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World Championships preview in women’s freestyle wrestling at 55 kg/121 lbs.

By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling | Aug. 23, 2014, 12:57 p.m. (ET)

VIDEO: Helen Maroulis (USA) dec. Marcia Andrades (VEN), 2014 Beat the Streets USA vs World Dual

Date of competition: Wednesday, September 10

In 2002, FILA created the 55 kg weight class for women, increasing the number of weight classes from six to seven. That year, in Chalkida, Greece, Japanese star Saori Icho won the World title at 55 kg, her first Senior title. Icho has won every World and Olympic title at this class ever since, 14 in a row, a level of dominance never before seen in wrestling.

In 2014, a new 55 kg champion will be crowned, with Yoshida moving down to 53 kg, a new class created with the increase from seven to eight weight classes. Since 55 kg is not an Olympic weight class any more, Yoshida and others are dropping in weight. That leaves the 55 kg division much different than it was last year and in the past. The big question is who will be at this weight in Tashkent, and who will emerge as the World champion without Yoshida.

Last year’s Worlds results and this year’s FILA rankings are helpful, but when you check the preliminary rosters of the teams, a large number of them are listed at an Olympic weight class instead. Many nations are leaving this weight class empty, or putting in young stars.

Only three of the athletes who placed in the top 10 at the 2013 World Championships at 55 kg last year and none of the medalists are listed at this weight on preliminary rosters. It is fair to say that nobody comes in as a strong favorite, making this perhaps the most entertaining weight class in the entire event.

Perhaps the most accomplished wrestler from the rosters is 2012 World silver medalist Helen Maroulis of the United States, who has competed at this weight class in recent seasons and chose not to go an Olympic weight this year. Maroulis has also placed fifth and seventh at the Worlds in this weight class and won the 2011 Pan American Games. FILA had her ranked at 53 kg, so she has not been evaluated against much of this new field.

The No. 1 ranked wrestler by FILA is Marwa Amri of Tunisia, the first African ever ranked No. 1 in the history of the revived FILA rankings. Amri was 10th in the world last year, but has on fire in 2014, winning four gold medals including the respected Klippan Lady Open. Most recently, she was third in the Poland Open, a top tuneup event for the Worlds.

Japan will be represented by Chiho Hamada, No. 3 in the FILA rankings, who won the FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals and the World University Championships this season, but did not medal at the Asian Championships. A 2012 Junior World champion, Hamada is competing in her first Senior Worlds.

Others with high FILA rankings who appear on their nation’s rosters at 55 kg are Zalina Sidakova of Belarus at No. 5 and Irina Ologonova of Russia at No. 6. Sidakova won the Alexander Medved International and was second at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix, but did not medal at the European Championships or the Poland Open. Ologonova has won four international medals in 2014 but not a single gold medal, led by her silver medal in the World University Championships and a bronze medal at the European Championships.

The only other athlete in the FILA top 20 at this weight who appears on their preliminary World roster at 55 kg is No. 16. Sundev Byambatseren of Mongolia, who comes off a victory in the Poland Open. She was eighth in the World Championships at this weight class last year and was a 2012 Olympian.

The gold medal may be won by somebody not ranked by FILA at this weight class, not a judgement of the rankings but an indication of the affect of this being a non-Olympic weight class.

Brittanee Laverdure of Canada, a 2007 World bronze medalist who has also placed fifth in the World Championships twice, has as much high-level international experience as anybody in the field.

Aurelie Basset of France, fifth at the 2014 Europeans and third at the 2014 Klippan Lady Open at 53 kg, also has competed in three previous Senior World Championships. Irina Khariv of Ukraine, a 2010 University World silver medalist at 55 kg, wrestled in the last two Senior World Championships up at 59 kg.

Katarzyna Krawczyk of Poland has competed in the last three World Championships at 55 kg, with her best performance being seventh in 2012. Pooja Dhanda of India, a World Team member at 55 kg last year, was third in the Asian Championships in 2014 up at 58 kg.

