U23 World C'ships

Okuno, Larroque Take to the Mats in Poland

By Andrew Hipps

The women's wrestling competition at the U-23 Wrestling World Championships is set to begin Thursday and continue Friday with Haruna OKUNO (JPN), a world champion in Paris, leading a heavily-favored Japanese women's wrestling team.

Thursday, Nov. 23: 55kg, 58kg, 63kg, 75kg

Okuno went from winning a cadet world title to winning a senior world title in the span of one year. In Paris, she defeated Nigeria's Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye to claim a world championship at the age of 18. She enters the Senior U-23 World Wrestling Championships as the favorite at 55kg. Looking to challenge Okuno is Iryna KURACHKINA (BLR), a world bronze medalist in Paris. Marina SEDNEVA          KAZ is a talented competitor with two junior world medals. Lianna MONTERO HERRERA (CUB) and Ramona GALAMBOS (HUN) should figure into the mix at 55kg.

Japan has another top contender at 58kg in Yuzuru KUMANO (JPN), a two-time junior world champion. She was a bronze medalist at the Klippan Lady Open earlier this year. Other wrestlers to keep an eye on at 58kg include Tetyana KIT (UKR), Elin NILSSON (SWE), Battsetseg ALTANTSETSEG (MGL), Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL), Veronika CHUMIKOVA (RUS), Arianna CARIERI (ITA) and Anastasia NICHITA (MDA).

The 63kg weight class is expected to be very competitive with several wrestlers challenging for the world title. Ayana GEMPEI (JPN) won a junior world title last year, and this year earned a silver medal at the Asian Championships. Maya NELSON (USA) captured a junior world title this year after earning a junior world bronze in 2016. Petra OLLI (FIN) reached the world finals on the senior level in 2015. Braxton STONE (CAN) is a two-time junior world medalist. Moa NYGREN (SWE) made the finals of the Junior World Championships in 2015, and this year won a silver at the Grand Prix of Germany.

At 75kg, Yasuha MATSUYUKI (JPN) will look to win a world title after falling just short at the Junior World Championships, losing in the finals. Matsuyuki was a cadet world champion in 2016. Another former cadet world champion to watch in this weight class is Anastasiia SHUSTOVA (UKR). She won gold at the Alexander Medved Prizes event in September, beating Anzhela KATAEVA (RUS), who is also on the entry list. Other medal contenders at 75kg include Qiandegenchagan QIANDEGENCHAGAN        (CHN), Francy RAEDELT (GER), Zsanett NEMETH (HUN) and Gulmaral YERKEBAYEVA (KAZ).

Friday, Nov. 24: 48kg, 53kg, 60kg, 69kg

The 48kg weight class is deep with many potential challengers. Turkan NASIROVA (AZE), Miglena SELISHKA (BUL), Rina OKUNO (JPN), Oksana LIVACH (UKR) are all multiple-time junior world medalists. Nasirova won a junior world title in 2016. Evin DEMIRHAN (TUR) won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Paris this year. Kseniya STANKEVICH (BLR), Ritu RITU (IND), Irina BORISSOVA (KAZ), Anzhelika VETOSHKINA (RUS) and Chimgee BUYANDALAI (MGL) are medal contenders.

At 53kg, Miho IGARASHI (JPN) is a two-time junior world champion, as well as a cadet world champion. She is also a multiple-time medalist at the Golden Grand Prix. Leyla GURBANOVA (AZE) won both a junior world title and cadet world title in 2015. Mercedesz DENES (HUN) has three junior world medals, while Khrystyna BEREZA (UKR) has two. Ekaterina POLESHCHUK (RUS), Allyssa CLEAVES (CAN), Qi ZHANG (CHN), Sviatlana LAMASHEVICH (BLR) add depth to the weight class.

Japan's entry at 60kg is Yui SAKANO (JPN), a past cadet world champion. She was fifth at the World Championships last year on the senior level, and has won the Golden Grand Prix twice.  Kayla MIRACLE (USA), a two-time junior world medalist, has had a strong year and should challenge. Others to watch at 60kg: Therese PERSSON (SWE), Uliana TUKURENOVA (RUS), and Kriszta INCZE (ROU).

The 69kg weight class in women's wrestling is headlined by Koumba LARROQUE (FRA) and Khanum VELIEVA (RUS). Larroque, a junior world champion and multiple-time cadet world champion, has had a very strong year, winning European titles in the junior and U-23 divisions. She captured a bronze medal at the World Championships in Paris. Velieva won her first junior world title this year after winning two world titles as a cadet. She also won a European junior title, and finished third in the European U-23 Championships. Other potential challengers at 69kg include Martina KUENZ (AUT), Elis MANOLOVA (AZE), Naruha MATSUYUKI (JPN), Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), Natalia STRZALKA (POL), Alexandra ANGHEL (ROU) and Alla BELINSKA (UKR).