Adeline Gray

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.

Trio of USA women wrestlers win opening Olympic battles, move on

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Team USA went 3-0 on the mats on Thursday in Rio, with women wrestlers Elena Pirozhkova, Adeline Gray, and Helen Maroulis advancing from their weightclasses.

First, Maorulis dominated Ukraine’s Yuliia Khavaldzhy Blahinya. Period 1 saw Maroulis win 5-1 and the second was an even better 7-0. The 12-1 win cruises her into the Round of 16 with Zhong Xuechen.

WATCH: Full match replays, stream next fights

Gray was next, and scooped the only four points of her match with Colombia’s Andrea Olaya Gutierrez. She’ll face Vasilisa Marzaliuk  (Belarus) in the quarters.

Elena Pirozhkova showed a powerful burst in the second round to make up for some sloppy moments in a 10-7 win over Bulgaria’s Taybe Mustafa Yusein.

She opened with a 2-0 lead, but gave it back with a lax few moments to bridge the first and second segments. But Pirozhkova buried her opponent with 8-straight points to advance to the quarters, where she’ll grapple with Mongolia’s Soronzonboldyn Battsetseg.