - Giedre Blekaityte (Lithuania)

2016 Olympic Games
58 kg/128 lbs. - Gold – Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver – Valeria Koblova (Russia); Bronze – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); Bronze – Sakshi Malik (India); 5th – Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); 7th – Orkhon Purevdorj (Mongolia); 8th – Jackeline Renteria Castillo (Colombia); 9th – Elif Jale Yesilirmak (Turkey); 10th – Petra Olli (Finland)

2015 World Championships
58 kg/128 lbs. - Gold – Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver – Petra Olli (Finland); Bronze – Elif Yesilirmak (Turkey); Bronze – Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Jackeline Renteria Castillo (Colombia); 5th – Johanna Mattsson (Sweden); 7th – Aiym Abdildina (Kazakhstan); 8th – Marianna Sastin (Hungary); 9th – Michelle Fazzari (Canada); 10th – Roksana Zasina (Poland)

2014 World Championships
58 kg/128 lbs. - Gold – Kaori Icho (Japan); Silver – Valeria Kolblova (Russia); Bronze – Anastasiya Huchok (Belarus); Bronze – Elif Jale Ysilirmak (Turkey); 5th – Alli Ragan (USA); 5th – Lisset Antes (Ecuador); 7th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 8th – Munkhtuya Tungalag (Mongolia); 9th – Zhou Zhangting (China); 10th – Irina Netreba (Azerbaijan)

Current UWW Ranking Series standings (for seeding)
1 - Ningning Rong (China), 96
2 - Grace Jacob Bullen (Norway), 74
3 - Bilyana Zhivkova Dudova (Bulgaria), 62
4 - Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye (Nigeria), 62
5 - Emese Barka (Hungary), 55
6 - Pooja Dhanda (India), 51
7 - Lissette Alexandra Antes Castillo (Ecuador), 42
8 - Olga Khoroshavtseva (Russia), 34
9 - Tetyana Kit (Ukraine), 32
10 - Alyona Kolesnik (Azerbaijan), 28