#WrestleOslo: Maroulis Regains World Title as Japan Goes 1 for 3 in WW Finals
Thursday, October 7, 2021 - 21:10 By Ken Marantz
OSLO, Norway (October 8) -- Although Helen MAROULIS (USA) was unable to repeat as an Olympic gold medalist this year, she did manage to regain the title of world champion. And with a typical display of her raw power.
Maroulis manhandled Anshu MALIK (IND) for a fall in the 57kg final for her third career world title and first since 2017 as the women's competition at the World Championships in Oslo finished up Thursday night.
"Feels incredible, there's nothing like holding the flag and representing your country," Maroulis said. "One of the things about being better is that you don't get thrown around. I got thrown in the semifinal for four, but I don't mind starting things a bit slow."
Japan, which sent a young team completely devoid of Olympians, went 1 for 3 in the other finals at the Jordal Amfi arena, with Masako FURUICHI (JPN) earning a rare distinction by taking the 72kg title.
The other newly minted world champions were Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) at 59kg and Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) at 68kg, neither of whom were daunted in the least by facing a Japanese opponent.
Japan, which had already clinched the team title before the night started, easily finished on top with 196 points, having won medals in nine of the 10 weight classes including four golds.
Maroulis' gold was the second for the United States, which finished second with 147 points. Mongolia got two bronze medals on the final day to edge Ukraine for third place, 78-73. India was fifth with 67.
Maroulis first made a global name for herself when she defeated the legendary Saori YOSHIDA (JPN) for the 53kg gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. At the Tokyo Olympics in August, she had to settle for the bronze following a semifinal loss to Risako KAWAI (JPN), who was among the four Japanese gold medalists who did not make the trip to Oslo.
Instead, Maroulis faced and defeated formidable 2019 world junior and U23 champion Sae NANJO (JPN) in the semifinals, setting up the with Malik, who had already made history by becoming India's first-ever female world finalist.
But India was left waiting for its first female world champion. After a first period limited to an activity point for Malik, Maroulis started the second period with an arm drag for a takedown, then muscled Malik over with a powerful chicken wing and arm bar to secure the fall at 3:59.
Malik would later have her arm in a sling during the medal ceremony.
Helen MAROULIS (USA) pinned Anshu MALIK (IND) to win the 57kg gold. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
Maroulis said she was inspired to use the arm bar after seeing others put it to good use earlier in the tournament, including freestyle champion Thomas GILMAN (USA) and silver medalist David TAYLOR (USA).
"I was like, why don't I ever do that?" Maroulis said. "I spend so much time on my leg lace. Let me just go for the bar. I think I got it twice this tournament so it's a good move."
Maroulis revealed that she recently contracted Covid-19, which led to some uncertainty about her level of preparation.
"I got Covid exactly 13 days ago so I missed the camp, and didn't even come to Norway," Maroulis said. "I was not even allowed to leave the U.S. until my 10 days quarantine. I left on the [October] 3rd and haven't even been on the mat.
"I had no idea what to expect, hoping for the best. Just being able to compete, put a tournament and matches together, I am just very proud of that."
Maroulis, who took time off due to injuries and personal matters after failing to medal at the 2018 World Championships, said the two-month turnaround after the Tokyo Olympics did not pose a problem.
"I was so excited to do the world championships because for me, I was like, we put in all the hard work, why the heck would we take a break and be out of shape?" Maroulis said. "I missed the last two or three years. I feel fresh so I wanted to be on top of that and just keep wrestling."
Masako FURUICHI (JPN) denied Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ) history and won the 72kg title in Oslo. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
Furuichi, the only member of the Japan women's contingent with previous experience at a senior World Championships, became the nation's second wrestler to complete a "world grand slam" by adding the senior gold to her titles at the cadet, junior and U23 levels.
Furuichi, a 2019 world bronze medalist, stepped up to the top of podium with a 3-0 victory in the 72kg final over three-time Asian medalist Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ).
"She is an opponent I faced a number of times as a cadet, so I think we know each other well," Furuichi said. "But I wanted to win so that's why I won."
Furuichi scored early in the first period with a single-leg takedown off a counter, then added a stepout for a 3-0 lead at the break. Both wrestlers mutually defended well in the second period, and that's how it ended.
Masako FURUICHI (JPN) celebrates after winning the 72kg title. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
Asked what she regarded as the key to her victory, she replied simply, "Because I definitely wanted to become a world champion."
The 24-year-old Furuichi had previously made her mark on the age-group levels. She is the only wrestler to win three world titles on both the cadet (2011-13) and junior (2014-2017) levels, and added the U23 gold at 68kg in 2019.
By picking up the senior gold, Furuichi joins compatriot Haruna OKUNO (JPN) as the only wrestlers with titles on all four levels. The feat remains rare for the moment due to the fact that the world U23 only started in 2017.
Furuichi, a product of the JOC Elite Academy that produced Olympic champions Yui SUSAKI (JPN) and Takuto OTOGURO (JPN) among others, tried unsuccessfully to make Japan's team to the Tokyo Olympics at both 68kg and 76kg.
