Pictured: Team USA 2021 women’s freestyle World Teamer Kennedy Blades.
As day four begins at the 2021 Junior World Championships inside Ufa Arena in Ufa, Russia, Team USA sent its second half of the women’s freestyle lineup to the mats. With that, Jaslynn Gallegos (53 kg), Claire DiCugno (57 kg), Korina Blades (62 kg), Alara Boyd (65 kg), and Kennedy Blades (72 kg) began their respective brackets.
While the first group of USA women’s freestylers set a high bar – placing four of five in medal contention heading into day four (three for gold and one in repechage) – the second USA grouping stumbled out of the gate to start session seven.
At both 65 kg and 57 kg, Boyd and DiCugno found themselves on the losing end of technical superiority decisions in the Round of 16. First, Boyd was taken down, exposed, and gutted by Senior European champ Irina Ringaci (Moldova) for an early 6-0 by Moldova. Trailing 8-0 at the break, Boyd added a second-period takedown but couldn’t do more than that. Boyd fell in the opener 9-2.
At 57 kg, it was more of the same for the Americans, unfortunately. DiCugno was in a 6-0 hole after a go-behind and leg lace for two turns by India’s Mansi Mansi. DiCugno never recovered from her 6-2 deficit at the break. In the second period, the American found another takedown but ultimately was defeated 16-4 in her tournament opener.
Boyd now awaits the semifinals to see if she will get pulled into repechage. DiCugno has been eliminated as her Round of 16 opponent, Mansi Mansi, fell in the quarterfinals in a lopsided decision..
The Blades sisters were able to right the ship for Team USA with their Round of 16 showings. Older sister Kennedy (72 kg) made quick work of her Russian foe, getting the 10-0 technical superiority over Mariam Guseinova. Kennedy started the match with a big four-pointer out of the gate. The 2021 Olympic Team Trials runner-up added another four points via single-leg takedown with exposure. Kennedy used a final takedown to cap it off.
In her quarterfinal matchup, Kennedy authored yet another easy and quick 10-0 tech, this time over Nurzat Nurtaeva of Kyrgyzstan. Two quick single-legs, one accompanied by a tilt, gave Blades a 6-0 lead. Kennedy finished it with a takedown into a trap-arm gut for a 10-0 win with more than four minutes remaining.
Korina (62 kg) required the full six minutes to beat Nadzeya Bulanaya (Belarus) in the Round of 16 but still won convincingly nonetheless. A snap down to go-behind and turn gave Korina a quick 4-0 advantage. A nice single-leg takedown gave her a 6-0 lead at the break. Bulanaya ended the shutout with a takedown in the second via single-leg, but that was as close as things would get. Korina added two step-outs to preserve the 8-2 win and advance.
In the quarters, Korina was responsible for what will likely be the biggest comeback of the tournament. With under a minute remaining and tailing 10-1 against Yagmur Cakmak (Turkey), Korina lands a Dresser dump that sent Cakmak to her back. Korina dramatically earned the fall, sending tears of joy down her face and placing the Wyoming Seminary prep to the 2021 World semifinals.
Team USA also added a third semifinalist along with the Blades sisters in Jaslynn Gallegos at 53 kg. Gallegos took down Chamodya Maduravalage Don (Sri Lanka) to advance. After falling behind 2-1, the American poured it on. Ultimately, three big four-point moves (two in the last second period) helped Gallego surge past the grappler out of Sri Lanka by way of a 13-3 tech fall. This tech was the lone match of the session for Gallegos.
Unfortunately, McKendree University wrestler Payton Stroud was eliminated from the 2021 Junior World Championships on Thursday morning as well, falling in her repechage match at 55 kg 10-0 to 2019 Cadet World bronze Munkhgerel Munkhbat from Mongolia. Stroud’ went 1-1 in Russia.
Looking ahead, six Americans will be in action during session eight later today. Kennedy, Korina, and Jaslynn all have semifinal bouts ahead of them, while Emily Shilson (50 kg), Amit Elor (68 kg), and Kylie Welker (76 kg) will be wrestling in gold-medal matches.
A look ahead to session 8 in a few hours! ⬇️ https://t.co/qQhbF6xIw9
— TheOpenMat (@theopenmat) August 19, 2021