An athlete who is not on her team’s roster but won the 2014 Asian Championships at 55 kg is Jong Sun-In of North Korea. China does not have its roster submitted at this time, but could be represented by 2014 Asian bronze medalist Yanjing Guan, who also wrestled in the World Cup this year, or Zhong Xuechun, who won the 2014 Dave Schultz Memorial and was at this weight at the 2013 World Championships. Another athlete from Asia to watch is Miruyert Dynbaeva of Kazakhstan, who was fifth at the 2014 FILA Golden Grand Prix Finals this year and has won two Beach World Championships.

Of course, rosters could change and some other veterans could end up at 55 kg, or the young athletes entered in the field could take a step forward under the big lights. However, in comparison to other weight classes, this year offers a huge opportunity for somebody to win their first World title and make a name for themselves, even if they switch weight classes for the Olympic year.

1. Marwa Amri (TUN); 2. Jill Gallays (CAN); 3. Chiho Hamada (JPN); 4. Kanako Murata (JPN); 5. Zalina Sidakova (BLR); 6. Irina Ologonova (RUS); 7. Irina Husyak (UKR); 8. Anna Zwirydowska (POL); 9. Purevdorj Orkhon (MGL); 10. Mimi Hristova (BUL); 11. Jong Sun-In (PRK); 12. Tatyana Kit (UKR); 13. Samantha Stewart (CAN); 14. Katsiaryna Hanchar (BLR); 15. Bediha Gun (TUR); 16. Sundev Byambatseren (MGL); 17. Aiym Abdildina (KAZ); 18. Guan Yajing (CHN); 19. Karima Sanchez Ramis (ESP); 20. Evelina Nikolova (BUL)


2013 World Championships

55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); Bronze – Emese Barka (Hungary); Bronze – Valeriia Koblova (Russia); 5th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 5th – Iryna Husyak (Ukraine); 7th – Helen Maroulis (USA); 8th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 9th – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 10th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia)

2012 Olympic Games
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze – Jackeline Renteria (Colombia); Bronze – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 5th – Tetyana Lazareva (Ukraine); 5th – Valeria Zholobova (Russia); 7th – Sofia Mattsson (Sweden); 8th – Marwa Amri (Tunisia); 9th – Lissette Antes Castillo (Ecuador); 10th – Kum Ok Han (North Korea)

2012 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Helen Maroulis (USA); Bronze – Geeta Geeta (India); Bronze – Maria Prevolaraki (Greece); 5th - Nataliya Synyshyn (Ukraine); 5th - Brittanee Laverdure (Canada); 7th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 8th - Chen Yang (China); 9th - Joice Da Silva (Brazil); 10th - Maria Gurova (Russia)

2011 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); Bronze - Tatyana Lazareva (Ukraine); Bronze - Ida-Theres Nerell (Sweden); 5th - Maria Gurova (Russia); 5th - Helen Maroulis (United States); 7th - Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); 8th - Geeta (India); 9th - Katarzyna Krawczyk (Poland); 10th - Alma Valencia Escoto (Mexico)

2010 World Championships
55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold – Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver – Yulia Ratkevich (Azerbaijan); Bronze –Anna Gomis (France); Bronze – Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th – Aiym Abdilina (Kazakhstan); 5th – Maria Gurova (Russia); 7th – Byambatseren Sundev (Mongolia); 8th – Jillian Gallays (Canada); 9th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 10th – Sylwia Bilenska (Poland)

2009 World Championships

55 kg/121 lbs. - Gold - Saori Yoshida (Japan); Silver - Sona Ahmedli (Azerbaijan); Bronze - Alena Filipava (Belarus); Bronze - Tonya Verbeek (Canada); 5th - Tatiana Padilla (USA); 5th - Anna Gomis (France); 7th - Ana Maria Paval (Romania); 8th - Aiyim Abdildina (Kazakhstan); 9th - Yura Gandolgor (Mongolia); 10th - Geeta (India)