Pictured: Team USA U23 World Team member Kayla Marano (72kg). Photo by Tony Rotundo.
Session seven at the U23 World Championships Thursday morning in Belgrade was a busy session for Team USA. Alyvia Fiske (68kg) competed in (and won) repechage early Thursday. Then, the second group of women’s freestylers started brackets: Ronna Heaton – 53kg, Amanda Martinez – 57kg, Emma Bruntil – 62kg, Ashlynn Ortega – 65kg, and Kayla Marano – 72kg.
They say basketball is a “game of runs.” Well, it happens in wrestling too. Team USA won five straight matches before losing four of their next five bouts, all in the quarterfinal round.
Inside the Repechage Round
Fiske started things off on the right foot for Team USA with a dramatic 5-4 decision at the buzzer to take out India’s Monika. Trailing 4-1 heading into the final 10 seconds, Fiske made the most of her time. The American was able to add and a takedown plus a pair of points for exposure. Fiske was able to get the 5-4 win to survive and advance. She’ll wrestle for a U23 bronze on Friday.
Inside the Winning Streak
At 62kg, Emma Bruntil was the first American athlete from the second grouping to take to the mat during session seven. Bruntil got the 8-1 over Turkey’s Yagmur Cakmak, who took seventh at the 2021 Junior World Championships earlier this year. Bruntil used four takedowns while only surrendering a step-out point during the match.
In Ronna Heaton’s opening match, her superb counter defense was the story of her bout with Kazakhstan’s Ellada Makhyaddinova, who took 10th at the 2018 Junior World Championships. With Heaton up 2-1 at the break, she used her counter defense to win period two. First, she countered Kazakhstan’s shot for two points to lead 4-1. Then, Heaton countered a second shot and put Makhyaddinova to her back for the fall at 53kg.
At 57 kg, Amanda Martinez was equally dominant in her opening match. Up 2-0 on a pair of caution points at the break, Martinez poured it on in the final period. Martinez used three takedowns and a turn to get the 10-0 tech over Kazakhstan’s Zeinep Bayanova, who took 11th at this year’s Junior World Championships. It was an excellent start for the American who is on her first career age-group World squad.
Ashlynn Ortega extended the Team USA winning streak to five matches after USA’s reigning two-time U23 Nationals champ took out Kenya’s Winrose Alivisa, a 2019 African Championships bronze medalist, in Thursday’s opening round. Both exchanged takedowns, but it was Ortega’s two step-outs that made the difference. The American held on to win 4-2.
A Tough Quarterfinal Round
After winning five matches in a row, the Red, White, and blue hit a bit of a snag. Bruntil, Heaton, Martinez, and Ortega all were on the losing end of their quarterfinal matchups. Ortega lost by fall while Martinez and Bruntil suffered 11-0 technical falls, and Heaton went down with a 6-1 decision.
At 72kg, however, after a bye in her first-round, Kayla Marano, a 2015 Cadet bronze medalist, beat Maria Nitu with a commanding 11-0 decision, punching her ticket to the semifinal round later today.
Here’s a look at to session eight later today. There will be many things to watch for during the afternoon session Thursday. Bruntil, Heaton, Martinez, and Ortega await semifinal results to see if they’ll have repechage re-entry.
Marano will look for a win over Anastasiya Alpyeyeva, 2019 Junior World Championships bronze medalist and ninth-place finisher at the 2019 U23 Senior World Championships. Should Kayla win, she will to wrestle for gold tomorrow.
Also, Emily Shilson (50kg) and Alyvia Fiske (68kg), and Kylie Welker (76kg) will be wrestling for U23 medals later in the afternoon session. Shilson is going for gold against India’s Shivani Pawar. Fiske will face Ukraine’s Oksana Chudyk, a 2021 U23 Senior European Championships gold medalist, for bronze. Welker is also going for bronze against Ecuador’s Reasco Valdez, a 2021 Senior Pan-American Senior Championships silver medalist.