Olympic gold medalist Tamyra Mensah-Stock‘s dominant, bounce-back world title and 18-year-old Amit Elor becoming the youngest American gold medalist in history capped arguably the best world wrestling championships ever for U.S. women.
Mensah-Stock, who in Tokyo became the second U.S. woman to win an Olympic wrestling title, routed her four 68kg opponents 36-0 over the last two days in Belgrade. Every match ended early via pin or mercy rule (a 10-point lead). She pinned Japan’s Ami Ishii at the 2-minute, 11-second mark of a six-minute regulation final.
Overall, U.S. women earned seven medals among the 10 weight classes this week, including three golds and two silvers. They tied the program record for medals at a single worlds. In 2003, the U.S. women won a medal in all seven classes, with one gold. In 2021, the U.S. women won seven medals, with two golds and two silvers.
Mensah-Stock, 29, took bronze at last year’s worlds, held two months after the Olympics. She was pinned 21 seconds into her semifinal by Japan’s Rin Miyaji, then cried “five hours straight” before winning her bronze-medal match. Mensah-Stock said that a week and a half before those worlds in Oslo, she had COVID, a back injury and could barely stand.
“I kind of have PTSD from last year,” she said after Wednesday’s semifinals in Belgrade, later noting that she took eight months off after last October’s worlds and willed herself away from thoughts of quitting. “I know that I’m better than just a bronze medal.”
Elor won the non-Olympic 72kg division, defeating Kazakhstan’s Zhamila Bakbergenova 10-0 in the final. She broke 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Snyder‘s record as the youngest American in history to win an Olympic or world title.
“I’m in shock,” she said. “In every single match, I’ve surprised myself. … This has been my dream since I was a little girl.”
Elor, born Jan. 1, 2004, was one day too young to be eligible for last year’s Olympic Trials. She won junior world titles in 2021 (U17 and U20) and last month (U22). If she makes the 2024 Olympic team, she is in line to become the youngest U.S. Olympic female wrestler in history, according to Olympedia.org.
Also Thursday, Helen Maroulis, who in 2016 became the first female U.S. Olympic wrestling champion, earned her eighth career Olympic or world medal, silver in 57kg. Japan’s Tsugumi Sakurai defeated Maroulis 3-0 in the final, a year after Maroulis fell to another Japanese wrestler, Risako Kawai, in the Olympic semifinals en route to a bronze medal.
Maroulis’ eight global medals are second all-time among U.S. women behind Adeline Gray, who has nine and gave birth to twins in July.
Earlier Thursday, Olympic champions Jordan Burroughs and David Taylor advanced to Friday finals in their weight classes.
Burroughs, a London 2012 gold medalist, faces Iran’s Mohammad Nokhodi in a rematch of last year’s world final in the non-Olympic 79kg class won by Burroughs. Burroughs is going for a seventh combined Olympic or world title to break the U.S. record he shares with John Smith and Gray.
Taylor faces Iranian rival Hassan Yazdani in a rematch of the Tokyo Olympic 86kg final (won by Taylor with a takedown with 17 seconds left) and the 2021 World Championships final (won by Yazdani).
American Zain Retherford also advanced to Friday’s final in the non-Olympic 70kg division, clinching his first career world medal.
Wrestlers from Belarus and Russia are banned due to the war in Ukraine. Russian wrestlers won the most medals at the 2021 World Championships (18) and were second to the Americans with eight medals at the Tokyo Games.
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