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By Mike Finn
LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Helen Maroulis has lived many places since leaving her home in Rockville, Md., over six years ago — Marquette, Mich., the home of the United States Olympic Education Center and where she spent her senior year of high school; Missouri Baptist in St. Louis, and Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada, winning four college titles between the two stops; Madison, Wisc.; Colorado Springs, Colo., the home of USA Wrestling’s Olympic Training Center; and currently in Los Angeles.
And along the way, she developed relationships with many coaches; all of whom were present Thursday night in Orleans Arena, when the 23-year-old, 121-pound Maroulis captured her first UWW World Championship in women’s freestyle.
But there is no coach who has made a bigger impact on Maroulis than Valentin Kalika, who was in her corner in the World Championships final — where she dominated Russia’s Irina Ologonova — and whose arms she jumped into after the four-time World medalist captured her first World title in seven World tournaments.
“As a technical coach, he is the greatest I’ve ever seen,” Maroulis, said of Kalika, a native of Russia, who trains several other American men and women wrestlers. “He’s a genius the way he thinks. He’s not just a coach you go up to and say, ‘Show me a move.’ He has a philosophy and a system and you have to just and believe in it and you start seeing results.
“The difference between this year and last year….I’m doing completely different moves and the moves I used today, he showed me last week. Sometimes, he will say, ‘Don’t try this yet.’ That’s how much confidence I have in his coaching.”
The same can be said of five-time World medalist Adeline Gray, who captured her second straight and third overall World title — in just six World tournaments — and then credited USA National coach Terry Steiner for much of her success, especially her patented “leg lace” that led to a 13-2 technical fall over China’s Qian Zhou in the 165-pound final.
“That’s Terry’s lace,” said the 24-year-old native of Chatfield, Colo., who has worked with Steiner for the past eight years at the Olympic Training Center in nearby Colorado Springs. “He gets most of the kudos for that. I think it’s been a fine-tuning process.
“I love par terre and used to exclusively use a trap arm so the lace is something I’ve worked hard on the last three years. It’s been a transition that I’ve both using of them. It’s just that the lace has been so dominating and I’m confident no one can stop it.”
That was never more apparent when she used the move to dominate her tenth straight World Championship foe over the past two years; making her the first American to ever win back-to-back World Championships.
Only Kristie Davis — who won two golds, five silvers and two bronze between 1996-2006 — has won more medals than Gray … and only Tricia Saunders (with four gold medals between 1992 and ’99) has won more championships than Gray.
How far can Gray — who like Maroulis, hopes to become the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in this country — go in this sport?
“That’s up to Terry Steiner,” said Gray. “If he wants me to stay in the sport, I will.”
Two other American women also wrestled on Thursday as Alli Ragan split a pair of bouts; beating Shoovdor Baatarjav of Mongolia, 4-2, before losing 6-0 to Colombia’s Jackeline Renteria … and Erin Clodgo lost to Cuba’s Katerina Vidiaux Lopez, 11-6, in her first-ever World Championships.
“It was an honor to be able to represent the U.S. in what was our home tournament,” said Clodgo, who gave up four points against Lopez, who countered a Clodgo throw. “I wish I would have done better and have higher expectations. While I have plenty of things to work on to get ready for 2016, it was an honor to be here.”
For Ragan, a native of Carbondale, Ill., she now stands 4-4 in three World tournaments and was well aware that she had to at least reach the semifinals if she hoped to medal.
“I knew I had to make it to the semifinals because no one was going to beat Icho,” said Ragan, who needed a last second defensive lift to beat Baatarjav, and knows she has to make major improvements to challenge the sport’s best wrestlers
“I think it’s everything, mental and physical,” Ragan said. “You can never stop trying to be physical but you really have to start believing in yourself.”
Women’s freestyle wraps up Friday when Leigh Jaynes-Provisor competes at 60k/132 pounds.
Women’s freestyle Day 4 Highlights of 2015 World Championships
55k/121 pounds — Helen Maroulis (Sunkist Kids/Rockville, Md.)
1st round — won by TF over Brenda Esm Fernandez Salaz (Mexico), 10-0
Maroulis scored three straight takedowns in the first two minutes, then used a tough trap arm to twice put Salaz on her back for four exposure points and end it at 2:20
Quarterfinal — pinned Evelina Ge Nikolova (Bulgaria), 3:33
Maroulis was leading 6-0 when she caught the single leg of Nikolova at 3:14 and lifted it high enough to put the Bulgarian on her back and eventually scored the fall. Maroulis scored three takedowns in the first period to lead 6-0.
Semifinal — defeated Qianyu Pang (China), 5-0
Maroulis clinched the victory when she scored second takedown at the 4:42 mark. Maroulis also scored a takedown in the first period and was given a caution point when Pang was unable to score within the 30-second shot clock period.
