#WOMENSWEDNESDAY: Maroulis, Conder, Ragan in Pan Am Olympic Qualifier Special Wrestle-off for a second time

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Feb. 05, 2020, 3:56 p.m. (ET)

Helen Maroulis, shown at the 2016 Olympic Games, is wrestling in a Pan American Olympic Qualifier Special Wrestle-off for a second time in her career.

Video Playlist – 2016 Pan Am Olympic Qualifier Special Wrestle-offs

This Saturday, there will be a Special Wrestle-off for three spots on the U.S. women’s freestyle team that will compete at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Canada.

In total, there will be eight National Team athletes competing in the Special Wrestle-off, including seven past World Team members, four World medalists, two World champions and an Olympic champion.

For three of those competing in Marietta on Saturday, this is like deja-vu all over again. Just about four years ago, Helen Maroulis, Whitney Conder and Alli Ragan were part of a Special Wrestle-off for the 2016 Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier.

Back in 2016, the USA Wrestling procedures allowed a past World medalist to challenge a 2015 World Team member in the non-qualified Olympic weight classes. Up for grabs were three weight classes, in which the winner would compete at the 2016 Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier in Frisco, Texas.

The Special Wrestle-offs were set for Iowa City, Iowa, where the Hawkeye WC hosted a full Women’s National Team training camp. The first matches of each series were held in the Dan Gable Wrestling Center. The second match of each series were held that evening on the competition mat inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, prior to the start of the Iowa vs. Purdue Big Ten dual.

Maroulis, a 2015 World champion at 55 kg, dropped down to the Olympic weight class of 53 kg, and challenged the 2015 World Team member at that weight class, Conder, in a best-of-three series.

In bout one, Maroulis had her offense on fire, scoring a 10-0 technical fall in the morning session. Conder forfeited the second match, so there was no bout during the evening session, giving Maroulis the series, two matches to none.

“Anytime you have an opportunity to wrestle in competition, it’s always great. I was really excited for this wrestle-off. Whitney is a great opponent. She has been on the World Team the last two years at that weight. I knew she was going to be a challenge. I went out there and really trusted my training and my coaching from Valentin (Kalika). I put a lot of moves together, and they worked out for me,” said Maroulis at the time.

Ragan, a 2015 World Team member at 58 kg, faced 2015 World bronze medalist Leigh Jaynes, who won her World medal at 60 kg and dropped down to challenge Ragan.

Ragan won in the morning session, 3-0, with a takedown and a point when Jaynes-Provisor did not score on the shot clock. In the second match, Ragan scored a takedown in each period to score a 4-0 victory over Jaynes-Provisor.

“That is why I came here to Iowa. Trained a few days, then tapered, made weight, then here’s the big show. I was excited. I haven’t wrestled Leigh since 2012. I knew she was a great opponent, a World bronze medalist. They were great matches, both of them. She is really strong. You have to be in good position all the time with her,” said Ragan at the time.

There was one other Special Wrestle-off at 68 kg, between Tamyra Mensah and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Randi Miller, won by Mensah in two straight matches.

The follow-up from this event came out like this for Maroulis, Conder and Ragan:

Maroulis did not compete in the Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Frisco, and Conder placed third at 53 kg, which did not qualify the USA for the Olympics.

Ragan was the entry at 58 kg at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier and finished in fifth, which did not qualify the USA for Rio.

Maroulis won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials at 53 kg in Iowa City, beating Conder in two straight matches by technical fall., Maroulis qualified the weight class at the first World Olympic Qualifier in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia by winning the gold medal. She went on to make history at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, beating Japan’s three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida in the finals to become the first USA women’s freestyler to win an Olympic gold medal.

Ragan was defeated in the finals of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, losing to 2012 Olympian Kelsey Campbell in two bouts, both 2-1 scores. Campbell did not qualify the weight class at the final two World Olympic Qualifiers in Mongolia and Turkey. The USA did not wrestle in Rio at that weight class.

This time around in the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier Special Wrestle-off, it is Maroulis and Ragan who are at the same weight class, 57 kg. Maroulis and Ragan will wrestle one match, with the winner to face 2019 World Team member Jenna Burkert in a best-of-three series for the spot.

Conder is down to 50 kg, and was the 2019 World Team member at this weight class. 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt has dropped down from 53 kg and will challenge Conder in a best-of-three series.

In the other weight class, 53 kg, there will be a single match between 2016 Olympian Haley Augello and 2019 Final X runner-up Katherine Shai. The winner advances to a best-of-three series against 2019 World champion Jacarra Winchester, who has dropped down from 55 kg this year.

You can witness all the drama of this Special Wrestle-off for the Pan American Olympic Qualifier on FloWrestling, which is also broadcasting the WCWA Nationals, which is being held in the same venue on Friday and Saturday.

At Iowa City, Iowa, January 22, 2016

53 kg/116.5 lbs.- Helen Maroulis (Huntington Beach, Calif./Titan Mercury WC) dec. Whitney Conder (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), two matches to none
Bout One - Maroulis tech. fall Conder, 10-0, 2:40
Bout Two - Maroulis by forfeit over Conder

58 kg/128 lbs. - Alli Ragan (Colorado Springs, Colo./New York AC) dec. Leigh Jaynes-Provisor (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army), two matches to none
Bout One - Ragan dec. Jaynes-Provisor, 3-0
Bout Two - Ragan dec. Jaynes-Provisor, 4-0

69 kg/152 lbs. - Tamyra Mensah (Katy, Texas/Titan Mercury WC) dec. Randi Miller (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP), two matches to none
Bout One - Mensah dec. Miller, 2-1
Bout Two - Mensah dec. Miller, 3-1

at Life University (WCWA Championships), Feb. 8

50 kg/110 lbs.
4 p.m. - Whitney Conder vs. Sarah Hildebrandt (Best of 3 series)

53 kg/116.5 lbs.
9 a.m. - Katherine Shai vs. Haley Augello (prelim match)
4 p.m. - Shai/Augello winner vs. Jacarra Winchester (Best of 3 series)

57 kg/125.5 lbs.
9 a.m. - Helen Maroulis vs. Alli Ragan (prelim match)
4 p.m. - Maroulis/Ragan winner vs. Jenna Burkert (Best of 3 series)