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Top women's teams excited to compete in Battle at the Falls event in Niagara Falls



American Alli Ragan speaks during the Battle at the Falls press conference on Thursday afternoon at Niagara Falls. Craig Sesker photo.

NIAGARA FALLS, Ontario, Canada – One of the most beautiful places in the world provided a perfect setting for the Battle at the Falls Women’s Wrestling Duals press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Coaches and wrestlers from the United States and Canada gathered on a sun-splashed day at gorgeous Niagara Falls to promote the international women’s dual-meet event, which will take place Friday on the final day of World Wrestling Month.

The press conference took place the day after the International Olympic Committee Executive Board placed wrestling, along with baseball/softball and squash, on the short list of sports to be considered for inclusion in the 2020 Olympics. The final vote, by the 101-member IOC, will take place Sept. 8 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The IOC Executive Board had recommended in February that wrestling be removed as a core Olympic sport in 2020.

Canadian National Women’s Freestyle Coach Leigh Vierling and U.S. Volunteer Assistant Coach Alex Conti spoke on Thursday along with three-time Olympic medalist Tonya Verbeek of Canada, two-time Junior World medalist Alli Ragan of the U.S. and World medalist Justine Bouchard of Canada.

The duals, which also include a strong team from Ukraine, will be held at the Gael Centre in Niagara Falls on Friday.

“It’s a really big event for us and it’s a big event for wrestling,” Vierling said. “The U.S. did such a great job with the Rumble on the Rails event in New York and the United 4 Wrestling event in Los Angeles, and we wanted to do something to showcase the women here in Canada. This is great for wrestling and great for women’s wrestling. We brought two great teams in here with the U.S. and Ukraine, and we’re looking forward to a great event tomorrow.”

The Ukrainian team was scheduled to arrive in Canada later in the day on Thursday along with the rest of the U.S. women’s squad.

The U.S. is scheduled to battle Ukraine at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by the Canada-Ukraine dual and the U.S.-Canada meet.

“It’s really exciting to have this opportunity to compete here,” Ragan said. “I’m glad we can showcase the sport here, especially during World Wrestling Month. I’m going to face good competition against Canada and Ukraine. We brought our No. 1 girls here and we’re looking forward to this event.”

Verbeek is now coaching after capping her career with an Olympic silver medal finish last year in London. She will host a free clinic that will be held prior to the wrestling at 2 p.m. Friday at the Gale Centre.

“This is going to be an awesome event, showcasing three of the top teams in the world,” Verbeek said. “It’s really exciting to have all of these top athletes involved. Niagara Falls is a beautiful spot that we’re very proud of in Canada and it will be a great setting for this event.”

It was a big day for wrestling on Wednesday with Olympic gold medalists Carol Huynh and Daniel Igali of Canada serving among the five presenters for wrestling at the important IOC Executive Board vote in St. Petersburg, Russia. Huynh won the Olympics in 2008 after Igali earned Olympic gold in 2000.

The U.S. team also features World gold and silver medalist Elena Pirozhkova and World bronze medalist Alyssa Lampe.

“This is such a huge, important event for us,” Conti said. “It’s phenomenal to see women’s wrestling continue to build and grow. It’s getting bigger and bigger, and we have a great opportunity to show the people that here in Niagara Falls.”

Canada also has World champion Jessica MacDonald on its powerful roster. She is joined in the lineup by University World medalist Erica Wiebe and Junior World medalist Stacie Anaka.

Past World champions Katerina Burmistrova and Ganna Vasilenko lead the tough Ukrainian team along with two-time Junior World Champion Alina Stadnik-Makinya and World medalist Natalya Synyshyn.

FRIDAY’S MATCHUPS

USA vs. Ukraine
48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Alyssa Lampe or Carlene Sluberski (USA) vs. Maria Livach (Ukraine)
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Jessica Medina (USA) vs. Yulia Blahinya (Ukraine)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Katherine Fulp-Allen (USA) vs. Irina Husyak (Ukraine)
59 kg/130 lbs. – Alli Ragan (USA) vs. Natalya Synyshyn (Ukraine)
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Elena Pirozhkova or Erin Clodgo (USA) vs. Ganna Vasilenko (Ukraine)
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Veronica Carlson (USA) vs. Alina Stadnik-Makinya (Ukraine)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Brittney Roberts (USA) vs. Katerina Burmistrova (Ukraine)

Canada vs. Ukraine
48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Natasha Kramble (Canada) vs. Maria Livach (Ukraine)
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Jessica MacDonald (Canada) vs. Yulia Blahinya (Ukraine)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Jillian Gallays (Canada) vs. Irina Husyak (Ukraine)
59 kg/130 lbs. – Braxton Papadopoulus (Canada) vs. Natalya Synyshyn (Ukraine)
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Justin Bouchard (Canada) vs. Ganna Vasilenko (Ukraine)
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Stacie Anaka (Canada) vs. Alina Stadnik-Makinya (Ukraine)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Erica Wiebe (Canada) vs. Katerina Burmistrova (Ukraine)

USA vs. Canada
48 kg/105.5 lbs. – Alyssa Lampe or Carlene Sluberski (USA) vs. Natasha Kramble (Canada)
51 kg/112.25 lbs. – Jessica Medina (USA) vs. Jessica MacDonald (Canada)
55 kg/121 lbs. – Katherine Fulp-Allen (USA) vs. Jillian Gallays (Canada)
59 kg/130 lbs. – Alli Ragan (USA) vs. Braxton Papadopoulos (Canada)
63 kg/138.75 lbs. – Elena Pirozhkova or Erin Clodgo (USA) vs. Justin Bouchard (Canada)
67 kg/147.5 lbs. – Veronica Carlson (USA) vs. Stacie Anaka (Canada)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Brittney Roberts (USA) vs. Erica Wiebe (Canada)
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