The ladies will hit the mat in Rio in six different weight classes. While the Japanese girls have dominated, the rest of the world is catching up as two of their stars try to make wrestling history. It will be no shortage of fun though!
When Sakamoto went out on top with a 2012 Olympic Gold medal, Eri Tosaka said, "Don't worry, I got this shit." and promptly won three consecutive World Championships. She may not have said that exactly as my Japanese isn't very good. Tosaka is the clear favorite, of course.
Mariya Stadnik (Azerbaijan) was silver at 2015 World's and in the 2012 Olympics to go along with four other World/Olympic medals. She fell to Tosaka just 3-2 in the finals last year.
Jessica Blaszka (Netherlands) is an interesting wild card. She won bronze in 2015 making her the first from her country in nearly three decades to medal. She is also the only Dutch wrestler to go to the Olympics and it will be interesting to see how she does.
Our Gal: Haley Augello dropped to 48 kg this year and won the spot. She is a 2-time national champ for King University going undefeated in collegiate action yet to win by anything other than tech or pin. She had to shortly after the trials go to Mongolia to qualify and did so by tech to the finals. It's her first world team, but will be a dangerous draw in the bracket.
My pick: Tosaka (Japan)
Saori Yoshida (Japan) looks to become the first wrestler to win their 4th Olympic Gold medal. She also has won 13 World Championships making her the most accomplished wrestler of all-time. As she attempts history, the extra fun is that this is one of the most interesting weight classes in the Olympics.
Our Gal: Helen Maroulis won the 2015 World Championship at 55 kg, and is dropped down for her first Olympics. The rising star has a win streak near 60 matches, and is a legitimate threat to dethrone Yoshida.
Sofia Mattson (Sweden) pinned her way to the 2015 World final before falling just 2-1 to Yoshida. Mattson is a very accomplished 26-year old with a 2009 World Championship and four other world medals.
Odunayo Adekuoroye (Nigeria) burst on the scene in 2015 with a bronze medal. She sings, dances, and double legs the hell out of foes. She also fell 6-6 to Helen last year. She lost a match earlier this summer, but I still feel like she belongs as part of this 4-horse race to gold in Rio.
My Pick: Mattson (Sweden) finally gets it done.
Kaori Icho (Japan) is also seeking her 4th Olympic Gold medal. She also has 10 World Championships to go along with the three Olympic golds. Her loss earlier this year was her first loss since 2003. You know you are good when your losses are the headlines.
Petra Olli (Finland) was silver in 2015. The 22-year old was not close though as Icho tech'd the whole tournament 10-0.
Yuliya Ratkevic (Azerbaijan) won bronze in 2015 which is one of her 6 World/Olympic medals including her 2009 World Championship. Valeria Koblova (Russia) could also be a factor as she gets the nod. She won silver in 2014 and is just 23-years old.
Our Gal: USA did not qualify.
My Pick: Icho (Japan) makes history
Battsetseg (Mongolia) returned to the top of the podium in 2015 with her 2nd World Championship (the other 2010). She was silver in 2013 and Olympic Bronze in 2012. The 26-year old is the favorite in Rio as Mongolia hopes to get their 1st ever wrestling gold medal. Mongolia actually only has two gold medals all-time in any sport.
Our Gal: Elena Pirozhkova has given of the two losses in the cycle to Battsetseg (the other was Icho). Elena was up at 69 kg in 2015 Worlds but is back. Before that, she won silver in 2014 and bronze in 2013. She is a threat at 29-years old, certainly to medal.
Yuliya Tkach (Ukraine) was bronze in 2015 and won the World Championship in 2014. Risako Kawai (Japan) took silver last year and is just 21-years old. Taybe Yusein (Bulgaria) has 4-straight World medals and should be considered a contender as well. Jenny Fransson (Sweden) has dropped down here and could be an interesting wild card. Maryia Mamashuk (Belarus) won the European Championships up at 69 kg rather easily. She's registered at 63 kg.
My Pick: I think Tkach gets back on top in this very even weight class.
Natalia Vorobieva (Russia) won the Olympic Gold in 2012 and is also the defending World Champion. In Vegas she edged Zhou Feng (China) 2-2 in the final. Aline Focken (Germany) beat Sara Dosho (Japan) 5-4 in the 2014 World finals. All four of these women are the front runners for the gold medal in Rio. Dosho is just 21 so it's very possible she is getting better.
Our Gal: USA did not qualify
My Pick: I really want to make a cool "off the radar" pick here, but I do think Vorobieva is the best wrestler here. Expect her to be challenged by the other three mentioned though.
Adeline Gray (USA) is our gal, my pick, and if anyone picks differently I really wonder about them. Ms America is the favorite on all accounts and if there is an OTB taking money, I'm taking out loans. She's a 3-time World Champ and has been dominant the last two years. Nobody touching her is what is expected.
Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus) is 29-years old, a 3-time World bronze, and actually gave Adeline her toughest match in 2015. Aline Ferreira (Brazil) was silver in 2014 and is actually the only ever World Medalist from Brazil. Epp Mae (Estonia) is a young face on the scene after a 2015 bronze and should be in the mix here. Yasemin Adar (Turkey) was the 2016 European Championship. She was caught and pinned in 2015, but seems to be someone to keep an eye on.
ICYMI: Adeline Gray dominates.