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Five World medalists highlight Junior women’s freestyle squad

by Joe Wedra, Special to

The United States is set to send an experienced and accomplished women’s freestyle lineup to the 2021 Junior World Championships in Ufa, Russia, August 16-22. The impressive team, which was finalized in May at the 2021 Women’s Nationals, boasts five World medalists. 

The tournament begins with men’s freestyle Aug. 16-18, followed by women’s freestyle Aug. 18-20 and closing out with Greco-Roman Aug. 20-22. Fans can watch all the action live on FloWrestling.

Full schedule with ET for Team USA

Leading the way is a pair of wrestlers who earned runner-up finishes at the Olympic Team Trials — Kennedy Blades (competing at 72 kg, OTT runner-up at 68 kg) and Kylie Welker (76 kg). Blades will be competing on her second World Team, as she was also a member of the 2019 Cadet World Team. Welker is a 2019 Cadet World bronze medalist, who wrestled five-time World champion Adeline Gray and eventual Olympic silver medalist in the finals of the Olympic Trials.

Korina Blades, Kennedy’s sister, will also represent Team USA at the event after earning the spot at 62 kg. She is a 2019 U15 World champion and represented the USA earlier this summer at the Cadet World Championships, where she finished seventh.

At 50 kg, Emily Shilson will represent the United States after earning a spot on her fourth age-group World Team. Shilson is a 2018 Cadet world champion and a 2017 Cadet World silver medalist. The Minnesota native also took second at the Junior Pan-American Championships in 2019. Shilson was dominant at the 2020 U23 and UWW Junior Nationals in November, winning the 50 kg title in both divisions.

Alara Boyd will represent the USA at 65 kg, looking to make another splash on the World stage after winning a silver medal at the 2017 Cadet World Championships. Boyd also won a Cadet World bronze medal wrestling at the 2016 Cadet Worlds. This will be her first international competition since competing at the 2019 Junior World Championships, where she wrestled at 62 kg. Boyd, who wrestles at McKendree University, placed fourth at the 2020 Olympic Team Trials at 68 kg.

Amit Elor will be wrestling for the United States at 68 kg just weeks after winning a gold medal at the Cadet World Championships in July, which added to her 2019 Cadet World bronze medal. Elor earned the Most Outstanding Wrestler honor at Women’s Nationals after not giving up a single point at the event en route to earning a spot on the team. She is currently training in New York at the NYC RTC with coach Valentin Kalika. 

At 53 kg, Jaslynn Gallegos will represent on the world stage after World Team Trials champion and 2018 Cadet World bronze medalist Tiare Ikei had to withdraw due to injury. Gallegos competes collegiately at Presbyterian College, the first Division I women’s wrestling program, where she took third at the 2021 National Collegiate Women`s Wrestling Championship. Earlier this summer, Gallegos won silver at the Junior Pan American Championships.

Payton Stroud, another McKendree standout, will represent the USA at 55kg. This marks Stroud’s first appearance on a World team, earning the spot by defeating Amani Jones in the Women’s Nationals finals. The Washington native was a third-place finisher at Junior Nationals in 2019.

At 57kg, Claire DiCugno is representing the United States for the first time on a national team. Training out of the Takedown Express Wrestling Club in Washington, DiCugno took fifth at the 2020 Junior Nationals in November before defeating 2019 U15 World champion Jennifer Soto twice in the finals of May’s Women’s Nationals to earn the Junior World team spot.

2019 Cadet Pan American champion Mia Macaluso of New York will wrestle at 59kg for Team USA. The East Stroudsburg wrestler notched two pins over London Houston in the Women’s Nationals best-of-three finals to secure her spot on the team.


Aug. 16-22 | Ufa, Russia

U.S. women’s freestyle roster
50 kg: Emily Shilson (Maple Grove, Minn./Titan Mercury WC)
53 kg: Jaslynn Gallegos (Brighton, Colo./Blue Chip WC)
55 kg: Payton Stroud (Buckley, Wash./McKendree Bearcat WC)
57 kg: Claire DiCugno (Lake Taps, Wash./Takedown Express WC)
59 kg: Mia Macaluso (Otisville, N.Y./Team New York)
62 kg: Korina Blades (Broadview, Ill./Izzy Style WC)
65 kg: Alara Boyd (Muncie, Ind./McKendree Bearcat WC)
68 kg: Amit Elor (Walnut Creek, Calif./Titan Mercury WC)
72 kg: Kennedy Blades (Broadview, Ill./Izzy Style WC)
76 kg: Kylie Welker (Franksville, Wisc./Titan Mercury WC)

National Women’s Freestyle Development Coach: Jessica Medina (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
Coach: Sam Schmitz (Lebanon, Ill.)
Coach: Erin Vandiver (Kingston, Pa.)

Medical: Dr. Vermon Esplin
Medical: Chad Smidt

Official: Cody Goessl
Official: Brock Zollinger
Official: Cody Hesser

Communications: Taylor Miller

Team leader: Paul Kieblesz

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