photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
Tuesday marked the first day of competition for the women’s freestyle wrestlers at the 2019 World Championships. Overall, it was a solid performance for the American team. Four women got their tournaments started, and after one day of action, one is in the final and two others will be battling for bronze medals on Wednesday.
The first American to make the world finals at the 2019 tournament was Jacarra Winchester at 55 kg. Winchester was competing in her second World Championship event and was dangerously close to coming home with a medal in 2018, before settling for fifth place. That isn’t a concern in 2019, as she has already clinched at least a silver medal. Her focus will be on grabbing the gold after her meeting with Japan’s Nanami Irie in tomorrow’s final. Irie is a 2015 Junior World Champion that also locked up her first Senior-level medal with her finals berth.
Winchester was the last American to hit the mat on Tuesday, but she proved to be worth the wait. Facing Kyrgyzstan’s Madina Nadirova, Winchester avoided a scary situation early in the match when Nadirova seemingly had an upper body throw locked up and ready to unleash. Not only did Winchester avoid surrendering any points in that flurry, but she also came up with her own. Throughout the bout, she was able to score on reattacks and punctuated her finishes by planting Nadirova into the mat, which prevented giving up any exposure points. As Jacarra was looking to finish off a tech late in the second period, Nadirova was able to get a takedown of her own. Immediately after the fact, Winchester responded by unleashing a four-point throw which sealed the match 13-2.
The win over Nadirova propelled Winchester into the semifinals against the second seed Badiha Gun of Turkey. Both wrestlers were tentative in the early going and it was Gun who was put on the 30-second shot clock. During that time, she was able to earn two exposure points on Winchester. Though she was briefly behind on the scoreboard, Jacarra never got down and pressured her Turkish opponent into giving up takedowns on three separate occasions. In the last 15 seconds of the match, Winchester was hit for a caution and one while sidestepping a Gun attack, but that just made the final score seem closer than it actually was at 6-4.
One of the faces of USA Wrestling on the women’s side, Sarah Hildebrandt, was in action as the top seed at 53 kg. Sarah needed just over a minute to dispose of her first opponent, Thi Dao Bui (Vietnam), with a takedown followed by four leg laces. The win put Hildebrandt in the quarterfinals against Japan’s Mayu Mukaida, a two-time world champion, who had dropped down from 55 kilos in 2018. Mukaida proved to be too quick and athletic for Sarah and rolled to a 12-1 tech. Hildebrandt was pulled back into repechage after Mukaida got by Greece’s Maria Prevolaraki, 4-0. She now has a match set for tomorrow with Vinesh (India), who had handed Sarah her only previous loss in 2019 at the Dan Kolov/Nikola Petrov Tournament. If Hildebrandt wins, she will not only have the opportunity to meet Prevolaraki for the bronze medal, but also qualify the United States for the Olympics at 53 kgs.
The second American woman with medal hopes still alive in tomorrow’s repechage is the 72 kg representative, Victoria Francis. Victoria’s tournament started after a dominant victory over Canada’s Dejah Slater. The two had met earlier this year and Francis took the win in a close 4-1 win over Slater. Francis opened it up this time as she started her scoring with a step-out point. Then came a takedown which led to an armbar for the American. Up 5-0 with a pair of exposure points, Francis switched over to a headlock finish where she was able to garner the fall.
Now in the semifinals, Francis would square off with Ukraine’s Alina Berezhna Stadnik, a world champion from back in 2013. In the early stages of the match, it was evident that Francis was able to control the ties and was more physical that the Ukrainian anticipated. The turning point of the bout came in the first period when Berezhna Stadnik his Francis in a headlock for four points. Victoria fought gallantly to avoid the fall and was able to make it back to her feet. Those prove points were the only scored by either wrestler as Berezhna Stadnik was able to stop all attacks thrown at her by Victoria for the last period, plus. The Ukrainian would also be unscored upon in her semifinal match against China’s Paliha, winning 7-0. Now Francis will meet Paliha in Wednesday’s bronze medal match.
The lightest member of the team Whitney Conder got the day started at 50 kg by facing North Korean Son Hyang Kim (North Korea). Kim was extremely stingy defensively and never got out of position and provided an opening for Conder to score. Even on the rare occasion when Whitney was able to get to Kim’s legs, she was able to stymie the attack. Kim picked her spots and was up by a pair of takedowns at the end of the first period, 4-0. A late exchange, which was initially ruled four points for the North Korean, was changed to only two points, but still moved the score to 6-0. Conder continued to try to get on the scoreboard until the final horn, but was stopped repeatedly by Kim.