photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
A day after becoming the first US wrestler to make the finals of the 2019 World Championships, Jacarra Winchester also was the first American to win gold. Jacarra was faced with an imposing task, having to go through Japan’s Nanami Irie for her championship at 55 kg’s. Irie was a Cadet and Junior World Champion that was making her first appearance at the Senior World Championships. On her way to the final, Irie sandwiched two 10-0 tech fall’s around a 7-4 win in the quarterfinals.
Early on in the bout, Winchester set the tone by stuffing a deep double-leg attempt by her Japanese opponent. That defensive stop let her know that even though Irie wrestled for the mighty, world power, she was indeed human. About a minute and 30 seconds into the opening period, Winchester used head fakes to open Irie up to make way for a single leg. Irie initially was able to hold Winchester from converting; however, Jacarra picked an ankle and ran through her dazed opponent for a 2-0 lead.
The 2-0 advantage in favor of Jaccara is how the first period would end. Just thirty seconds into the final stanza, Irie hit a big double leg which was initially scored as four points for the Japanese wrestler, even though it appeared that Winchester’s hip hit first and did not expose herself. The mat chairman saw it the same way and halted the match to speak with the official and the score was changed to 2-2, with Irie holding criteria. Shortly after that exchange, Irie added a step-out point, which proved to be inconsequential since she already had the advantage.
With a minute and 30 seconds left in the match, Winchester shot a double leg, but quickly switched to a single, elevated it and converted it for a second takedown to lead 4-3. Irie pushed hard as the final seconds ran off the clock and was close to scoring the winning points. After the clock hit three zeros, her corner challenged the ruling.
This had to give Winchester flashbacks as she was in the World Semifinals last year and had a call overturned against her after the final buzzer had sounded. That didn’t happen today. The ruling was upheld and Winchester was free to celebrate her championship.
The win gives Jacarra her first world medal in only her second World Championship event. Last year, after her heartbreaking semifinal loss, Winchester had an equally close decision go against her in the bronze medal match. Looking ahead to 2020, 55 kilos is not an Olympic weight so Jacarra will have to make a decision to go up or down a weight class. Either way, with her world title, Winchester will be given a bye to the semis of her respective weight class. Jacarra’s win makes her the first American woman since Iris Smith in 2005 to defeat a Japanese opponent in the World Finals.