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U.S. OPEN PREVIEW - World champion Chun and World medalist Padilla headline women’s field

The U.S. Open Wrestling Championships will be held at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio, April 23-24. Previews of all three styles will be posted on this week.

The United States remains a World power in women’s wrestling, with a group of athletes who are mostly young and improving in all areas. Now almost midway into its third four-year cycle as an Olympic sport, there are many new names on the national women’s scene, all striving to make the next Olympic team in London in 2012.

Two members of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team are still competing well and hold down No. 1 spots on the women’s national team. After placing fifth at the 2008 Olympics at 48 kg/105.5 lbs., Clarissa Chun came back a few months later and won the 2008 World Championships gold medal. Chun also made the 2009 U.S. World Team.

Another fifth-place finisher at the Beijing Olympics, Ali Bernard at 72 kg/158.5 lbs., remains atop her weight class after qualifying for the 2009 U.S. World Team. Bernard won two Junior World titles earlier in her career, and seeks her first Senior World medal.

One of the talented young stars on the scene is Tatiana Padilla, who captured a World bronze medal at 55 kg/121 lbs. in 2008, and placed fifth at the 2009 World Championships.

With the growth of women’s wrestling on the college level, many new college athletes are expected to enter the U.S. Open and test themselves against the nation’s best.

48 KG/105.5 LBS.

Clarissa Chun has missed the early part of the new international season, after undergoing surgery after the 2009 World Championships. Chun may be ready to compete at the U.S. Open to defend her national title. She spent many years paying her dues on the national team, but has been at the top of her game the last three seasons.

Chun faces a large group of talented wrestlers, each seeking to claim that top position. Placing second behind Chun the last two years at the World Team Trials has been Alyssa Lampe, who has been exceptional in international events this winter. Lampe has won five medals this season, including a gold at the New York AC International.

Sara Fulp-Allen, a past U.S. Open champion, seeks to return to the top of the podium. She has experience and skills and is seeking her first U.S. World Team berth. Mary Kelly, who competed at the 2006 World Championships, has had a strong season so far. Kelly is completing college with the USOEC program at Northern Michigan and has more experience than most of those that she competes against. Another top star is 2009 Junior World champion Victoria Anthony, who was a WCWA college national champion this year as a freshman at Simon Fraser.

Junior World Team member C.C. Weber has made progress on the Senior level, including winning a silver medal in Sweden this year. College wrestlers Ashley Shannon, Nicole Woody and Stephanie Waters are other challengers, as is veteran Amantha Hordagoda.

51 KG/112.25 LBS.

Currently atop this division is Jessica Medina, who made the 2009 U.S. World Team after defeating Olympic medalist Patricia Miranda in the championship series. Medina has picked up considerable international experience since then, seeking to improve in all phases of her wrestling. Miranda, who also won three World medals, has not competed since the World Team Trials last year.

Two college wrestlers have had strong seasons and will be seeking a spot in the U.S. Open finals. Katherine Fulp-Allen, who attends Menlo College, beat Amy Whitbeck from Missouri Baptist in the WCWA college finals. However, at the Dave Schultz Memorial shortly after, Whitbeck defeated Fulp-Allen. Last year, Fulp-Allen made the U.S. Open finals, where she was beaten by Miranda.

A former U.S. Open champion, Na’Tasha Umemoto, has revived her career and has wrestled well on the college scene. Many of the rest of the competitors in this division are young and learning their craft. Gabrielle Henry and India Walker have been college teammates at the Cumberlands and are showing promise. Emily Harper, Rachel Woodruff and Brittany Bertolani are also emerging college talents. Jessica Medina’s younger sister Jazmine also has a chance at All-American honors in Cleveland.

55 KG/121 LBS.

Tatiana Padilla has been the top competitor here for two years, since the retirement of 2008 Olympian Marcie Van Dusen. Padilla won a bronze medal at her first World Championship in 2008, and just missed adding another in 2009. She won a number of age-group World medals in a rapid rise internationally. Padilla has been impressive in recent international events.

Placing second behind Padilla at the 2009 World Team Trials was Leigh Jaynes, a 2007 U.S. World Team member. Jaynes has wrestled at 59 kg in recent months and may move up for Cleveland. A 2008 World Team member and 2009 U.S. Open champion Helen Maroulis comes off a strong college season and is seeking to defend her national title.

Whitney Conder, a Junior World champion in 2007, has settled in at 55 kg and has shown great potential at this weight. Trinity Plessinger, a Junior World team member last year, has looked good on foreign tours. Michaela Hutchison, who won the last two WCWA College Nationals for OCU, is tremendously talented and capable of winning at this level. Former U.S. Open champion Sharon Jacobson has returned from injury and is seeking to climb the ladder of success once again. Other wrestlers to watch include Jackie Stiles, Shauna Isbell and Tiffany Sluik.

59 KG/130 LBS.

This weight class has recently been a battle between Deanna Rix and Kelsey Campbell, both who are making strong progress internationally. Last year, Campbell won the U.S. Open but Rix captured the World Team Trials. A U.S. team member in 2008 and 2009, Rix placed fifth in the World Championships both times she competed there.

So far this year, Rix and Campbell have a 1-1 record against each other. Campbell won a gold at the prestigious Ivan Yarygin Memorial in Russia as well as the Sunkist Kids International. Rix won the Dave Schultz Memorial. Both have beaten top athletes from other nations.

