2019 World Championships preview at 72 kg/158.5 lbs in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Sept. 06, 2019, 12:52 p.m. (ET)
Victoria Francis competing at Final X: Rutgers on the way to her second U.S. Senior World Team berth. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

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

Granted, 72 kg is not an Olympic weight class, and many of the top stars from 2018 have either moved up or moved down to make a run at the Olympic Games qualifier. In addition, this could be one of the smallest weight classes in Nur-Sultan, in terms of number of athletes entered, based upon preliminary roster information. In spite of all that, this weight class should be competitive, with some big name stars in the brackets.

The biggest name is clearly 2012 Olympic champion Natalia Vorobeva of Russia. She won her Olympic gold medal at 72 kg, when that was the heaviest weight class in women’s wrestling. She stayed in that weight class in 2013, when she won a World silver medal there. In 2014, Vorbeva dropped to 69 kg rather than go up to 76 kg, and became a star there with three straight medals, a 2014 World bronze, a 2015 World gold and a 2016 Olympic silver medal.

After the 2016 Olympics, Vorobeva did not compete at all internationally. She made her comeback in 2019 at 76 kg, and has been very active, with gold medals at the Grand Prix of Germany and the Poland Open and a silver medal at a UWW Ranking event, the City of Sassari International in Italy. However, she is not on Russia’s roster at 76 kg, but is dropping down to 72 kg for the World meet. That makes her an instant favorite, based upon her long history of success.

The projected No. 1 seed for the 2019 World Championships was four-time World bronze medalist Nasanburmaa Ochirbat of Mongolia, who came in third in the UWW Ranking Series standings. However, in the most recent rosters posted by UWW, Mongolia is reportedly sending Oyunsuren Banzragch to Nur-Sultan. Banzragch has no achievements listed in the UWW Athlete database, so it will be difficult to know how she is expected to do.

To get to perhaps the top seed, you slide down to the seventh athlete in the UWW Ranking Series standings, Zhamila Bakbergenova of Kazakhstan. She was 10th at the 2018 World Championships at this weight class. She picked up Ranking Series points with a silver medal at the City of Sassari International in Italy and a bronze medal at the Asian Championships. She has won a pair of age-group World bronze medals, with a Junior bronze in 2014 and a U23 bronze in 2018.

UWW also reported that Juan Wang of China snagged the No. 3 seed for the Worlds, placing fifth at this weight class at the 2018 World Championships. However, in the new entry list, China lists 2018 U23 World champion Paliha of China on the roster. Paliha has wrestled often at 76 kg. She had a big win in the finals of the 2019 Asian Championships when she defeated Japan’s Hiroe Suzuki to win her second career Senior Asian title. She was also second at the 2019 Dan Kolov, losing only to 2017 World champion Yasemin Adar of Turkey in the finals. Her best previous Senior World performance came in 2017, when she placed fifth.

Coming back to the sport after a long layoff is 2013 World champion Alina Makhinya of Ukraine, who was able to secure a seed at this weight class after taking seventh in the Ranking Series. After missing the medal rounds at the 2016 Olympic Games at 69 kg, Makhinya basically did not compete internationally in 2017 and 2018, except for an appearance in the India Pro Wrestling League in 2017. After entering the India Pro League in early 2019, she came back on the international circuit. Makhinya won the 2019 European Championships at 72 kg, and dropped down to 68 kg for the final UWW Ranking event, the Yasar Dogu in Ukraine, where she was fifth.

Making her Senior World Championships debut for Japan is Masako Furuichi, who was one of the greatest age-group World wrestlers in history. Furuichi won three straight Cadet World titles (2011, 2012, 2013), then three straight Junior World titles (2014, 2015, 2016). Since 2017, when she moved up to the Senior level, Furuichi has struggled to crack Japan’s Senior World lineup. She has won a pair of Asian Championships medals, a silver in 2017 and a bronze in 2018. This year, her highlights were a silver medal at the China Open at 72 kg and a bronze medal at the Klippan Lady Open at 76 kg. It will be interesting to see just how well she does now that she has a chance at the Senior World level.

Competing in her second Senior Worlds for the United States is Victoria Francis. A 2014 Junior World bronze medalist, Francis placed second in the 2016 Olympic Trials behind Adeline Gray. In 2017, with Gray sitting out the season, Francis made the U.S. Senior World Team at 75 kg and did not reach the medal rounds at the Worlds in Paris. Francis lost one season due to a sanction from a doping test. She came back in 2019 at 72 kg and made the USA World team with a big win in Final X. Her two international achievements for this year were a gold medal at the Canada Cup and a bronze medal at the Poland Open. Francis has wrestled with passion and purpose this year, and could do some real damage at the Worlds in Nur-Sultan.

2019 Pan American champion Dejah Slater of Canada will be wrestling in her first Senior Worlds. Her top age-group effort was a fifth place at the 2017 Junior Worlds. Because she was 10th in the UWW Ranking standings, based upon recent entry lists, Slater may slide in to a seed at the Worlds.

2018 U23 World silver medalist Alexandra Anghel of Romania is a young, improving athlete. She competed in her first Senior Worlds in 2018 and did not medal. Her top age-group achievement was a bronze medal at the 2017 Junior Worlds. This year, she has competed at both 72 kg and 68 kg. She was fourth in the 2019 European Championships at 72 kg in both the Senior and U23 levels. She won the Ion Corneanu International in Romania and took a bronze medal at the Alexander Medved International in Belarus in 2019.

There should be some other entries at 72 kg who could add some depth to this field, but the size of the bracket will not be large. The wrestlers will need to get off to a strong start, because we can expect the talented athletes in the field to meet quickly in the draw. One of the veteran athletes with past World medals could end up winning the gold medal, but this is also a perfect opportunity for someone to make a name for themselves with a run to the top of the podium.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS


2018 World Championships
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold - Justina Di Stasio (Canada); Silver - Nasanburmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia); Bronze - Martina Kuenz (Austria); Bronze - Bose Tusun (Turkey); 5th - Samar Hamza (Egypt); 5th - Juan Wang (China); 7th - Erin Clodgo (USA); 8th - Naruha Matsuyuki (Japan); 9th - Tatiana Kolesnikova Morozova (Russia); 10th - Zhamila Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan)

Note: From 2014-2017, there was no matching weight class, with 69 kg below this and 75 kg above this.

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 Vorobeva (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 - Buse Tosun (Turkey), 63
2 - Justina Renay Di Stasio (Canada), 58
3 - Nasanburmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia), 48
4 - Tatiana Kolesnikova Morozova (Russia), 48
5 - Samar Amer Ibrahim Hamza (Egypt), 43
6 - Zhamila Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan), 36
7 - Juan Wang (China), 30
8 - Alina Berezhna Stadnik Makhynia (Ukraine), 30
9 - Yuka Kagami (Japan), 30
10 - Dejah Aniela Slater (Canada), 27