2019 World Championships preview at 76 kg/167.5 lbs in women’s freestyle

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Sept. 08, 2019, 5:26 p.m. (ET)
Adeline Gray of the USA celebrates a big win over Canada's Erica Wiebe at the 2018 World Championships.

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

The 76 kg weight class in women’s wrestling is loaded, with a number of past World or Olympic champions, plus numerous other past medalists. With that said, in such a competitive field, the top star from this group and an instant favorite every time she enters is Adeline Gray of the United States.

Her record speaks for itself. Four World titles. Two World bronze medals. Wins against pretty much every top contender, often in the most important competitions. Gray is also the returning World champion, after a heroic effort at the 2018 World Championships where she defeated, in order, a World medalist, an Olympic medalist, an Olympic champion and a World champion. She comes into Nur-Sultan with a No. 2 seed, based upon last year’s World title and a victory at the 2019 Pan American Championships, where she pinned 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe of Canada in the quarterfinals. Gray has not wrestled a ton this year, but you can be sure she will be well prepared when it is time to perform.

The top four seeds at this weight class are serious stars, all who have won either World or Olympic gold medals. For sure, the UWW seeding system worked well at this weight class, because the heavy hitters will not meet until the semifinals if they take care of business in the preliminaries.

The No. 1 seed is 2017 World champion Yasemin Adar of Turkey, who won the 2018 World silver medal when Gray beat her by technical fall in the finals. She is coming off another strong season, including a gold medal at the 2019 European Championships, a gold medal in a UWW Ranking Tournament, the Dan Kolov in Bulgaria, and a bronze medal at the final UWW Ranking Tournament, the Yasar Dogu in Turkey. Her career has really taken off since she placed eighth at the 2016 Olympics, reaching the finals of 12 of the 14 international events she has entered. She has been both consistent and efficient, a true gold-medal threat.

The No. 3 seed will land with 2014 World champion Aline Focken of Germany. She won three World medals when she was competing at 69 kg, adding a 2017 World silver medal and a 2015 World bronze medal to her 2014 gold. In her first season up at 76 kg, Focken was eighth at the 2018 World Championships. This year, she has won a slew of bronze medals, including a 2019 European Championships bronze, and bronzes at three of the UWW Ranking Tournaments, the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia, the Dan Kolov and the City of Sassari International in Italy. She was also fifth in the final UWW Ranking Tournament, the Yasar Dogu. An athlete who always makes the medal rounds has the potential to climb the podium. Focken is one of those athletes.

2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe of Canada came in as the No. 4 seed. After losing to Gray by a slim margin in the 2018 World Championships semifinals, she closed out the tournament with the World bronze medal. This season, she won two UWW Ranking events, the City of Sassari and the Yasar Dogu, and was third in the Pan American Championships. Add in a gold at the Canada Cup as well. A 2014 University World champion and a two-time Commonwealth Games champion, Wiebe paid her dues and remains one of the top talents in the sport.

From this point on, the field does not get any easier, with numerous other World or Olympic medalists who will be randomly drawn into the brackets.

Just missing out on a seed is two-time World bronze medalist Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki of Japan, who was fifth in the UWW Ranking Series. Suzuki won her World bronze medals in 2017 and 2018. Her 2019 achievements include a gold medal at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and a silver medal at the Asian Championships. Competing in her sixth Senior Worlds, Suzuki has the experience and talent to battle for another medal.

Four-time World medalist Vasilisa Marzaliuk of Belarus most recently 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. In the Rio Olympics, she upset Gray in the quarterfinals before losing to Wiebe in the semifinals. Her long resume also includes a 2006 Junior World title. This year, she won gold medals at the European Games, the Ukrainian Memorial International and the Alexander Medved International in Belarus.

2016 Olympic bronze medalist Ekaterina Bukina of Russia also has an impressive record, which also includes a 2011 World silver medal and a 2010 World bronze medal. She is being entered at the 2019 Worlds, even though 2012 Olympic champion Natalia Vorobeva is back on the mat. Vorobeva will compete at 72 kg this year. Bukina has not competed much in 2019, with a gold at the Grand Prix of Spain and a silver at the Poland Open, a key tune-up event for the Worlds.

2015 World bronze medalist Epp Mae of Estonia is another athlete who has been very competitive in recent years. Mae also reached World medal matches in 2014 and 2017, when she placed fifth in the World Championships. She has won four international medals in 2019, with a silver at the Klippan Lady Open and bronzes at the European Games, the City of Sassari International and the Poland Open.