Schuyler Brown looks to upset the apple cart at this weight. Brown has made a pair of Junior World teams and has wrestled well in some winter international events. Brown has losses to both Rix and Campbell this season. She was second at the WCWA Nationals, competing up a weight class at 63 kg.

Many of the other challengers at this division come from the college ranks. Randi Beltz was a college freshman this year and placed second at the WCWA Nationals behind Maroulis, who was up a weight. Ashley Hudson was third at the WCWA Nationals, also only losing to Maroulis. Other college wrestlers to watch are Cianah Hee, Nena Garcia, Audrey Morehouse, Breisja Macera and Emma Johnson.

63 KG/138.75 LBS.

Elena Pirozhkova has competed on the last two U.S. World Teams, and seeks her first World medal for the United States. Pirozkhova won her first U.S. Open title last year, after dropping to this weight from 67 kg. She was a University World champion in 2008 and a two-time Pan American champion. Talented and experienced, Pirozhkova seeks to put it all together this year.

2004 Olympic silver medalist Sara McMann returned to the mats to win the Sunkist Kids International this fall. It is unclear if McMann will enter the U.S. Open. She won a Grappling World No-Gi title in December and is interested in a career in MMA. If she enters, she will be a force.

Last year’s U.S. Open runner-up and World Team Trials runner-up Vanessa Oswalt is expected to return to the mat in Cleveland, after missing the early portion of the season. She is coming off her best season ever. Veronica Carlson, who has numerous major age-group achievements, was third at the U.S. Open last year. She was second at the 2010 WCWA College Nationals.

Sheila McCabe placed second at the U.S. Open at 67 kg last year, but has dropped to this division this season. Other collegians capable of success include Tessa Plana, Lauren Louive, Christina Ordonez, Samantha Phillips and Laura Ponshock.

67 KG/147.5 LBS.

One of the most successful U.S. women wrestlers in the past year has been young Adeline Gray, who placed fifth at the 2009 World Championships. Gray won gold medals at four international events this year, winning most of her bouts by pin. She was injured during the 2010 Women’s World Cup in China, and it is not certain that she will be able to return in time for the U.S. Open.

If Gray does not compete in Cleveland, this could be a wide open division. Lauren Knight has been a consistent challenger in this division, placing fourth at the U.S. Open the last two years. She was second to Gray at the New York AC International this fall. She was a WCWA national college champion this year up a weight at 72 kg.

Amberle Montgomery took a big step up by winning the WCWA College Nationals at this division after being off the mat for a long while. Christen Paysee had a great season last year, making the FILA Junior World Team and placing second behind Gray at the World Team Trials. Erin Clodgo, who has been on a number of U.S. age-group World Teams, has come back to this weight class after some time up at 72 kg. Any of these athletes are capable of earning a U.S. Open title this year.

Included in the field will be two Hawaii natives who have competed well at this division, Kuuiini Johnson and Pi’ikea Kalalau. Others to watch include Michelle Quiles, Shanna Young and Emma Randall.

72 KG/158.5 LBS.

This has been the weight class which has had the most depth in recent seasons. A number of athletes with international success are in the field and capable of victory. Ali Bernard was fifth at the 2008 Olympics and competed at the 2009 World Championships. She comes off the Canadian college wrestling season, where she won a record fifth CIS college title. Bernard won all four of her bouts at the recent World Cup in China, facing some tough opponents.

The top seed at the U.S. Open could be 2005 World champion Iris Smith, who has a win over Bernard at the New York AC International, then beat the other super talent in the weight class, Stephany Lee, in the Sunkist Kids International. Smith has struggled for a few seasons but seems to be getting her game back at an elite level.

Lee, who competed at the 2008 World Championships and boasts a pair of University World titles, also has a win over Bernard at the Hargobind International in Canada. Lee won a gold and silver medal on a recent European tour, and beat some respected opponents.

In the background is two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist Kristie Marano Davis, who has not competed since 2008. Davis took time off due to injury and having her second child, but she is back in training. If she enters in Cleveland, based upon her Hall of Fame career, she will be an instant factor.

2009 U.S. Open champion Jenna Pavlik was injured earlier this season and is not expected to be able to compete

Of the young challengers, Melissa Simmons of OCU may be the top talent. Others who will battle for All-American status include Britteny Roberts, Amber Miracle, Brittney Gadd and Morgan Pittsford. This weight class should have some big-time battles against well-known stars, with the gold medal truly up for grabs.

2009 U.S. Open Women’s Freestyle Gold Medal Finals

105.5 lbs. " Clarissa Chun (Sunkist Kids) dec. Sara Fulp-Allen (New York AC), 3-0, 1-0

112.25 lbs. "Patricia Miranda (Sunkist Kids) pin Katherine Fulp-Allen (New York AC), 1-2, 1:15

121 lbs. " Helen Maroulis (New York AC) dec. Leigh Jaynes (New York AC), 1-0, 1-1

130 lbs. " Kelsey Campbell (Sunkist Kids) dec. Deanna Rix (New York AC), 0-1, 1-0, 1-0

138.75 lbs. " Elena Pirozhkova (Gator WC) dec. Vanessa Oswalt (Gator WC), 1-0, 4-2

147.5 lbs. " Adeline Gray (New York AC) tech. fall Shiela McCabe (OCU Stars), 8-0, 8-2

158.5 lbs. " Jenna Pavlik (USOTC) won by forfeit

ASICS U.S. Open Wrestling Championships website U.S. Senior Women’s Rankings, April 2010

2009 U.S. Open Women’s Championships results

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