Senior Worlds Preview: Women’s freestyle upper weights (62 kg, 65 kg, 68 kg, 72 kg, 76 kg)
by Richard Immel
As the countdown to the 2023 Senior World Championships intensifies, anticipation is reaching fever pitch for the fierce showdowns in the women's freestyle division. With an elite pool of talent from around the globe set to grace the mats, this competition promises to be a spectacle of athleticism and determination.
Let’s dive into the back five women’s freestyle weight classes and explore how the top contenders stack up heading into Belgrade.
Leading the pack at 62 kg is the dynamic American, Kayla Miracle, who has carved her name among the World’s elite. Her impressive silver medal performances in the past two World Championships, coupled with a consistent presence on the international circuit, make her a serious contender for the gold medal.
Seeded second is Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan, a two-time World champion and Olympic silver medalist. While she didn't make it to the podium last year, 2023 has seen her make a strong comeback with three international gold medals, including a triumph at the Asian Championships.
China's Xiaojuan Luo, coming in as the third seed, proved her mettle by securing bronze at the 2022 World Championships. Her journey to this event is fueled by two Ranking Series medal victories, spotlighting her consistent excellence.
The fourth seed, Ana Godinez from Canada, is on a mission to surpass her fifth-place finish at the 2022 World Championships. Her recent victory at the Pan-American Championships in May underscores her strength and tactical prowess, making her a contender worth keeping a close eye on.
Among the remaining seeded athletes are Bilyana Dudova of Bulgaria, the 2021 World champion; Lais Nunes of Brazil, an Olympian; Luisa Niemesch of Germany, a European bronze medalist; and Sara Lindborg of Sweden, all of whom bring their unique strengths and experiences to the competition.
While Sakura Motoki of Japan may not be seeded among the top contenders, her presence on the mat is not to be underestimated. Motoki's move up from 59 kg, where she earned a World bronze last year, adds an element of unpredictability to the mix, and her performance will undoubtedly be one to watch closely.
No. 1 - Kayla Miracle (United States)
No. 2 - Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan)
No. 3 - Xiaojuan Luo (China)
No. 4 - Ana Godinez (Canada)
No. 5 - Bilyana Dudova (Bulgaria)
No. 6 - Lais Nunes (Brazil)
No. 7 - Luisa Niemesch (Germany)
No. 8 - Sara Lindborg (Sweden)
62 kg/136.5 lbs. – Gold - Nonoka Ozaki (Japan); Silver – Kayla Miracle (United States); Bronze – Ilona Prokopevniuk (Ukraine); Bronze – Xiaojuan Luo (China); 5th – Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Ana Godinez Gonzalez (Canada); 7th – Tetiana Omelchenko (Azerbaijan); 8th – Sara Johanna Lindborg (Sweden); 9th – Anna Hella Szel (Hungary); 10th – Lais Nunes de Oliveira (Brazil)
62 kg/136.5 lbs. – Gold – Aisuluu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); Silver – Kayla Miracle (United States); Bronze – Nonoka Ozaki (Japan); Bronze – Gantuya Enkhbat (Mongolia); 5th – Ilona Prokopevniuk (Ukraine); 5th – Lais Nunes de Oliveira (Brazil); 7th – Alina Kasabieva (RWF); 8th – Ana Godinez Gonzalez (Canada); 9th – Veranika Ivanova (Belarus); 10th – Sangeeta Sangeeta (India)
62 kg/136.5 lbs. – Gold – Yukako Kawai (Japan); Silver – Aisullu Tynybekova (Kyrgyzstan); Bronze – Iryna Koliadenko (Ukraine); Bronze – Taybe Mustafa Yusein (Bulgaria); 5th – Anastasija Grigorjeva (Latvia); 5th – Liubov Ovcharova (ROC); 7th – Henna Johansson (Sweden); 8th – Kriszta Incze (Romania); 9th – Jia Long (China); 10th – Bolortuya Khurlekhuu (Mongolia)
The spotlight is on the highly competitive 65 kg weight class, where a mix of experienced contenders and promising newcomers will go head-to-head. Leading the pack is Mimi Hristova of Bulgaria, who has had a standout 2023 season, securing a European title and claiming the top seed. Her sights are firmly set on the World medal that has eluded her grasp for the past decade.
