U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team determined and busy preparing for Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
by Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling
The 2020 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was determined at a successful U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, April 2-3, which was covered live on NBCSN. The USA team competing in Tokyo will consist of 15 athletes (six in women’s freestyle, five in men’s freestyle and four in Greco-Roman). The USA competed in the final qualifying event, the World Olympic Games Qualifier in Sofia, Bulgaria, in early May, and was unsuccessful in qualifying at the remaining three Olympic weight classes (65 FS, 77 GR, 130 GR).
The United States trails only Russia (17) with the number of qualifiers for the Tokyo Games, and will be bringing a larger team to Tokyo than it qualified for Rio 2016 (14).
Training has been taking place in a variety of locations for each of the Olympic teams, with a combined Olympic camp for all three styles in Alpharetta, Ga., in June, as well as training in Colorado Springs. The final three Olympic training camps will be held in State College, Pa., (men’s freestyle), South Bend, Ind., (women’s freestyle) and Alpharetta, Ga. (Greco-Roman).
The acclimation camp for the teams in Japan will be held in Nakatsugawa, Japan, prior to the Olympic Games competition, which will be held in Tokyo, August 1-7. All of the Olympic wrestling competition will be brought to the world live via the Olympic Channel, with details to come.
A pair of 2016 Olympic champions are on the team, Helen Maroulis (57 kg W) and Kyle Snyder (97 kg FS), both who are also two-time World champions.
In 2016, Maroulis entered the Olympic Games with a 2015 World title under her belt. Maroulis wrestled her way to the Olympic finals, where she went head-to-head with one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, Saori Yoshida of Japan, a three-time Olympic champion and 13-time World gold medalist. On paper, Maroulis was considered the underdog, but on the mat, she knocked off the women’s wrestling giant with a 4-1 win for the Olympic title to become the first women’s wrestler from the USA to earn an Olympic gold medal. In 2017, Maroulis continued her dominant run with a gold medal at the World Championships, which she won without surrendering a single point to her opponents. In 2018, Maroulis suffered severe damage from a concussion, which kept her off the podium at the World Championships, and eventually kept her from competing in the 2019 World Team Trials. She heads into Tokyo, looking to repeat as Olympic champion while bouncing back from the injuries that have plagued her over the last couple of years.
Snyder won the 2016 Olympic title at 97 kg in men’s freestyle, becoming the youngest U.S. wrestler in history to win gold at the Games. Similar to Maroulis, Snyder collected World titles in 2015 and 2017 to bookend his Olympic gold medal. He also represented the USA at the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, where he won silver and bronze medals, respectively. After a year delay of the 2020 Games, Snyder seeks to earn his way back on top of the podium.
Five-time World champion and 2016 Olympian Adeline Gray (76kg W) has put herself in a favorable spot to win the women’s heavyweight division as the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Gray is coming off a fantastic quad, where she won World titles in 2018 and 2019 after stepping back for the 2017 season. With her gold-medal performances in 2019, Gray cemented herself in the history books as the first U.S. wrestler in any style to win five World titles. She also topped the World podium in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and claimed bronze medals in 2011 and 2013. The one accolade missing from her incredible resume is the elusive Olympic gold medal, which Gray has positioned herself to capture this time.
Joining Maroulis, Snyder and Gray in Tokyo as a multiple-time World champion is Kyle Dake (74kg FS), a 2018 and 2019 World champion, who knocked off 2012 Olympic champion and four-time World gold medalist Jordan Burroughs for the Team USA spot. Dake broke through in 2018 with the addition of two more non-Olympic weight classes, making the U.S. team at 79 kg. He dominated the field to bring home the gold and did the same thing in 2019. In April, he moved down to 74 kg to take on Burroughs, who had represented the U.S. at the weight for nine-consecutive years. Dake defeated Burroughs in the best-of-three series, winning in two matches. While he won’t be seeded in Tokyo, Dake is considered one of the biggest threats for the Olympic crown.
Three other World champions will represent the U.S. at the Olympics, including Jacarra Winchester (53kg W), Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68kg W) and David Taylor (86 kg FS).
Winchester blossomed over the last quad, winning spots on the 2018 and 2019 World Teams at 55 kg, a non-Olympic weight. In her World Championships debut, Winchester wrestled for a bronze medal, but came up just short to finish fifth in the world. In 2019, she stormed the World stage, earning a spot in the finals, where she defeated Nanami Irie of Japan, 5-3, to secure her first gold medal. For the Olympic year, she moved down to 53 kg and won the spot with ease.
Mensah-Stock, who is one of the top pound-for-pound wrestlers on the globe, also scored her World title in 2019, just a year after collecting bronze in the 2018 Worlds. Additionally, she was on the 2017 World Team, finishing ninth. Mensah-Stock has an interesting set-up for a redemption story. After winning the Olympic Team spot in 2016, Mensah-Stock failed to qualify the U.S. for the weight class and was unable to compete in Rio. Thanks to her gold-medal performance in 2019, she qualified the weight for the U.S. in Tokyo and has a chance to represent the Red, White and Blue on the Olympic stage. She enters the Games as the No. 1 seed at her weight class.
