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UPDATE: U.S. Women’s Freestyle team set to wrestle at U23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia

by Joe Wedra, USA Wrestling

Photo of Kylie Welker by Tony Rotundo.

The United States will send an impressive women's freestyle team to the U23 World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia next week. The tournament will take place November 1-7, as the U.S. team features plenty of young talent set to hit the mat.

The team was set in May at the U23 Women’s Nationals in Irving, Texas.

Leading Team USA is a pair of wrestlers who won Junior World titles in Ufa, Russia in August – Emily Shilson (50 kg) and Kylie Welker (76 kg).

Shilson enters the tournament looking to continue her dominance at the 50 kg weight class. The Augsburg University wrestler cruised through her bracket at Junior Worlds, winning gold in convincing fashion. This is her second time on the U23 World team – she also represented Team USA at the 2019 World Championships. She is looking to collect her fourth career age-group World medal.

Welker has had a busy year, as she is competing at her third World Championships of 2021. She won a Junior world gold medal in Ufa with Shilson, and also represented the U.S. at the 2021 Senior World Championships in Oslo at the start of November. Her year began with a head-turning run at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, where she was the runner-up at 76 kg behind Adeline Gray. Welker will be competing for her third age-group World medal in Belgrade.

Ronna Heaton (53 kg), another former age-group World medalist (2015 Cadet World champion, 2016 Cadet World silver), will represent the Red, White and Blue after taking second at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team trials. Heaton won the 2021 Senior Pan-American Championships at 53 kg and took the top spot at the U23 Nationals in May.

Alyvia Fiske returns to the World stage, representing the United States at 68 kg. This marks Fiske’s fourth age-group World team, as she was on the Junior team in 2018 and 2019 as well as the U23 team in 2019. The 2019 Final X runner-up looks poised to be a strong medal contender for the U.S.

At 55 kg, Alex Hedrick, a two-time Junior World team member (2018, 2019) will compete for the U.S. Hedrick has had an impressive year, winning both the Senior Nationals and the U23 Nationals. She also took fourth at the Olympic Team Trials in May. The Fair Oaks, Calif. native defeated New York’s Sofia Mirabella, two matches to none, at U23 Nationals to earn the spot.

Michaela Beck of the Wisconsin RTC will represent Team USA at 59 kg. Beck, a 2019 Junior World team member, won both the U23 Nationals and the Last Chance Olympic Qualifier this year. She’ll look to win her first career age-group World medal at this tournament. She defeated Brenda Reyna in two consecutive matches to secure the 59 kg spot.

2019 Senior Nationals champion Emma Bruntil of McKendree University is the United States representative at 62 kg. Bruntil, a two-time Fargo champion, took fourth at the Olympic Team Trials in April. This is her first time competing on a U.S. World team.

Amanda Martinez will wrestle at 57kg, a late addition to the roster as a replacement for U23 Nationals winner Cheyenne Sisenstein. Martinez is a senior at North Central College. She was the runner-up at U23 Nationals behind Sisenstein. This will be her first World Championships competition. 

Ashlynn Ortega, Sisenstein’s teammate at King, will compete in the event at 65 kg. Ortega was a 2016 Cadet World team member and also won the 2020 U23 Nationals. She knocked off McKendree’s Alara Boyd in the finals of the U23 Nationals in May to earn a spot on her second career age-group World team.

Kayla Marano (72 kg) was recently announced as a replacement for Kennedy Blades for Team USA. She is a 2015 Cadet World bronze medalist. A recent transfer to McKendree from Emmanuel College, Marano also won the U23 Nationals in 2020. She was a 2017 Junior Folkstyle Nationals champion and a 2016 Fargo champion.

Women’s wrestling action in Belgrade will take place November 3-5 and can be streamed live on FloWrestling.
U.S. women’s freestyle roster
50 kg: Emily Shilson (Maple Grove, Minn./Titan Mercury WC)
53 kg: Ronna Heaton (Brookings, S.Dak./Wisconsin RTC/Sunkist Kids WC)
55 kg: Alex Hedrick (Fair Oaks, Calif./Titan Mercury WC)
57 kg: Amanda Martinez (Riverside, Ill./Cardinal Wrestling Club)
59 kg: Michaela Beck (New York, N.Y./Wisconsin RTC/Sunkist Kids WC)
62 kg: Emma Bruntil (Acme, Wash./Titan Mercury WC/McKendree Bearcat WC)
65 kg: Ashlynn Ortega (Pueblo, Colo./New York AC)
68 kg: Alyvia Fiske (Napa, Calif./Titan Mercury WC)
72 kg: Kayla Marano (Jefferson, Ga./McKendree Bearcat WC)
76 kg: Kylie Welker (Franksville, Wisc./Titan Mercury WC)

USA Wrestling Women’s Freestyle Development Coach – Jessica Medina, Colorado Springs, Colo.
U.S. Women’s Freestyle National Head Coach – Terry Steiner, Colorado Springs, Colo.
2021 U23 World Championships

at Belgrade, Serbia (Nov. 1-7)

Women’s freestyle schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 3

10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (WFS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
4:45 p.m. – Semifinals (WFS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
Thursday, Nov. 4
10:30 a.m. – Qualification rounds (WFS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (WFS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)
4:45 p.m. – Semifinals (WFS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
6:00 p.m. – Finals (WFS 50 kg, 55 kg, 59 kg, 68 kg, 76 kg)

Friday, Nov. 5
10:30 a.m. – Repechage (WFS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)
6:00 p.m. – Finals (WFS 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 65 kg, 72 kg)