Seeded second is Croatia's Iva Geric, followed by Aleah Nickel of Canada at the three spot. These young athletes may be relatively new on the scene, but they bring an abundance of talent and potential, making them intriguing contenders. Keep an eye on Macey Kilty from the U.S., an ascending talent who has already made waves with World medals at the U17, U20, and U23 levels. She's now gearing up for her debut at the Senior World Championships in Belgrade, and expectations are running high.
In the fourth seed position is Irina Kazyulina of Kazakhstan, who has been making a name for herself with three silver medals at challenging international tournaments this year. Her progress on the Senior level is evident, and she's poised as a strong candidate to reach the podium.
The list of seeded athletes at 65 kg is completed by Kadriye Aksoy of Turkey, who secured the Yasar Dogu championship, and Masa Perovic of Serbia, an U20 European bronze medalist. Each of these athletes brings their unique strengths to the table, promising an exciting mix of styles and tactics.
The U.S. has earned bronze medals at this weight class the past two years, thanks to the efforts of Mallory Velte and Forrest Molinari. Now, the spotlight shifts to Kilty, who hopes to carry on this tradition and continue the legacy of podium success.
No. 1 - Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria)
No. 2 - Iva Geric (Croatia)
No. 3 - Aleah Nickel (Canada)
No. 4 - Irina Kazyulina (Kazakhstan)
No. 5 - Kadriye Aksoy (Turkey)
No. 6 - Masa Perovic (Serbia)
65 kg/143 lbs. – Gold – Miwa Morikawa (Japan); Silver – Jia Long (China); Bronze – Mallory Velte (United States); Bronze – Koumba Larroque (France); 5th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 5th – Elis Manolova (Azerbaijan); 7th – Tetiana Sova Rizhko (Ukraine); 8th – Kriszta Tunde Incze (Romania); 9th – Asli Demir (Turkey); 10th – Purevsuren Ulziisaikhan (Mongolia)
65 kg/143 lbs. – Gold – Irina Ringaci (Moldova); Silver – Miwa Morikawa (Japan); Bronze – Forrest Molinari (United States); Bronze – Malin Mattsson (Sweden); 5th – Maryia Mamashuk (Belarus); 5th – Mimi Hristova (Bulgaria); 7th – Koumba Larroque (France); 8th – Asli Demir (Turkey); 9th – Aina Temirtassova (Kazakhstan); 10th – Dinara Kudaeva Salikhova (RWF)
Note: 65 kg is a non-Olympic weight class, so there are no results from the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo, Japan.
In a seismic shift on the wrestling stage, Tamyra Mensah Stock, the 2020 Olympic champion and reigning World champion from the United States, has hung up her boots, opening the door for a wave of fresh talent to seize the spotlight at 68 kg. With the all-important Olympic year on the horizon, the dynamics at 68 kg are set to undergo a thrilling transformation.
Stepping into the limelight is the rising star, Emma Bruntil, a newcomer with immense promise. Her ascent to the American roster was nothing short of spectacular, as she triumphed over World medalist Forrest Molinari in a high-stakes clash at Final X, securing her place on the team. What's more, this will be her inaugural foray into international competition at the 68 kg weight class, infusing an electrifying element of surprise into the proceedings.
At the summit of the seeds, we find the formidable two-time World medalist and two-time Olympian, Feng Zhou, representing China. Her recent conquests include gold medals at two prestigious international events this summer, along with a bronze at the Asian championships.
Japan's Ami Ishii, the second seed, carries a legacy of excellence, having secured a silver medal at last year's World championships and clinched the Asian championship title this year. Her tenacity and skill make her a fierce contender on the world stage.
The third seed, Irina Ringaci of Moldova, boasts an impressive track record, crowned as a World champion at 65 kg just two years ago before making the daring leap to 68 kg. She achieved bronze at last year's World Championships and further validated her prowess with medals at two Ranking Series events earlier this year, culminating in a silver medal at the European Championships.
Holding the fourth seed is France's three-time World medalist, Koumba Larroque, a seasoned Olympian who has consistently vied for glory, navigating between the 65 kg and 72 kg categories over the years.
Completing the stout roster of the top eight seeds are Delgermaa Enkhsaikhan of Mongolia, a past U20 World finalist and U23 World bronze medalist; Adela Hanzlickova of the Czech Republic, a U23 World bronze medalist; Meerim Zhumanazarova of Kyrgyzstan, a World champion and Olympic bronze medalist; and Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria, an Olympic silver medalist. These remarkable athletes add a layer of excitement and unpredictability to the already scintillating lineup.