Many eyes will be on 86 kg as Taylor, a 2018 World champion, returns to World competition with his Olympic debut in Tokyo. Taylor impressed on his way to a gold medal in 2018, but his dominant streak came to a halt when he sustained a season-ending injury in early 2019, which kept him out of the World Team Trials. He returned to competition in early 2020 with a gold medal at the Pan American Olympic Qualifier, which qualified the U.S. for the Olympic Games at 86 kg. His only other international event since then was the 2021 Pan American Championships, where he cruised through the bracket for another gold. Regardless of his limited international competition over the last few years, Taylor remains a favorite for the gold in Japan.
Sarah Hildebrandt (50kg W) and Thomas Gilman (57kg FS) enter Tokyo with World silver medals that they have each earned during this quad, Gilman’s coming in 2017 and Hildebrandt’s coming in 2018. Hildebrandt represented the U.S. at 53 kg in 2018 and 2019, while Gilman was on the World Teams in 2017 and 2018. Both will compete in the lightest weight classes of their respective styles and will have some exciting matchups en route to the podium in Tokyo.
The rest of the team has extensive international success, including Kayla Miracle (62kg W), Gable Steveson (125kg FS), Ildar Hafizov (60 kg GR), Alejandro Sancho (67kg GR), John Stefanowicz (87kg GR) and G’Angelo Hancock (97kg GR).
Miracle and Steveson are multiple-time age-group World medalists with Miracle holding a 2016 Junior World bronze and 2019 U23 World silver. Steveson is a two-time Cadet World champion and 2017 Junior World champion. He made his Senior international debut in May at the Pan American Championships, where he won gold.
Hafizov is heading to his second Olympic Games, representing a different country than in his first Olympic appearance. A native of Uzbekistan, Hafizov made the 2008 Olympic Team for Uzbekistan and finished 11th in Beijing. His first time on Team USA was at the 2017 World Championships and again at the 2019 World Championships.
Hancock has been on the Senior U.S. World Team every year since 2017, even while he was still Junior eligible. Hancock has competed in several major international tournaments over the last few years, collecting multiple medals, including silver from the Pan American Olympic Qualifier in 2020, which qualified the U.S. for Tokyo at 97 kg. In addition to his Senior experience, Hancock is also a 2016 Junior World bronze medalist.
Stefanowicz, a Marine and top U.S. Greco contender, returns to the world stage at the Senior level as he was on the 2019 World Team at 82 kg, a non-Olympic weight. He bumped up to 87 kg to win the spot on the Olympic Team. He heads into Tokyo with back-to-back Pan Am titles to his name.
Sancho, who qualified the 67 kg weight for the USA, is no stranger to international competition; however, the 2020 Olympic Team marks his first U.S. team at the Senior level. Defeating his Army WCAP teammate and two-time Olympian Ellis Coleman for the Olympic spot, Sancho aims to be the first U.S. medalist at his weight class since 1992. He was a 2014 Junior World Team member and a 2017 U23 World Team member.
The USA wrestling team is primed to bring back a number of medals from Tokyo.
All team nominations are subject to U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee approval.
2020 U.S. Olympic Wrestling Team
50 kg – Sarah Hildebrandt (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOPTC/New York AC)
53 kg – Jacarra Winchester (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOPTC/Titan Mercury WC)
57 kg – Helen Maroulis (Rockville, Md./Sunkist Kids)
62 kg – Kayla Miracle (Tempe, Ariz./Sunkist Kids)
68 kg – Tamyra Mensah-Stock (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOPTC/Titan Mercury WC)
76 kg – Adeline Gray (Colorado Springs, Colo./USOPTC/New York AC)
57 kg – Thomas Gilman (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC)
74 kg – Kyle Dake (Ithaca, N.Y./Spartan Combat WC/Titan Mercury WC)
86 kg – David Taylor (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC)
97 kg – Kyle Snyder (State College, Pa./Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC)
125 kg – Gable Steveson (Apple Valley, Minn./Gopher WC RTC)
60 kg – Ildar Hafizov (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP)
67 kg – Alejandro Sancho (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP)
87 kg – John Stefanowicz (Camp LeJeune, N.C./U.S. Marines)
97 kg – G’Angelo Hancock (Colorado Springs, Colo./Sunkist Kids)
Olympic Games schedule
Sunday, August 1– Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (GR 60, 130; W 76 thru semis)
Monday, August 2- Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (GR 60, 130; W 76 finals; GR 77, 97; W 68 thru semis)
Tuesday, August 3- Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (GR 77, 97; W 68 finals; GR 67, 87; W 62 thru semis)
Wednesday, August 4- Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (GR 67, 87; W 62 finals; FS 57, 86; W 57 thru semi)
Thursday, August 5 - Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (FS 57, 86; W 57 finals; FS 74, 125; W 53 thru semis)
Friday, August 6- Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (FS 74, 125; W 53 finals; FS 65, 97; W 50 thru semis)
Saturday, August 7 - Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan (FS 65, 97; W 50 finals)