Gray, Molinari power to semifinals at World Championships; Gray qualifies her weight for Olympics


Adeline Gray of the USA celebrates after her quarterfinal win, clinching a spot at 76 kg for the USA at the 2020 Olympics. Photo by Larry Slater.

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan – Four-time World champion, six-time World medalist and 2016 Olympian Adeline Gray (Denver, Colo./New York AC) powered her way to three technical fall victories, advancing to the semifinals at 76 kg/167.5 lbs. at the World Wrestling Championships on Wednesday morning.

By reaching the semifinals, Gray has qualified the United States for the 2020 Olympics at this weight class. The top six athletes in each Olympic weight class qualify their nation for the Tokyo Games. Gray has clinched a top six placement by making the semifinals. Gray was the first U.S. wrestler this week to secure an Olympic berth for Team USA.

She started her tournament with a dominant 10-0 technical fall over Eleni Pjollaj of Italy. Gray scored three takedowns and two ankle lace turns to finish the bout in the first period. In her second match, Gray was equally powerful, beating 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Elmira Syzdykova of Kazakhstan with another 10-0 technical fall. This victory featured two takedowns and three ankle lace turns.

In the quarterfinals, Gray secured a 10-0 technical fall over two-time Junior World medalist Hui Tsz Chang of Chinese Taipei. Gray scored three takedowns and two turns to get her victory in the second period. Chang won a Junior World silver in 2019 and a Junior World bronze in 2017.

Gray, who received the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will battle the No. 3 seed and 2014 World champion Aline Rotter Focken of Germany in the semifinals. Focken won her World title at 69 kg, but has competed at heavyweight the last few years.

With her four World titles, Gray is seeking to become the first American to be a five-time Senior World champion. She is currently tied with John Smith, Tricia Saunders and Jordan Burroughs with four.

Also reaching the semifinals for the United States with two strong wins on Wednesday morning was Forrest Molinari (Iowa City, Iowa/Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC) at 65 kg/143 lbs.

Molinari opened with a pin over Thi Vinh Nguyen of Vietnam in 2:41. Molinari jumped to a 3-0 lead on two step outs and a shot clock violation against Nguyen. After a spin-behind takedown, Molinari powered Nguyen to her back while in par terre and secured the pin.

In the quarterfinals, Molinari was the aggressor in a 3-0 shutout win over two-time World bronze medalist Malin Johanna Mattsson of Sweden. Molinari’s first point came in the opening period, when Mattsson was put on the shot clock for passivity and could not score in the required 30 seconds. In the second period, Molinari hit a sweet counter on a scramble to secure the only takedown of the match.

Coming in as the No. 1 seed, Molinari will face Iryna Koliadenko of Ukraine in the semifinals. Koliadenko’s resume includes a 2018 U23 World bronze medal and a 2018 Junior World bronze medal.

Molinari is competing in her second straight Senior World Championships, after placing fifth in the 2018 Worlds in Budapest, Hungary.

Two U.S. athletes from Group 2 dropped matches on Wednesday morning and will not be eligible for repechage, Jenna Burkert (Colorado Springs, Colo./U.S. Army WCAP) at 57 kg/125.5 lbs. and two-time World silver medalist Alli Ragan (Iowa City, Iowa/Sunkist Kids/Hawkeye WC) at 59 kg/130 lbs.

Burkert was defeated in her second match by fall by Marina Simonyan of Russia, who was fifth in the 2018 U23 World Championships. There was much action in the first period, which ended with Simonyan up 7-2 over Burkert. In that first period, Burkert had Simonyan on her back and in danger, but Simonyan got off her back and got a reversal. In the second period, Simonyan was able to get Burkert in danger and secure the fall.

When Simonyan was beaten by technical fall in the quarterfinals by 2018 World champion Ningning Rong of China, Burkert was not eligible for repechage.

In her opening match, Burkert was in total control in an 8-0 win over Lenka Hockova Martinakova of Czechia. Burkert forced Martinakova out for six different step outs, two which resulted in cautions against Martinakova. Burkert added a takedown in the second period, showing a difference in strength and skill.

Ragan was pinned in her first match at 59 kg/130 lbs. by 2015 Junior World silver medalist Anzhelina Lysak of Ukraine. Ragan scored the first takedown of the match. However, Lysak was able to secure a double-overhook throw and take Ragan down to her back, finishing off the fall in 1:32.

When Lisak was defeated in her next bout by 2016 World bronze medalist Linda Morais of Canada, Ragan was eliminated from the tournament.

The Group 2 semifinals are scheduled for 4:45 p.m, with both Gray and Molinari in action. The medal-match round for Group 1 will follow at 6:00 p.m. Jacarra Winchester will go for the gold medal at 55 kg and Victoria Francis will battle for the bronze medal at 72 kg. Nur-Sultan is 10 hours ahead of U.S. Eastern time. All of the action is live on Trackwrestling.

At Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, September 18

Group 2 semifinal pairings

57 kg/125.5 lbs.
Risako Kawai (Japan) vs. Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria)
Ningning Rong (China) vs. Jowita Maria Wrzesien (Poland)

59 kg/130 lbs.
Pooja Dhanda (India) vs. Liubov Ocharova (Russia)
Shoovdor Baatarjav (Mongolia) vs. Linda Morais (Canada)

65 kg/143 lbs.
Forrest Molinari (USA) vs. Iryna Koliadenko (Ukraine)
Elis Manolova (Azerbaijan) vs. Inna Trazhukova (Russia)

76 kg/167.5 lbs.
Adeline Gray (USA) vs. Aline Rotter Focken (Germany)
Epp Maee (Estonia) vs. Hiroe Minagawa Suzuki (Japan)

U.S. Women’s freestyle Group 2 performances on Wednesday morning

57 kg/125.5 lbs. – Jenna Burkert, Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Army WCAP)
WIN Lenka Hockova Martinakova (Czechia), 8-0
LOSS Marina Simonyan (Russia), pin 3:38

59 kg/130 lbs. – Alli Ragan, Iowa City, Iowa (Sunkist Kids/Hawkeye WC)
LOSS Anzehlina Lysak (Ukraine), pin 1:34

65 kg/143 lbs. – Forrest Molinari, Iowa City, Iowa (Titan Mercury WC/Hawkeye WC)
WIN Thi Vinh Nguyen (Vietnam), pin, 2:41
WIN Malin Johanna Mattsson (Sweden), 3-0
Semifinals – Vs. Iryna Koliadenko (Ukraine)

76 kg/167.5 lbs. – Adeline Gray, Denver, Colo. (New York AC)
WIN Elani Pjollai (Italy), tech. fall 10-0, 2:00
WIN Elmira Syzdykova (Kazakhstan), tech. fall 10-0, 2:50
WIN Hui Tsz Chang (Chinese Taipei), tech. fall 10-0, 4:58
Semifinals – Vs. Aline Rotter Focken (Germany)