No. 1 - Feng Zhou (China)
No. 2 - Ami Ishii (Japan)
No. 3 - Irina Ringaci (Moldova)
No. 4 - Koumba Larroque (France)
No. 5 - Delgermaa Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia)
No. 6 - Adela Hanzlickova (Czech Republic)
No. 7 - Meerim Zhumanazarova (Kyrgyzstan)
No. 8 - Blessing Oborududu (Nigeria)
68 kg/149.75 lbs. – Gold – Tamyra Mensah Stock (United States); Silver – Ami Ishii (Japan); Bronze – Irina Ringaci (Moldova); Bronze – Linda Morais (Canada); 5th – Feng Zhou (China); 5th – Nisha (India); 7th – Sofiya Hristova Georgieva (Bulgaria); 8th – Delgermaa Enkhsaikhan (Mongolia); 9th – Ambar Garnica Flores (Mexico); 10th – Pauline Denise LeCarpenter (France)
68 kg/149.75 lbs. – Gold – Meerim Zhumanazarova (Kyrgyzstan); Silver – Rin Miyaji (Japan); Bronze – Tamyra Mensah Stock (United States); Bronze – Khanum Velieva (RWF); 5th – Adela Hanzlickova (Czech Republic); 5th – Olivia Di Bacco (Canada); 7th – Anastasiia Lavrenchuk (Ukraine); 8th – Blessing Oborududu (Nigeria); 9th – Danute Domikaityte (Lithuania); 10th – Ambar Garnica Flores (Mexico)
68 kg/149.75 lbs. – Gold – Tamyra Mensah Stock (USA); Silver – Blessing Oborududu (Nigeria); Bronze – Meerin Zhumanazarova (Kyrgyzstan); Bronze – Alla Cherkasova (Ukraine); 5th – Sara Dosho (Japan); 5th – Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia); 7th – Zhou Feng (China); 8th – Khanum Velieva (ROC); 9th – Anna Carmen Schell (Germany); 10th – Elis Manolova (Azerbaijan)
All eyes are on the remarkable Amit Elor, who is back to defend her World title at 72 kg. Elor made waves last year by etching her name in the annals of wrestling history, securing gold medals at the U20, U23, and Senior levels—a feat that no American had ever accomplished in a single year. Her quest to replicate this historic achievement in 2023 began with a resounding victory at the U20 World Championships in Amman, Jordan, last month, marking her third gold medal at the event. Now, the 19-year-old dynamo sets her sights on Belgrade, aiming for her seventh overall World title and her second at the Senior level. She enters the field as the No. 2 seed, and the wrestling world watches in anticipation.
Elor's path to glory won't be unchallenged, as she faces strong opponents. The top seed is Zhamila Bakbergenova of Kazakhstan, a returning silver medalist hungry for redemption. Bakbergenova has dominated the Asian championships in recent years, claiming the last two titles. Another major contender is Miwa Morikawa of Japan, the reigning World champion at 65 kg. Although unseeded, Morikawa boasts a stellar track record, having clinched World titles at every age division. Her absence from international competition in 2023 adds an element of mystery to her performance.
The rest of the field is wide open, and predicting medalists is a challenging task. European bronze medalist Dalma Caneva of Italy secures the No. 3 seed, bringing her own brand of excellence to the competition. The No. 4 seed is held by Davaanasan Enkh Amar of Mongolia, a two-time Asian bronze medalist.
France's Kendra Dacher, the sixth seed, is a dark horse worth keeping an eye on. With two medals at the U23 World Championships under her belt, she possesses the potential for an unexpected surge in the tournament.