Gold-Medal match — Helen Maroulis (United States) won by TF over Irina Ologonova (Russia), 11-0
Maroulis continued her domination and did not allow a point in the tournament as she scored three takedowns and step out in the first period, then added two more singles in the second to end the match.
Bronze-Medal match — Evelina Georgieva Nikolova (Bulgaria) pinned Qianyu Pang (China), 4:39
Bronze-Medal match — Tetyana Kit (Ukraine) dec. Katsiaryna Hanchar Yanushkevich (Belarus), 5-0
58k/128 pounds — Alli Ragan (NYAC/Carbondale, Ill.)
1st round — def. Shoovdor Baatarjav (Mongolia), 4-2
Trailing 2-1 with 30 seconds left, Ragan fought off a Mongolian shot and turned it into a defensive lift for the deciding points and the victory. A Mongolian protest was denied and Ragan was awarded another point.
2nd round — lost to Jackeline Renteria Castillo (Colombia), 6-0
The two-time Olympic bronze medalist from Colombia excelled at countering Ragan’s takedown attempts to score two of her own, including at the 4:26 mark when Castillo snapped Ragan to her back for additional exposure point. Ragan had two legitimate shots to score off low singles, but could not control Castillo once she came out the back door. Ragan was eliminated when Castillo fell in the semifinals to World champion Kaori Icho of Japan.
Gold-Medal Match — Kaori Icho (Japan) won by TF over Petra Maarit Olli (Finland), 10-0
Bronze-Medal Match — Elif Jale Yesilirmak (Turkey) dec. Jackeline Renteria Castillo (Colombia), 3-2
Bronze-Medal Match — Yuliya Ratkevich (Azerbaijan) dec, Malin Johanna Mattsson (Sweden), 4-0
63k/138.75 pounds — Erin Clodgo (Sunkist Kids/Richmond, Vt.)
1st round — lost to Katerina Vidiaux Lopez (Cuba), 11-6
Clodgo powered over Lopez for an early takedown and 2-0 lead before Lopez scored nine straight points by countering three shot attempts by the American. One of those led to a four-point throw by the Cuban, which gave her a 7-2 lead at the four-minute mark. Clodgo battled back with a takedown and two-point gut to cut the lead to 9-6 at 5:36. Lopez’ final points came when she countered a desperation throw by Clodgo. The American’s first Worlds ended when Lopez lost her next match to Risako Kawai of Japan.
Gold-Medal Match — Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia) pinned Risako Kawai (Japan), 0:37
Bronze-Medal Match — Yuliia Tkach Ostapchuk (Ukraine) def. Braxton Rei Stone (Canada), 6-4
Bronze-Medal Match — Taybe Mustafa Yusein (Bulgaria) won by TF over Anastasija Grigorjeva (Latvia), 13-2
75k/165 pounds — Adeline Gray (NYAC/Chatfield, Colo.)
1st round — won by TF over Naranchime Gelegjamts (Mongolia), 10-0
Gray needed just 1:24 to dominate the Mongolian, scoring a first takedown 21 seconds into the match, then added a pair of leg laces to lead 6-0 six seconds later. Gray the added a second takedown at the 1:15 mark before finally using a leg lace again to score two more points and end the match.
2nd round — def. Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus), 6-0
Gray scored two takedowns, including the first when she was put on a shot clock at the 1:51 mark and then used an effective leg lace to increase her lead to 4-0. Gray closed out the scoring on a double with at the 4:32 mark.
Quarterfinals — won by TF over Daria Ursz Osocka (Poland), 10-0
Gray followed up her two takedowns with effective leg lace, once at the one-minute mark after scoring her first takedown, the added two more over 14 seconds after she scored a second takedown off a double at the two-minute mark.
Semifinals — def. Aline Da Silva (Brazil), 10-2
In a rematch of last year’s World Championships’ final, which Gray won 2-1, the American ended any doubt when she scored a second takedown at the 4:21 mark and turned that into three straight leg laces to dominate Da Silva on the scoreboard. Before Gray’s final takedown, the Brazilian caught Gray in a heel trip and appeared to put Gray on her back. Instead, the officials just gave her two points to tie the score, 2-2, at the 4:10 mark.
Gold-Medal match — won by TF over Qian Zhou (China), 13-2
After giving up an early takedown and trailing 2-1 at intermission, Gray stormed back with 13 straight points after scoring just one takedown at the 3:48 mark; four when she twice caught Zhou with a trap arm and held her on her back for 45 seconds to lead 7-2, then caught her Chinese foe with her patented leg lace three times as the match ended with 28 seconds left.
Bronze-Medal Match — Epp Mae (Estonia) dec. Andrea Carolina Olaya Gutierrez (Colombia), 8-2
Bronze-Medal Match — Vasilisa Marzaliuk (Belarus) dec. Aline Da Silva Ferreira (Brazil), 5-1