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2021 U.S. Olympic Team Trials Women’s Freestyle Lightweight previews: 50 kg, 53 kg and 57 kg

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Helen Maroulis has her arm raised in victory at the 2017 World Championships.

The 2021 Olympic Team Trials are just around the corner, set for April 2-3 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fans can watch all of this weekend’s action live on NBC and its platforms.

Below is a short preview of each of the first three weight classes.

50 kg

This should be one of the deepest and most competitive weight classes among the women’s competition. Sitting out into the Final X best-of-three series is 2018 World silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, who qualified the USA for the Olympic Games at 50 kg by reaching the finals of the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier in Canada. Hildebrandt has been dominant since she moved down to 50 kg for the Olympic year, and comes in with confidence.

There are three others in the draw who have represented the USA at the Senior World Championships in the past. No. 1 seed Whitney Conder, who was at 50 kg on the same 2019 World Team as Hildebrandt, has competed in five Senior World Championships for the USA, and is a past Pan American Games champion. Alyssa Lampe, a two-time World bronze medalist, made a comeback in late 2019 and drew the No. 2 seed with some key recent wins. Victoria Anthony, who has been fifth at Senior Worlds twice and is a two-time Junior World champion, came in with No. 3 seed.

Two veteran past National Team members have nailed the next two seeds, No. 4 Amy Fearnside and No. 5 Erin Golston. Both are past age-group World medalists and are capable of a run to the finals. The top college star is Emily Shilson, who has won two NCWWC (NCAA schools) titles and a WCWA title, and is a past Youth Olympic Games champion and Cadet World champion.

One of three high school stars in the women’s field is Last Chance Qualifier winner Sage Mortimer, who was a Fargo All-American in both the girls and boys divisions. The rest of the field is loaded with college talent, including Alleah Gould, 2021 NAIA champion McKayla Campbell amd Nina Pham, 2021 NCWWC champion Angelina Gomez and 2020 NCWA champion Esthela Trevino. 2018 U23 World Team member Charlotte Fowler is also in the mix.

50 kg seeds

Sarah Hildebrandt (New York AC) - sitting to the best-of-three finals

1. Whitney Conder (U.S. Army WCAP)

2. Alyssa Lampe (Sunkist Kids)

3. Victoria Anthony (Sunkist Kids)

4. Amy Fearnside (Titan Mercury WC)

5. Erin Golston (NYAC)

6. Emily Shilson (Titan Mercury WC)

7. Alleida Martinez (Titan Mercury WC

8. Aleeah Gould (Tornado WC)

9. McKayla Campbell (Campbellsville)

10. Nina Pham (Wayland Baptist)

11. Sage Mortimer (Champions WC)

12. Angelina Gomez (Emmanuel)

13. Esthela Trevino (Umpqua CC)

14. Charlotte Fowler (River Valley WC)

53 kg

Sitting out is 2019 World champion Jacarra Winchester, who won her World title up at 55 kg but made the drop down to 53 kg for her Olympic run. Winchester qualified this weight class for Tokyo by reaching the finals at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier. Winchester has been dominant throughout the pandemic, securing first-period technical falls in most of her matches along the way.

Securing the top seed is 2019 Senior Nationals champion Dominique Parrish, who won two WCWA college national titles and has made numerous age-group World Teams. Areana Villaescusa, a 2019 Senior Nationals runner-up, qualified at the 2019 Bill Farrell International and draws the No. 2 seed. Katherine Shai, a multiple-time National Team member and past U.S. Olympic Team Trials medalist, is the most experienced athlete in the field and secured the No. 3 seed. Shai is a past University World champion.

Leading the pack of young stars is No. 4 seed Alex Hedrick, a 2018 Senior Nationals champion and Final X finalist, who has dropped weight to compete in this weight class. Ronna Heaton, a past Cadet World champion, has some key wins during events held during the pandemic to rise to the No. 5 seed. Alisha Howk, fourth at the 2019 Senior Nationals, is another rising talent sitting at No. 6.

The rest of the field is led by 2021 NCWWC national champion Felicity Taylor, the No. 7 seed, and 2021 NAIA national champion Peyton Prussin, the No. 8 seed. College athletes who have reached Fort Worth include 2020 WCWA champion Jaslynn Gallegos, 2021 NAIA champion Jasmine Hernandez, plus Melanie Mendoza and Marissa Gallegos.

53 kg seeds

Jacarra Winchester (Titan Mercury WC) - sitting to the best-of-three finals

1. Dominique Parrish (Sunkist Kids)

2. Areana Villaescusa (Army WCAP)

3. Katherine Shai (Titan Mercury WC)

4. Alex Hedrick (Titan Mercury WC)

5. Ronna Heaton (Sunkist Kids)

6. Alisha Howk (Sunkist Kids)

7. Felicity Taylor (McKendree Bearcat WC)

8. Peyton Prussin (Life)

9. Jaslynn Gallegos (Presbyterian College)

10. Melanie Mendoza (Tornado WC)

11. Marissa Gallegos (Colorado Mesa)

12. Jasmine Hernandez (Lyon)

57 kg

2016 Olympic champion Helen Maroulis has advanced directly to the final series, after qualifying the weight class for the Olympics by reaching the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier. A two-time World champion, Maroulis has overcome concussions and injuries during this quadrennium, but enters with good health and confidence. Maroulis is the only American with an Olympic gold medal, and seeks to become our nation’s first two-time Olympic medalist in women’s wrestling.

The No. 1 seed in the Challenge Tournament is 2019 World Team member Jenna Burkert, who has been on three U.S. Senior World Teams and is a Pan American Games silver medalist. Sitting at No. 2 is two-time World silver medalist Alli Ragan, who has been on numerous Senior World Teams. Ragan did not medal at the 2019 Worlds and has a few losses on her record, but has a proven track record.

Coming in at No. 3 is Last Chance Olympic Trials Qualifier champion Xochitl Mota-Pettis, a young star with a win over Ragan at the 2020 Senior Nationals. Abigail Nette, the December 2019 Senior Nationals champion and a WCWA national titlist, comes in at No. 4. Cameron Guerin, a 2021 NCWWC champion who was third at the 2019 Senior Nationals and is a two-time Junior World team member, snagged the No. 5 seed.

Past National Team member Lauren Louive has been a Final X finalist. Veteran Shauna Kemp, who is also a college coach at Jamestown and a multiple Senior Nationals placer, brings experience and talent. Brenda Reyna, Cheyenne Sisenstein, Julia Vidallon, Bridgette Duty and Tiana Jackson boast college national titles on their resume. Another collegian to watch is Amanda Martinez.

57 kg seeds

Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids) - sitting to the best-of-three finals

1. Jenna Burkert (Army WCAP)

2. Alli Ragan (Sunkist Kids)

3. Xochitl Mota-Pettis (Rise RTC)

4. Abby Nette (Sunkist Kids)

5. Cameron Guerin (Titan Mercury WC)

6. Tiana Jackson (Menlo WC)

7. Shauna Kemp (Titan Mercury WC)

8. Brenda Reyna (McKendree Bearcat WC)

9. Cheyenne Sisenstein (Tornado WC)

10. Lauren Louive (NYAC)

11. Bridgette Duty (Patriot WC)

12. Amanda Martinez (Cardinal WC)
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