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2006 World Championships preview at 48 kg/105.5 lbs. in women’s freestyle wrestling



The reigning World Champion is Xueceng Ren of China, who upset 2004 Olympic champion Irini Merleni of Ukraine in the gold-medal match last year. Ren has been competing up at 51 kg all season. It seems that many of the Chinese athletes from last year have been competing up a division from last season. For instance, she won the gold medal at the World Cup up in weight.

If Ren comes back down in weight, she will be among the favorites. Competing for China at this weight class this year has been Xiaomei Li, who was third in the Asian Championships and won the Canada Cup, where she beat multiple World medalist Carol Huyhn of Canada. Regardless of who China brings this year, you can expect the entry at this weight class to be a medal contender. With a homefield advantage, China should be tough in every division, but especially in the lighter weights.

Merlini, a three-time World champion, has not been wrestling at all this year, and many expect her not to attend. Competing for Ukraine at the European Championships was Mariya Stadnyk, the 2005 Junior World champion. Stadnyk won the gold medal at the Europeans, but has since had that title taken away, according to the FILA Database. Without either Merlini or Stadnyk in the field, it would be a longshot for Ukraine to have much impact this year.

The 2005 World bronze medalists were Canada's Carol Huyhn and Makiko Sakamoto of Japan. Huyhn won the FILA Golden Grand Prix finals this year, a big boost for her season. She was also second at the World Cup. Huhyn has won three World medals during her career, but still has not won a World title. She was beaten out for the 2004 Canadian Olympic team by Lindsey Belisle, so Huyhn is expected to compete at least through this Olympic cycle for a chance to wrestle in the Olympics.

As far as Japan goes, Sakamoto may not even be the Japanese competitor. 2004 Olympic silver medalist Chiharu Icho won a gold medal at the World Cup at 48 kg this year. She was a 2003 World champion at 51 kg, and has to work hard to get down in weight. With Icho in the lineup, Japan is a stronger team and Icho becomes one of the favorites to win it all.

Lilya Kaskarova of Russia, who was fifth in the World last year, won the 2006 European Championships after Stadnyk had her title withdrawn. She has shown some improvement in her results, taking second at the 2005 World Cup as well. Russia has many choices at this weight, including 2004 Olympian Lorisa Oorzhak, who has won a Junior World title and two European titles. Russia could also bring Inga Karamtchakova, who has won three World medals. It is safe to say Russia will be strong at this division.

According to the FILA website, Fani Psatha of Greece won the European silver medal, and the two bronze medallists are Francine de Paola of Italy and Cristina Croituru of Romania. Both have been wrestling well this year. Croituru was second behind Huyhn at the Golden Grand Prix finals. De Paola won the Warsaw Cup in Poland this summer in a competitive field, which included Psatha, who took third. None of these three athletes have won a World medal yet, but they have been close, so it would not be surprising if this is a breakthrough year for them.

The 2006 University World Champion at this division was Enkjargal Tsogbazar of Mongolia, who was also eighth at the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2005, she wrestled up at 51 kg, and won a bronze medal at the World Championships.

There will be a new U.S. entry this year, Mary Kelly, who beat some talented athletes to make the team. In the World Team Trials, Kelly stopped past World silver medalist Stephanie Murata, and in a Special Wrestle-off, she beat 2006 U.S. Nationals champion Clarissa Chun. Both Chun and Murata had strong winter tour seasons, so Kelly appears to be coming into her own. Kelly has considerable international experience, including a Cadet World title and five age-group World medals. This should make it less challenging as she faces her first Senior World tournament.

Patricia Miranda of the United States, an Olympic and World champion at this weight, returned to compete this year but is up at 51 kg and on the U.S. World Team there. Miranda is expected to drop back down for the Olympic year, or sooner, which could affect the U.S. lineup down the road.

Another strong North American contender is Mayelis Caripa of Venezuela, who was fifth in the World last year. She has won a gold medal at the Pan American Championships for three straight years, and competed at the 2004 Olympic Games.

Marina Markevich of Belarus was third at the FILA Golden Grand Prix and also fifth at the European Championships this year. She has won bronze medals at the last two Junior World Championships and was the European Junior champion, so she seems to be improving as she gains experience.

Also placing in the top 10 at the World Championships last year were Sigrun Dobner of Germany and Zhyldyz Eshimova of Kyrgyzstan. Eshimova was third at the Junior World Championships the last two years. Angelique Berthenet of France was fourth at the 2004 Olympic Games but has not competed since. Anne Catherine Deluntsch has been the French entry at the European and World Championships the last two years. Another to watch is Iwona Matkowska-Sadowska of Poland, who has represented her nation at the last three World Championships and has won two World University medals.

This weight class is always a bit unpredictable, as many talented young athletes often enter and make a name for themselves. If Ren and Merlini are not in the field here and somebody finds a way to beat Icho, there could be a brand new World champion crowned on the center mat in Guangzhou this year.

RECENT WORLD AND OLYMPIC RESULTS

2005 World Championships results
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Xueceng Ren (China); Silver - Irini Merleni (Ukraine); Bronze - Carol Huynh (Canada); Bronze - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); 5th - Mayelis Caripa (Venezuela); 5th - Liliya Kaskarakova (Russia); 7th - Jenny Wong (USA); 8th - Francine DePaola (France); 9th - Sigrun Dobner (Germany); 10th - Zhyldyz Eshimova (Kyrgyzstan)

2004 Olympic Games results
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Gold - Irini Merlini (Ukraine); Silver - Chiharu Icho (Japan); Bronze - Patricia Miranda (USA); 4th- Angelique Berthenet (France); 5th - Lorisa Oorzhak (Russia); 6th- Brigitte Wagner (Germany); 7th - Lidiya Karamchakova (Tajikistan); 8th - Enkhjargal Tsogbazar (Mongolia); 9th - Li Hui (China); 10th - Fani Psatha (Greece)

2003 World Championships results
105.5 - Gold - Irini Merleni (Ukraine) dec. Patricia Miranda (United States), 5-4; Bronze - Li Hui (China) pin Fani Psatha (Greece), 5:56; 5th - Makiko Sakamoto (Japan); 6th - Angelique Berthenet (France); 7th - Alfia Zaynulina (Kyrgyzstan); 8th - Inga Karamchakova (Russia); 9th - Kamelia Tzekova (Bulgaria); 10th - Mayerli Karipa (Venezuela)
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2002 World Championships results
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - 1st - Brigitte Wagner (Germany) dec. Inga Karamtshakova (Russia), 4-3; 3rd - Ida Hellstrom (Sweden) pin Nicoleta Badea (Romania), 2:50; 5th - Carol Huyhn (Canada); 6th - Laurianne Mary (France); 7th - Angeles Barazza Sanchez (Mexico); 8th - Mayelis Caripa (Venezuela); 9th - Flor Quispe (Peru); 10th - Myrsini Koloni (Greece)

2001 World Championships results
46 kg/101.25 lbs. - Gold - Irini Merlini (Ukraine) dec. Carol Huyhn (Canada), 3-0; Bronze - Brigitte Wagner (Germany) dec. Farah Touchi (France), 4-2; 5th - Misato Shimizu (Japan); 6th - Agoro Papavassiliou (Greece); 7th - Volha Prydanikava (Belarus); 8th - Kamelia Tzekova (Bulgaria); 9th - Ayse Guneri (Turkey); 10th - Inga Karamthakova (Russia)
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