Olympic champion Maroulis wins twice to reach Olympic semifinals, to face Olympic champion Kawai of Japan

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Helen Maroulis (USA) turns Ningning Rong (CHN) at the Olympic Games. Photo by Larry Slater.

MAKUHARI, Chiba, Japan - 2016 Olympic champion Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Md./Sunkist Kids) opened with two strong wins at 57 kg in women’s freestyle at the Olympic Games. In tonight’s semifinals, Maroulis will face another 2016 Olympic champion, Risako Kawai of Japan.

Maroulis opened her tournament with an impressive 8-4 over No. 4 seed Ningning Rong from China, a 2018 World champion and 2019 World silver medalist. It was a close battle between two talents.

Rong led 1-0 when Maroulis was put on shot clock and couldn’t score. A Rong takedown made it 3-0. Maroulis was able to step over a Rong gut wrench attempt for two points, but Rong got a reversal and the score was 4-2 at the break. In the second period, Maroulis tied it at 4-4 with a takedown. Maroulis hit a nice counter tilt for two more and a 6-4 lead, then closed it out with another takedown for the 8-4 victory.

In the second period, Maroulis shut out 2015 World bronze medalist Tetyana Kit of Ukraine, 8-0. Maroulis scored four takedowns in the match, two in the first period and two more in the second period, while controlling the action for the entire match.

At the 2016 Olympics, neither Maroulis nor Kawai wrestled at 57 kg. Maroulis won her Olympic title at 53 kg, while Kawai was the champion at 62 kg. These two stars have won multiple World titles as well, with Kawai owning three World gold medals and Maroulis having two World gold medals of her own.

The semifinals round will begin at 6:15 p.m. local time, which is 5:15 a.m. in the U.S. Eastern time zone. Fans can watch the action live on the Olympic Channel.

Maroulis shocked the world in 2016 when she defeated three-time Olympic champion Saori Yoshida in the Olympic finals at 53 kg to become the first American woman to win an Olympic wrestling gold. The next year, she won her second World title in arguably one of the most impressive performances ever in 2017 in Paris. Since then, Maroulis has battled injuries and concussions, but was able to come back in 2020 and qualify the weight class for the USA at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier. She defeated multiple-time World Team member Jenna Burkert for the U.S. team berth. Maroulis is a product of Rockville, Md.

The U.S. had no athletes in repechage this morning, including the 62 kg weight class in women’s wrestling, as well as the final two Greco-Roman weight classes (67 kg, 87 kg).

U.S. women’s freestyle results

57 kg – Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Md./Sunkist Kids)

WIN Ningning Rong (China), 8-4

WIN Tetyana Kit (Ukraine), 8-0

Semifinals – Vs. Risako Kawai (Japan)

Group 4 women’s freestyle semifinal pairings

57 kg

Risako Kawai (Japan) vs. Helen Maroulis (USA)

Iryna Kurachkina (Belarus) vs. Evelina Nikolova (Bulgaria)