"After Tokyo is Paris, and I will work to raise my level heading to that," Furuichi said, adding, "I'll think about it from now," when asked which weight class she will make her challenge.
In the 68kg final, Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist Zhumanazarova joined compatriot Aisuluu TYNYBEKOVA (KGZ) as a world champion with a victory by fall over unheralded Rin MIYAJI (JPN), who was unable to follow up on the biggest upset of the tournament.
"I don’t know how it feels," Zhumanazarova said. "But I am really happy to win."
Zhumanazarova got in on a low single and, while bending Miyaji's knee outward, locked onto an arm and rolled her through to her back. Despite Miyaji's knee being in an obviously painful position, the referee allowed the match to continue and called the fall at 2:11.
Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) pinning Rin MIYAJI (JPN) in the 68kg final. (Photo: UWW / Kadir Caliskan)
A concerned Zhumanazarova helped Miyaji limp off the mat before taking a victory lap with the Kyrgyz flag.
The previous day in the semifinals, Miyaji pulled a global shocker with a 21-second fall of defending champion and Tokyo Olympic gold Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA).
It was an amazing triumph for a wrestler whose most noteworthy international accomplishment to date was a silver medal at the 2019 Asian junior championships, where she lost 8-6 to Zhumanazarova in their only previous meeting.
Zhumanazarova had been unable to be in Nursultan for the 2019 World Championships when Tynybekova became Kyrgyzstan's first female world gold medalist -- a triumph Tynybekova repeated on Wednesday.
The two went into the history books together in Tokyo by becoming the nation's first female Olympic medalists in any sport.
Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) after winning the 68kg title. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
"Aisuluu is a leader of our team, we take her as an example," Zhumanazarova said. "In 2019, I didn’t participate at the worlds because I was injured. Aisuluu won her first world title that time. At that moment I was really happy."
As for what her accomplishments in the past two months mean, she replied, "Nothing changes for me, I just keep training."
Biyana DUDOVA (BUL) won her first-ever world title. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
In the 59kg final, Dudova, who won her fourth European title this year, added the world gold with a well-executed 6-4 victory over 2019 world 57kg junior world champion Akie HANAI (JPN).
"Japan is one of the best and this is not a secret," Dudova said. "But I was not training for this championships now but for many years. Ten years. It's not important if it's Japan, China or America. I wrestle for the gold medal till the last second."
While the Japanese women were the aggressors throughout the tournament, it was Dudova who came out firing against Hanai, whipping her down with a 4-point throw off a 2-and-1 hold.
"This is the world final and we can't take too much risk," Dudova said of the bold move. "And I told my coach before the match as a joke that I will try this technique, and I did it."
Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) scored via a counter lift. (Photo: UWW / Marin Gabor)
Dudova gained 2 more off a counter lift, from which Hanai rolled through for 2 of her own to cut the lead to 6-2.
In the second period, Dudova fended off everything Hanai threw at her, only conceding a takedown with :10 left to improve on the silver medal she won at the 2018 worlds in Budapest.
"Yesterday [Wednesday] I was saying, 'I will be champion tomorrow [Thursday],'" Dudova said. "Three years back I lost in the world championships final 3-3 to China [Rong NINGNING]. But I said I will be world champion, I will work hard and realize this dream."
For the 24-year-old Dudova, winning in Oslo has special meaning. She said she spent her youth in Norway, where she first started wrestling and even won a national title.
"I began wrestling in Norway when I was 10 and I practiced here only," she said. "I won the Norway championships as a kid. Now I am back here and won my world gold, so it's good. Norway is good for me."
Olympic champion Tamyara MENSAH STOCK (USA) won a bronze medal at 68kg. (Photo: UWW / Tony Rotundo)
In the bronze-medal matches, Mensah Stock bounced back from her stunning semifinal loss to assure she would not be leaving Oslo empty-handed, storming to a 10-1 win over European bronze medalist Adela HANZLICKOVA (CZE) at 68kg.
After giving up an early stepout, Mensah Stock chalked up five takedowns off a mix of attacks and counters to overwhelm Hanzlickova, who was aiming to become just the second Czech Republic woman to win a world medal -- the only other was won in 1994.
"It's really been tough since the Olympics and I really did not have the time to live in the moment, enjoy the fruits of my labor," said Mensah Stock, who also won a world bronze in 2018.
"From having Covid, to hurting my back, or to even come here and do anything. I am proud of myself. It was not like a terrible loss but it's still heartbreaking. I was able to come back."
Tokyo Olympian Khanum VELIEVA (RWF), the 2020 European champion and runner-up this year, emerged victorious in a defensive battle in the other 68kg match, holding on to edge Olivia DI BACCO (CAN) 2-1.
Velieva received an activity point in the first period, then scored with a stepout in the second. Di Bacco, the 2017 Pan Am champ, gained a stepout with :25 left, but Valieva fought off a final takedown attempt to clinch the win.
At 57kg, Nanjo came away with a bronze in her senior world debut when she finally got through the defense of European 59kg silver medalist Veronika CHUMIKOVA (RWF) to chalk up a 7-2 victory.
