photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
History was made on Thursday in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan when Adeline Gray was victorious and captured the gold medal in the 76 kg weight class in women’s freestyle. Gray was previously tied with Tricia Saunders as American women with four world titles. Not only does Adeline now lead all US women for number world gold’s won, but she also holds the mark for American’s, in general. Both John Smith and Jordan Burroughs have four and their total medal count is boosted by Olympic medals.
Yesterday, Gray secured her place in the world finals by racking up three consecutive 10-0 tech falls, followed by a 5-2 victory over 2014 World Champion Aline Rotter Focken (Germany). That set the stage for a duel with Japan’s Hiroe Minagawa for the gold. Minagawa proved to be a dangerous opponent as she knocked off a pair of former world finalists along the way (Aline da Silva Ferreira – Brazil and Qian Zhou – China). Last year Minagawa was a bronze medalist in the weight class won by Gray, though the pair did not meet.
The gold medal bout between Gray and Minagawa started off slowly with Minagawa obviously respecting Gray’s proficiency on the mat and therefore giving no openings for a possible takedown. Despite the Japanese wrestler’s reluctance to engage or attempt anything offensively, it was Gray who was put on the 30-second shot clock. Adeline felt no urgency to overcommit to an attack and gave up a point to Minagawa who appeared to be headed to the break with a lead. With about ten seconds left in the period, Gray shot a double leg and was quickly able to convert for two points. Not satisfied with two points, Adeline bypassed an opportunity to lock up her patented leg lace for a gut wrench. This proved to be a good decision as she gained two exposure points as time expired in the period, to lead 4-1 at the break.
In the second period, Gray was content not to give Minagawa any openings and stuff any offensive attacks that she could muster. A step-out point in favor of Minagawa with four seconds remaining in the match accounted for all of the scoring in the second period and Gray had locked up the gold medal. After the final whistle, Adeline did what she had done four times previously and raised both arms directly above her head and waved to her adoring fans, before placing her hands on her head as if she had surprised herself by the accomplishment.
In addition to her five world championships, there are plenty of other historical notes associated with Adeline’s victory.
- Her win over Minigawa marked the first time that Gray had faced a Japanese wrestler in any of her world finals bouts.
- A day after Jacarra Winchester became the first American woman to defeat a Japanese opponent in the world finals since 2005, Gray duplicated the feat.
- She is now undefeated at the World Championships since 2013. Gray won titles in 2014-15. Following the Olympics, she did not compete at the 2017 tournament and was victorious in 2018.
- In addition to her five world titles, Adeline now has seven world medals total (two bronzes in 2011 and 2013).
- Her and Winchester have become only the fourth American women to capture World titles in the same year. More history can be on the horizon tomorrow…
Gray’s historic win capped off a day that could be summed up as just ok. On a positive note, Tamyra Mensah-Stock made tomorrow’s world finals at 68 kg. Tamyra’s signature win came in the quarterfinals when she disposed of World and Olympic Champion Sara Dosho (Japan), 10-1. Coming into the match, Dosho had not suffered a loss since 2015! Mensah-Stock’s first world title will have to go through 2012 World Champion Jenny Fransson (Sweden). Fransson shocked the returning world champion and top seed, Alla Cherkasova (Ukraine), 9-7 in the semifinals. In four matches, Mensah-Stock has outscored the competition 36-2.
On the other side of the coin, both of the men’s freestyle competitors, Daton Fix and Zain Retherford, were eliminated without any shot at the repechage. Both wrestlers, particularly Retherford, had brutal draws. Zain battled back late but fell in his first match to returning world medalist Alejandro Valdes Tobier (Cuba) 10-9. Fix dominated in his first match which led to a bout against 2017 World Champion, Yuki Takahashi (Japan). Daton was put on the shot clock twice and scored the matches only takedown in a controversial, 4-2 loss.
Along with Mensah-Stock, Kayla Miracle was in the group of the final two women’s freestyles who had yet to compete. Kayla blew through her first opponent 11-0 before meeting Lais de Nunes Oliveira (Brazil). Miracle came back in the second period to make the score look like a blowout at 15-4. Miracle would go down in her Round of 16 contest to Jong Sim Rim (North Korea) 6-6 on criteria. The turning point of the match was when a ruling was overturned after a challenge by the North Korea corner, which gave exposure points to Rim.
Miracle’s Hawkeye Wrestling Club teammate Forrest Molinari was in action, as well, competing for the bronze medal at the 65 kg weight class. Forrest was shocked by an early takedown from Xiaoqian Wang (China) and never recovered. Wang was able to expose Molinari four more times in the first minute of the match to win the bronze. It was the second consecutive year in which Forrest’s season has come to an end in the bronze medal match.