This weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada, the U.S. Open for Greco-Roman and women’s freestyle wrestling takes center stage. On the line are spots at April’s World Team Trials for the top seven finishers at each weight and, for the winners of the Olympic weights, the top seed in the spring.
This is the women’s freestyle portion of the preview. You can find the Greco preview here. 48 kg, 53 kg, 55 kg, and 58 kg, the lighter half of the weights, go on day one, Saturday, December 17th, starting at 9 am with medal matches scheduled for 7:30 pm. The schedule is the same for day two on Sunday with 60 kg, 63 kg, 69 kg, and 75 kg taking the mat. You can read up on the world team trials qualification procedures here as that may shed some light on why some good athletes are here and some are not.
The overall numbers aren’t high for women’s freestyle, but the quality in this field is excellent. The entrants list used for this preview was pulled at 3:45 on Wednesday afternoon. Anyone who registered after that was not included.
Victoria Anthony was second at the Olympic trials and has been to a world championship before, finishing fifth in 2013. She recently proved she was in good form with a Bill Farrell title and is a heavy favorite here. Her main rival was third at the Bill Farrell and is a three-time Junior world medalist, Erin Golston. Expect those two to square off in the final with Anthony winning comfortably.
Just as Victoria Anthony is at 48 kg, Whitney Conder is a heavy favorite at 53 kg. Conder was also a runner-up at the Olympic trials, falling in the best-of-three finals to eventual Olympic gold medalist Helen Maroulis. Conder was the American representative at the 2015 world championships when Maroulis was still up at 55 kg. Whitney tried her hand at that weight this year after losing out on an Olympic spot, only to come up just short again, finishing second at the non-Olympic weight world team trials to Sarah Hildebrandt. While there will be battles ahead for Conder as she seeks to get back on the world team, this shouldn’t be one of them. No other wrestler in the field can match her accomplishments and it will be a surprise if one can give her a tough bout.
Continuing the trend of heavy favorites in women’s freestyle, Kelsey Campbell, who won the Olympic trials at 58 kg but was unable to qualify the weight forcing her to miss competing in Rio, should cruise to the title at 55 kg. Campbell was another of Hildebrandt’s victims at the non-Olympic weight world team trials, falling in the semis to miss out on a trip to what would have been her third world championships. She could face a pair of opponents who are ranked in the top eight at the college level. That would give Dominique Parrish (Simon Fraser) and Alicia Reyes (Missouri Valley) a good measuring stick as they move forward.
With Campbell down at 55, the door is open for a new face to emerge at 58. That face could be well known in the women’s wrestling community if it ends up being two-time Junior world bronze medalist Kayla Miracle, who is also ranked number one at the college level. Miracle bumped up to 60 kg to chase a world team spot in November, but was beaten in the semi-finals by eventual world silver medalist Alli Ragan. At that same tournament, Lauren Louive, who may be Miracle’s chief rival in this field, reached the finals at 58 before being chopped down by Becka Leathers. Those two could well meet in the finals.
It has been a long couple of years for Jenna Burkert after being on the 2014 world team. She has taken a fair number of losses in that time, but they are all to quality opponents. Burkert doesn’t often lose to anyone outside the top few in the United States. With none of them in this field, she should be the favorite. Unless someone enters on the last day, Burkert will face an extremely young field. Two of her opponents are college freshmen with Abigail Nette being ranked eighth by the Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA). Another, Arian Carpio was wrestling at the Cadet Pan-Ams in 2014 which means she was still Junior eligible this year. Every veteran must eventually face the youth trying to knock them off, but Burkert is only 23. Her best days on the mat should lie in front of her.
A trio of talented young wrestlers will compete at 63 kg. Maya Nelson and Alexis Porter both earned Junior world bronze medals over the summer with Nelson’s coming at this weight while Porter was up at 67 kg. Those two will be title contenders, but Jessica Kee will also have her eyes on the podium’s top step. Kee is ranked second at 143 pounds, behind Mallory Velte, by the WCWA. Kee is a two-time WCWA All-American who should not be taken lightly. It is anyone’s guess who will come out on top and it may come down to who fits the weight best.
Two-time WCWA national champion Julia Salata, who was fourth at the Olympic trials in April, is the favorite against a small field at 69 kg. Salata is now an assistant coach at her alma mater, King University, which should keep her sharp, working out in a room with plenty of talented wrestlers. As of this writing, she had just two opponents to contend with. Ophelia Lara is a freshman at Emmanuel College while Cara Romeike (Jamestown) is a sophomore. They will get a good measure of where they stand facing Salata.
This weight could be interesting due to the potential size difference between the competitors. Erin Clodgo was successful in getting 63 kg qualified for the Olympics before falling at the Olympic trials to Elena Pirozhkova. Clodgo was also the American rep at 63 kg at the 2015 world championships. Now she heads all the way up to 75 kg. One of the other entrants here will be Alyssa Cantu who is ranked eighth in college at 191 pounds. For comparison, Clodgo was wrestling 138.9 pounds in April. Yvette Garcia, who was second at the California state tournament last year as a high school senior, was wrestling 160. Clodgo should win assuming Cantu isn’t too big for her.