Adeline Gray

Adeline Gray breaks U.S. record with fifth world wrestling title

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U.S. wrestlers have won more than 60 gold medals in the history of the world championships. Adeline Gray is at the top of that list.

Gray earned her American record-breaking fifth world title in Kazakhstan on Thursday, taking the 76kg final 4-2 over Japanese Hiroe Suzuki.

She broke her tie of four world titles with Olympic gold medalists John Smith and Jordan Burroughs and Tricia Saunders, who earned her crowns in the 1990s before women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics in 2004. Burroughs can match Gray later this week.

“I’ve got to mark that off my bucket list,” said Gray, who earned her seventh medal Thursday, six weeks after right hand surgery. “Kristie Davis was a nine-time world medalist, and I’m still chasing that.”

Gray, 28, earned her fourth straight world title and continued an impressive rebound. She had a two-year win streak before being upset in the Rio Olympic quarterfinals, missing the chance to become the first U.S. Olympic women’s wrestling champion.

Though Gray keeps a pyramid with goals — including five-time world champion, Olympic champion and to “be exciting” — she purposely grounds herself with acronyms and conversations with friends to lessen the hype.

“I had a lot of those thoughts before 2016, and I think that let it creep up to me a little bit in a negative way,” Gray said in June. “Just the fact that some people were saying, like, hey, you’ve had a great career. It’s awesome what you’ve done. You’re already written in the history books kind of thing.”

Gray revealed six months after that Rio disappointment that she wrestled in Brazil with a shoulder injury. She underwent surgeries on that shoulder and to repair a torn meniscus in her knee in January 2017 and went 11 months between matches, missing that year’s world championships.

During that break, she married U.S. Army Capt. Damaris Sanders. She scaled 14,000-foot mountains. Gray wasn’t sure about returning. She thought about trying to have a baby instead. Even when she did get back on the mat, she considered phasing out if she started losing matches.

“It took a little bit of figuring out what I wanted and figuring out why I wanted to come back,” she said Wednesday, after reaching the final. “Really, the reason I’ve been sticking around is because coach Terry [Steiner]‘s been whispering in my ear, making sure I know that I’m good enough to be winning at this level. And there’s something more than that. There’s this huge wave of women’s sports, and I’m part of that. It’s something special.”

Earlier Thursday, American Tamyra Mensah-Stock reached Friday’s 68kg final, one year after taking bronze in the division. Mensah-Stock routed Japan’s Olympic champion Sara Dosho 10-1 in the quarterfinals.

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Adeline Gray ties U.S. female record with fourth wrestling world title

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In a mix of exhalation and exultation, Adeline Gray danced holding the American flag behind her back and let out two words: It’s over.

Gray won her fourth wrestling world title in Budapest on Wednesday, tying the retired Tricia Saunders for the U.S. female record.

She defeated Olympic gold and bronze medalists en route to the 76kg heavyweight final against defending world champion Yasemin Adar of Turkey. Gray grabbed Adar’s ankle, scored a takedown and turned her five times to win 13-1.

“I couldn’t walk four weeks ago,” Gray said minutes later. “This training camp has been trash. I’ve been sick this entire week. I weigh 73 kilos right now, and I’m the heavyweight champ of the world. There has been many things that didn’t go right.”

Gray left out what happened 26 months ago. The Coloradoan arrived at the Rio Olympics on a two-year win streak but was upset in the quarterfinals, missing a chance to become the first female U.S. Olympic wrestling champion.

She revealed six months later that she wrestled in Brazil with a shoulder injury. She underwent surgeries on that shoulder and to repair a torn meniscus in her knee in January 2017 and went 11 months between matches.

Gray, 27, married U.S. Army Capt. Damaris Sanders. She lived outside of a dorm for the first time in her adult life. She said she lost her national team funding, learned how to cook for herself and even thought about having a baby after the Rio disappointment.

“I wasn’t ready to step back on the mat right away,” she said after earning a spot on the world team in June. “They [loved ones] were there with gentle nudges. … I still think I have a gift that can be developed on the wrestling mat.”

A goal this season was to “be on some posters throwing people.”

On Tuesday night, Helen Maroulis, who did win gold in Rio, texted Gray to tell her that she could be world champion. Before she wrestled Wednesday, Gray’s longtime coach, Terry Steiner, looked her in the eye and told her she could win.

“I’ve told her for a long time that she’s the strongest woman I know,” Steiner said. “She has more belief in herself than anyone I know.”

Also Wednesday, American Tamyra Mensah-Stock earned her first world medal, a 68kg bronze. Mensah-Stock won the 2016 Olympic Trials but then failed to qualify a U.S. quota spot for the Games.

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Two American women to wrestle for medals; Maroulis will go for gold

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American wrestler Helen Maroulis will wrestle for gold later, while fellow USA athlete Elena Pirozhkova will have to settle for the repechage and a chance for bronze.

After all three USA wrestlers won opening matches, Adeline Gray lost to Belarus grappler Vasilisa Marzaliuk 4-1.

WATCH: Match replays, upcoming finals

But Maroulis came from the Round of 32 to beat China’s Zhong Xuechun 10-0 and then Jong Myong-suk (North Korea) 7-4 to make the semifinal.

Maroulis there shutout Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson 8-0 to advance to the final versus Japan’s Saori Yoshida.

Elena Pirozhkova took down reigning champ Soronzonboldyn Battsetseg in the quarterfinals, 3-2, advancing to a semifinal against Maryia Mamashuk of Belarus. But Pirozhkova fell 3-1 to enter the repechage for bronze.