Trailing 3-1 in the second period, Nanjo connected on single-leg takedown, then turned Chumikova with a turk-ride for a 2-point exposure. A 2-point penalty was tacked on when the RWF wrestler pushed on her face.
It was the latest disappointment for Chukimova, who had won the Tokyo Olympic qualifying spot for Russian Wrestling Federation, only to be passed over for Valeria KOBLOVA, who herself ended up with a loss in a bronze-medal match in Tokyo.
Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) put on a furious comeback, then fought off her own back to take the other 57kg bronze with a thrilling 11-8 victory over 2020 European silver medalist Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR).
Erkhembayar, the 2020 Asian silver medalist and two-time bronze medalist, trailed 6-2 when she reeled off seven straight points. But in scoring a 2-point exposure to go up 9-6, Erkhembayar suddenly found herself on her back after Vynnyk stepped over and clamped down.
But Erkhembayar fought out of the predicament and added a counter takedown at the buzzer. Mongolia got its second bronze of the night from Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL), who won the third straight of her career by rallying to a 4-3 victory over 2017 world junior champion Maya NELSON (USA) at 59kg.
Baatarajav was down 0-3 in the second period when she scored a pair of creative takedowns, spinning behind off a counter and then shucking off a 2-on-1 and getting behind. But it wasn't over until it was over, as the match ended with Nelson latched onto the Mongolian's leg before running out of time to finish the move.
The other 59kg bronze went to two-time Asian champion Sarita MOR (IND), who rode an early 4-point move to an 8-2 win over 2020 European 57kg bronze medalist Sara LINDBORG (SWE).
Mongolia's bid for a third bronze medal on the night came up short when 2019 world 68kg bronze medalist Anna SCHELL (GER) ended a tough battle at 72kg with Davaanasan ENKH AMAR (MGL) by pancaking her for a fall at 4:29.
Schell, who finished eighth at 68kg at the Tokyo Olympics, trailed 4-2 when she cut the lead with a stepout, then flattened Enkh Amar for the victory.
The other 72kg bronze went to 2018 world bronze medalist Buse TOSUN (TUR) by injury default over Cynthia VESCAN (FRA).
The tournament continues with Greco-Roman action on Day 7, with 60kg, 97kg and 130kg getting started in the day session and the medal matches at night at 55kg, 72kg, 77kg and 82kg.
Japan won the women's wrestling team title. (Photo: UWW / Martin Gabor)
Day 6 Results
57kg (17 entries)
GOLD: Helen MAROULIS (USA) df. Anshu MALIK (IND) by Fall, 3:59 (4-1)
BRONZE: Sae NANJO (JPN) df. Veronika CHUMIKOVA (RWF), 7-2
BRONZE: Davaachimeg ERKHEMBAYAR (MGL) df. Solomiia VYNNYK (UKR), 11-8
59kg (17 entries)
GOLD: Bilyana DUDOVA (BUL) df. Akie HANAI (JPN), 6-4
BRONZE: Shoovdor BAATARJAV (MGL) df. Maya NELSON (USA), 4-3
BRONZE: Sarita MOR (IND) df. Sara LINDBORG (SWE), 8-2
68kg (15 entries)
GOLD: Meerim ZHUMANAZAROVA (KGZ) df. Rin MIYAJI (JPN) by Fall, 2:11 (4-0)
BRONZE: Tamyra MENSAH STOCK (USA) df. Adela HANZLICKOVA (CZE), 10-1
BRONZE: Khanum VELIEVA (RWF) df. Olivia DI BACCO (CAN), 2-1
72kg (14 entries)
GOLD: Masako FURUICHI (JPN) df. Zhamila BAKBERGENOVA (KAZ), 3-0
BRONZE: Buse TOSUN (TUR) df. Cynthia VESCAN (FRA) by Inj. Def.
BRONZE: Anna SCHELL (GER) df. Davaanasan ENKH AMAR (MGL) by Fall, 4:29 (7-4)
55kg (16 entries)
Semifinal: Emin SEFERSHAEV (RWF) df. Norayr HAKHOYAN (ARM), 3-2
Semifinal: Ken MATSUI (JPN) df. Eldaniz AZIZLI (AZE) by Fall, 3:55 (10-1)
72kg (27 entries)
Semifinal: Sergei KUTUZOV (RWF) df. Cengiz ARSLAN (TUR) by TF, 10-0, 1:47
Semifinal: Malkhas AMOYAN (ARM) df. Mohammad MOKHTARI (IRI), 10-6
77kg (31 entries)
Semifinal: Sanan SULEYMANOV (AZE) df. Tsimur BERDYIEU (BLR), 5-4
Semifinal: Roman VLASOV (RWF) df Tamas LEVAI (HUN), 7-0
82kg (27 entries)
Semifinal: Rafig HUSEYNOV (AZE) df. Adlan AKIEV (RWF), 2-1
Semifinal: Burhan AKBUDAK (TUR) df. Pejman POSHTAM (IRI), 5-2