Matteo Pellicone women's wrestling preview
Monday, June 20, 2022 - 12:07 By Olivia Lichti
ROME, Italy (June 20) -- After an unfortunate COVID-induced postponement from its original date in February, the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series will finally be contested in Rome this week. Women wrestlers from five different continents will be in the Italian capital and several up-and-coming will have the opportunity to prove themselves against the top wrestlers in the world.
The 68kg weight class provides a prime example of such a matchup. After winning U20 and senior world titles at 65kg last year, Irina RINGACI (MDA) made the jump to the Olympic weight of 68kg with her eyes on Paris 2024.
Her debut in February saw her win the gold medals at the Dan Kolov and U23 European Championships and later the senior European title, but her first big test will come here against Tokyo Olympic silver medallist Blessing OBORODUDU (NGR).
Oborodudu will be equally hungry for victory in Rome as a solid finish here will slot her as the number two ranked athlete at 68kg, bumping her up past Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA).
Another young star to keep an eye on is Alina AKOBIIA (UKR). Akobiia has collected gold medals at the '21 U23 World Championships and European Championships this year and will look to cement herself as one of the top women in the world at 57kg with a win in Rome.
Inarguably the most credentialed weight class at this event will be 62kg, which includes the likes of U23 world champion Ana GODINEZ (CAN), two-time Olympian Lais NUNES (BRA), and Olympic medallists Sakshi MALIK (IND) and Iryna KOLIADENKO (UKR).
Despite a 10-month hiatus following the Tokyo Games, Koliadenko will enter this tournament as the favorite. However, Malik and Godinez are both coming off of impressive gold-winning runs at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup and Pan-Am Championships respectively. The young Canadian will certainly be hungry for wins over her more seasoned foes, but whether she has the skills to truly challenge either at this point remains to be seen.
Wrestling fans must also keep their eyes on the 53kg division. By way of her 2021 world silver medal, Iulia LEORDA (MDA) is the most heralded wrestler at this weight.
However, 2021 world bronze medallist Samantha STEWART (CAN) will indubitably be hungry for revenge after falling to the Moldovan in the quarterfinals in Oslo. Also present will be the European champion Emma MALMGREN (SWE), who is one of wrestling’s most talented rising stars. She’ll look to notch victories over the world medallists in her bracket and continue to establish herself as a real threat at the upcoming World Championships.
As always, 76kg will feature a multitude of talented women. Justina DI STASIO (CAN) headlines this weight class and will look to prove that she can contend in the toughest division and not just 72kg, where she won a world title in 2018. She’ll be challenged by fellow world medallists Epp MAE (EST) and Martina KUENZ (AUT). Matchups between these three heavyweight hammers are not to be missed.
Though the American contingent is small at this event, it is mighty. Emma BRUNTIL (USA) will look to earn her fourth international medal of 2022 at 65kg, adding to gold medals at the Dan Kolov and Ivan Yarygin and bronze at the Yasar Dogu Ranking Series. She’ll face tough tests in two of Ukraine’s top athletes -- Tetiana RIZHKO (UKR) and Kateryna ZELENYKH (UKR).
Joining Bruntil is Skylar GROTE (USA) at 72kg. Grote is coming off a dominant Pan-Am title run in Acapulco, Mexico, and will look to advance her current world ranking of 17. Her primary challenger will be two-time world bronze medallist Anna SCHELL (GER).
At 55kg, 2021 world silver medallist Nina HEMMER (GER) will look to slide past Oleksandra KHOMENETS (UKR) and Tsugumi SAKURAI (JPN), neither of whom will be present at this event, into the top ranking spot.
However, she’ll have to contend with fifth-ranked Andreea ANA (ROU) and 2019 world bronze medallist Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) to do so. Hemmer defeated the Romanian by a slim 3-2 margin at the 2021 World Championships, but was teched by Phogat in their last encounter.
The deepest non-Olympic weight class, by far, is 59kg. Anastasia NICHITA (MDA) will look to further her remarkable 2022 season, which already includes titles from the Yasar Dogu and the European Championships.
To continue her golden streak, she’ll have to outplace young star Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR) who defeated her in an astounding upset at the 2021 U23 World Championships.
Vynnyk will have a huge opportunity to test herself against Nichita as well as other senior-level threats like world bronze medallist Sarita MOR (IND), who is just coming off of a title at the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup, and former U23 world champion Grace BULLEN (NOR).
Up and down the weight classes, the Matteo Pellicone will serve as a fantastic preview for the future of women’s wrestling and will display who can be primed as medal contenders at the World Championships in September. Enjoy watching accomplished veterans and the next generation alike as the world congregates in Italy for what might just be the most exciting wrestling event so far in 2022.
The Matteo Pellicone kicks off Wednesday and can be streamed live on uww.org.