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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Jordan Burroughs won his sixth world wrestling title, combining with his 2012 Olympic title to become the first U.S. wrestler with seven global gold medals.
Burroughs, 34, won all five of his matches over the last two days at the world championships in Belgrade in the 79kg division, which is not an Olympic weight class.
He beat Iran’s Mohammad Nokhodi 4-2 in Friday’s final, using his trademark double leg takedown, in a rematch of last October’s world final also won by Burroughs.
“I’m still at the top of my game,” said Burroughs, a father of four who won his first world title in 2011 and is 10-0 in medal matches between the Olympics and worlds. “Before every match, I always remind myself that I chose this. This is chosen suffering.
“Someone’s going to break this [record] one day. Today is my day.”
Burroughs, who said in June that he plans to retire after the 2024 Olympics (whether or not he makes the team), for years harbored a goal of breaking John Smith‘s American record of six combined Olympic and world titles. Adeline Gray complicated the quest by winning her sixth gold last October, as did Burroughs. Gray, 31, is on a break, giving birth to twins in July.
“I’m going until I absolutely can’t anymore,” he said Friday. “As of now, that day hasn’t come yet.”
Burroughs’ 10 medals of any color between the Olympics and worlds are second in U.S. history to Bruce Baumgartner‘s 13.
“I’m the standard now for USA wrestling,” he said. “I’ve been at this for 12 years, and there’s no one who can say that I don’t deserve this.”
Burroughs won his Olympic gold medal in 2012 in the 74kg division and competed there through last year’s Olympic Trials, where he was beaten by Kyle Dake. Burroughs then moved up to the non-Olympic 79kg division, since Dake received a bye into the October 2021 Worlds at 74kg as a reigning Olympic medalist (bronze).
Burroughs must move back into an Olympic weight class by 2024, likely returning to 74kg with an eye on dethroning Dake at Olympic Trials.
Also Friday, American David Taylor beat rival Hassan Yazdani of Iran 7-1 in a rematch of last year’s Olympic 86kg final (won by Taylor with a takedown with 17 seconds left) and last October’s world championships final (won by Yazdani).
Taylor, 31, “contemplated retiring multiple times” since his Olympic title in Tokyo and “was hurt all year, hardly could train,” due at least in part to knee swelling.
“I just didn’t know if I wanted to do it anymore,” he said. “I achieved my lifelong goal of Olympic champion. I believed if I could go to world championships eight weeks later, I’d probably be done. Going there and losing, it was hard.”
Two U.S. wrestlers won back-to-back Olympic titles, and just one in the last century — Smith in 1988 and 1992. Burroughs and Taylor are older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling gold medalist, according to Olympedia.org.
“My wife, my coaches, my inner circle of people, they just sat me down and said, ‘What do you want? You’ve earned the right to do whatever you want to do.’ I’m not a loser. I’m not going out losing [at the October 2021 Worlds],” Taylor said. “[Yazdani] is burning that fire for me to continue going. He’s that barrier between me and a gold medal in Paris. World championships are great, but people remember us for the Olympics.”
American Zain Retherford, the 2017 and 2018 NCAA Wrestler of the Year at Penn State, took silver in the non-Olympic 70kg division. Retherford on Thursday clinched his first world medal in his third appearance, then on Friday fell 10-0 to Japan’s Taishi Narikuni in the final.
Earlier Friday, past world champions J’den Cox (92kg), Thomas Gilman (57kg) and Dake advanced to Saturday gold-medal matches.
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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U.S. Olympian Lawson Craddock said he will miss the world road cycling championships that start Sunday because his visa wasn’t approved until about 20 minutes after his flight departed for Australia without him on it.
“While it still would have been physically possible to make it in time to Australia for the TT tomorrow [Sunday’s time trial], I wasn’t confident that it would allow me enough time to recover enough from the Vuelta, travel, and jet lag to allow me to put my best performance out on the road,” he posted on social media.
Craddock, 30, competed at the Tokyo Olympics in the time trial (34th place) and road race (80th). The U.S. earned zero road cycling medals for the first time since 1996. He finished 55th in the three-week Vuelta a Espana Grand Tour that ended last Sunday.
His withdrawal leaves Leah Thomas as the lone cyclist on the U.S. roster for worlds who has Olympic experience. Neilson Powless, who nearly held the lead early in July’s Tour de France, is also on the team.
The U.S. earned zero medals among the men’s and women’s elite time trials and road races at the last two worlds.
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