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2005 World Championships preview at 72 kg/158.5 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling

Capturing the first Olympic gold medal at this division was China's exciting Wang Xu, who also won World silver and bronze medals prior to taking it all at the 2004 Athens Olympics. She is her nation's top women's wrestling star at this point. China is working hard to become a dominant women's wrestling team in time for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Wang stopped Russia's Gouzel Manyurova in the gold-medal match in Athens. Manyurova was a 2004 European champion and was ninth in the 2003 World Championships. Russia may be represented by 2005 European runner-up Svetlana Martinenko. who competed down at 67 kg prior to last season and boasts a 2003 World bronze medal. Another possible Russian entry could be 2005 Junior World silver medalist Alena Starodubtseva.

Wang upset five-time World champion Kyoko Hamaguchi of Japan in a controversial semifinals match at the Olympics. Hamaguchi wrestled back to claim the bronze medal. Hamaguchi won a gold medal at the Women's World Cup this spring, so she has chosen to continue her career. A rivalry between Wang and Hamaguchi would receive considerable attention around the world if it is revived in Budapest. Many expect that Hamaguchi will be highly motivated to avenge the loss from Athens since she is one of the top sports heroes in her nation.

Others who placed high at the Olympic Games were Svetlana Sayenko of Ukraine in fourth, Christine Nordhagen of Canada in fifth and Anita Schaetzle of Germany in sixth.

Schaetzle was the 2005 European champion at this division, and Sayenko placed fifth at the European meet this year. Both have considerable experience. Schaetzle was sixth at the 2004 Olympic Games. Sayenko has placed as high as second at the European Championships.

Nordhagen, a six-time World champion, has retired, and could be replaced by past World placewinner Ohenowa Akuffo, who was the 2005 World University Games gold medalist and has a number of other international medals. Akuffo has the ability and experience to be a medal contender at this division this year.

The U.S. will have veteran Iris Smith competing, who has not been to the World Championships since her seventh place finish in 2000. Olympian and two-time World medalist Toccara Montgomery was unable to try out this year for the American team due to injury. Smith has experience and size, and should be a factor, especially if she gets on a roll in her early bouts.

Others to watch include Stanka Zlateva of Bulgaria, Marina Gastl of Austria and Burmaa Ochirbat of Mongolia. Zlateva was fourth at the 2003 World Championships and won a bronze medal at the European Championships this year. Ochirbat was second at the 2004 Asian Championships, losing to Hamaguchi in the finals. Gastl has been a placewinner in a number of top international events in recent years. Turkey has a medal hopeful in Zarife Yilidrim, who was fourth at the 2002 World Championships.

Poland had a World Champion in 2001, Edyta Witkowska, but they were represented at the 2005 European meet by Agnieska Wieszczek, who also won a bronze medal at the World University Games this summer. Poland also boasts Edyte Witkowska, who was third at the 2002 World Championships.

Ukraine may be represented by Katarina Burmistrova, who won a silver medal at the World University Games. Burmistrova competed for a number of years at 67 kg, placing in the top 10 in the world a few times. Vasila Marzaliuk of Belarus was a European bronze medalist this year, her first major achievement at the Senior level. Olga Zahnibekova of Kazakhstan also made a name for herself this year, winning a bronze medal at the Asian Championships. Also a possible entry for Kazakhstan is Svetlana Yarosevich, who was eighth in the 2003 World Championships.

This weight class has been dominated by the Asian stars Hamaguchi of Japan and Wang of China. The United States and Russia have been competitive in the past in this division. It has been a difficult weight class for young newcomers to break through, especially in the medal rounds. It will be interesting to see if anybody new can break through this year against such an experienced field


2004 Olympic Games results
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold - Wang Xu (China); Silver - Gouzel Maniorova (Russia); Bronze - Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan); 4th - Svitlana Sayenko (Ukraine); 5th - Christine Nordhagen (Canada); 6th - Anita Schaetzle (Germany); 7th - Toccara Montgomery (USA); 8th - Maria Louiza Vryoni (Greece); 9th - Marina Gastl (Austria); 10th - Burmaa Ochirbat (Mongolia)

2003 World Championships results
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Gold - Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan) dec. Toccara Montgomery (United States), 4-1; Bronze - Wang Xu (China) pin Stanka Zlateva Hristova (Bulgaria), 2:39; 5th - Anita Schaetzle (Germany); 6th - Marina Gastl (Austria); 7th - Edyta Witkowska (Poland); 8th - Svetlana Yaroshevich (Kazakhstan); 9th - Gouzel Maniourova (Russia); 10th - Min-Jeong Kang (Korea)

2002 World Championships results
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - 1st - Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan) dec. Wang Xu (China), 5-1; 3rd - Edyte Witkowska (Poland) won by ref. dec. over Zarife Yilidrim (Turkey), 2-0, ot, 9:00; 5th - Katerina Halova (Czech Rep.); 6th - Galina Ivanova (Bulgaria); 7th - Svitlana Sayenko (Ukraine); 8th - Katarzyna Juszczak (Italy); 9th - Anita Schatzle (Germany); 10th - Toccara Montgomery (USA)

2001 World Championships results
75 kg/165.25 - Gold - Edyta Witkowska (Poland) dec. Ma Bailing (China), 6-0; Bronze - Nina Englisch (Germany) pin Kyoko Hamaguchi (Japan); 5th - Jenna Pavlik (USA); 6th - Kang Min-Jeong (Korea); 7th - Tetyana Komarnitska (Ukraine); 8th - Yasmili Ramos (Venezuela); 9th - Zumrud Kurbangadzieva (Russia); 10th - Akuffo Ohenewa (Canada)
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