No. 1 - Zhamila Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan)
No. 2 - Amit Elor (United States)
No. 3 - Dalma Caneva (Italy)
No. 4 - Davaanasan Enkh Amar (Mongolia)
No. 5 - Shauna Kuebeck (Canada)
No. 6 - Kendra Dacher (France)
No. 7 - Qiandegenchagan (China)
No. 8 - Alina Levytska (Ukraine)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Gold – Amit Elor (United States); Silver – Zhamila Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Alexandra Anghel (Romania); Bronze – Masako Furuichi (Japan); 5th – Svetlana Oknazarova (Uzbekistan); 5th – Buse Cavusoglu Tosun (Turkey); 7th – Kendra Dacher (France); 8th – Shauna Kuebeck (Canada); 9th – Davaanasan Enkh Amar (Mongolia); 10th – Qiandegenchagan (China)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. – Gold – Masako Furuichi (Japan); Silver – Zhamila Bakbergenova (Kazakhstan); Bronze – Buse Cavusoglu Tosun (Turkey); Bronze – Anna Schnell (Germany); 5th – Cynthia Vescan (France); 5th – Davaanasan Enkh Amar (Mongolia); 7th – Divya Kakran (India); 8th – Anastasiya Zimiankova (Belarus); 9th – Sofiya Georgieva (Bulgaria); 10th – Kylie Welker (United States)
Note: 72 kg is a non-Olympic weight class, so there are no results from the 2020 Olympic Games held in Tokyo, Japan.
Leading the narrative at 76 kg is the awe-inspiring Adeline Gray, a six-time World champion and Olympic silver medalist. After taking a year off to embrace motherhood and welcome twins into the world, Gray has made a resounding return to the World stage.
Gray’s journey back has been nothing short of remarkable, as she conquered a fiercely competitive domestic field. At Final X, she avenged a loss to U20 World champion Kennedy Blades, cementing her position on the U.S. World Team. While Gray enters the tournament unseeded, her track record speaks volumes. If she's back to her gold-medal form, the field faces an uphill battle.
Samar Hamza of Egypt, the returning silver medalist and top seed, emerges as a strong contender for gold. As the African champion, Hamza carries a wealth of experience and determination. However, her vulnerability showed through in the past year, with three international competitions where she missed the medal stand, adding an element of unpredictability to this bracket.
Japan's Yuka Kagami and Estonia's Epp Mae return after clinching bronze medals at last year's event. Kagami, holding the sixth seed, brings her own unique strengths to the mix, although she hasn't competed internationally this year. Mae, the No. 3 seed, has faced challenges in 2023, missing out on medals in all four of her international competitions.
Justina Di Stasio, the 2018 World champion and No. 4 seed, could emerge as a formidable threat for gold. Her 2023 campaign includes three international medals, including a bronze at the Pan-American Championships. Fellow Pan-American bronze medalist Genesis Reasco of Ecuador boasts an impressive 2023 track record, amassing five medals, two of which were gold, in her last five tournaments. She enters the field as the No. 2 seed.
The list of seeded athletes is rounded out by Aiperi Medet Kyzy of Kyrgyzstan, a World bronze medalist; Cynthia Vescan of France, a European bronze medalist; and Francy Raedelt of Germany, a three-time age-group World medalist.
No. 1 - Samar Hamza (Egypt)
No. 2 - Genesis Reasco (Ecuador)
No. 3 - Epp Mae (Estonia)
No. 4 - Justina Di Stasio (Canada)
No. 5 - Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan)
No. 6 - Yuka Kagami (Japan)
No. 7 - Cynthia Vescan (France)
No. 8 - Francy Raedelt (Germany)
76 kg/167.5 lbs. – Gold – Yasemin Adar (Turkey); Silver – Samar Hamza (Egypt); Bronze – Yuka Kagami (Japan); Bronze – Epp Mae (Estonia); 5th – Genesis Reasco Valdez (Ecuador); 5th – Justina Di Stasio (Canada); 7th – Juan Wang (China); 8th – Gulmaral Yerkebayeva (Kazakhstan); 9th – Martina Kuenz (Austria); 10th – Tatiana Renteria (Colombia)
76 kg/167.5 lbs. – Gold – Adeline Gray (United States); Silver – Epp Mae (Estonia); Bronze – Samar Hamza (Egypt); Bronze – Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Kiran (India); 5th – Anastasiia Osniach Shustova (Ukraine); 7th – Zagardulam Naigalsuren (Mongolia); 8th – Yasuha Matsuyuki (Japan); 9th – Marina Surovtseva (RWF); 10th – Elmira Sydykova (Kazakhstan)
76 kg/167.5 lbs. – Gold – Aline Rotter Focken (Germany); Silver – Adeline Gray (United States); Bronze – Zhou Qian (China); Bronze – Yasemin Adar (Turkey); 5th – Aiperi Medet Kyzy (Kyrgyzstan); 5th – Hiroe Minagawa (Japan); 7th – Natalia Vorobieva (ROC); 8th - Epp Mae (Estonia); 9th – Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus); 10th – Samar Amer Ibrahim Hamza (Egypt)