Another dangerous athlete is 2014 World silver medalist Aline da Silva Ferreira of Brazil, who has the ability to score big throws from her feet on tough opponents. Da Silva did not compete in the 2018 Worlds, but has been very active in 2019, winning medals in the last four events she entered. Included were silver medals at the Pan American Games, the Yasar Dogu and the Grand Prix of Spain.

In the most recent roster list from UWW, China switched its heavyweight to two-time World medalist Qian Zhou, who has been very competitive throughout her career. Zhou was a 2015 World silver medalist and 2014 World bronze medalist. This is her first World meet since that 2015 World silver. This year, she has no achievements. She was impressive in 2018, winning the Asian Games, the Asian Championships and the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix. If she is in top form, she will be capable of another medal.

Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan won a 2016 Olympic bronze medal at 69 kg, and has moved up to 76 kg for her Olympic run. She competed in all four UWW Ranking Events in 2019, winning bronze medals at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix and the Yasar Dogu. Other bronze medals this season came at the Mongolia Open and the Poland Open.

Martina Kuenz of Austria won a 2018 World bronze medal at 72 kg, and has moved up to the Olympic weight class this year. Her top showing in her new weight class in 2019 was a silver medal at the European Championships. She also added a gold medal at the Flatz Open in Austria and a silver medal at the Grand Prix of Germany.

There are some long-time international talents who remain active in the sport after a number of Olympic cycles.

Three-time World medalist Burmaa Ochirbat of Mongolia has returned to competition, missing both the 2017 and 2018 seasons. She is one of the most experienced athletes in the field, with a 2009 World silver medal and a pair of World bronze medals in 2013 and 2014. Ochirbat also competed in the 2004 and 2012 Olympic Games. She won both of the international meets she entered the year, the Mongolia Open and the President’s Cup of Buryatia in Russia.

Svetlana Saenko of Moldova, who was a 2005 World bronze medalist for Ukraine, has wrestled in 12 previous Senior World Championships and in two Olympic Games. She was fourth in the 2004 Olympics, the first time women wrestlers competed in the Olympics. Her only international appearance this year included a silver medal at the Ion Corneanu International in Romania

The Pan American nations have always been tough in this weight class. You have a tier of stars including Gray, Wiebe and da Silva, but the others are also capable. Andrea Olaya Gutierrez of Colombia, a 2016 Olympian, was fifth in the 2015 World Championships, and won a Pan Am Games bronze medal this year. Milaihys Marin Potrille of Cuba was a 2019 Junior World champion and a 2018 Youth Olympic Games champion.

Zsanett Nemeth of Hungary placed fifth at the 2018 World Championships, and placed third at the 2019 European Championships. 2015 Cadet World silver medalist Kiran of India boasts a 2017 Commonwealth Championships gold medal. 2017 World Military champion Alla Belinska of Ukraine also won a 2015 Junior World bronze medal. Sabira Aliyeva of Azerbaijan was a 2018 European bronze medalist. 2018 Asian Games bronze medalist Aiperi Medet Kyzy of Kyrgyzstan and 2012 Junior World silver medalist Daria Palinska of Poland are other athletes to watch.

Because this weight class has considerable depth, the top stars will have to wrestle very well in order to have a shot at the medal rounds. With berths at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics up for grabs, you can expect there to be intense competition, right from the early rounds in Nur-Sultan.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2018 World Championships
76 kg/167.5 lbs. - Gold - Adeline Gray (USA); Silver - Yasemin Adar (Turkey); Bronze - Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki (Japan); Bronze - Erica Wiebe (Canada); 5th - Zsanett Nemeth (Hungary); 5th - Epp Mae (Estonia); 7th - Elmira Syzdykova (Kazakhstan); 8th - Aline Focken (Germany); 9th - Naranchimeg Gelegjamts (Mongolia); 10th - Kiran (India)

2017 World Championships
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), 88
2 - Adeline Gray (United States), 78
3 - Aline Focken (Germany), 78
4 - Erica Wiebe (Canada), 71
5 - Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki (Japan), 57
6 - Iselin Maria Moen Solheim (Norway), 46
7 - Epp Mae (Estonia), 44
8 - Elmira Syzdykova (Kazakhstan), 42
9 - Zsanett Nemeth (Hungary), 36
10 - Paliha Paliha (China), 32