History of USA Women’s Freestyle at past Worlds/Olympics

Updated: September 14, 2023

Photo: Helen Maroulis (left) and Adeline Gray, who have combined to win 10 World/Olympic championships, will be competing in the upcoming 2023 UWW World Championships, in Belgrade, Serbia. (WIN photo)

Recently, the National Federation of High School Associations announced that nearly 50,000 girls are competing in 43 states that have officially sanctioned girls high school championships at a time that the NCAA is getting close to joining the NAIA in officially sanctioning women’s college wrestling.

One big reason for this explosion in women’s wrestling is the success of USA women’s freestyle wrestling on the World stage. That includes the upcoming 2023 UWW World Championships which begin Sept. 19 in Belgrade, Serbia, where the American team will feature five wrestlers who have already earned World gold medals. Team USA, which won its only World team title in 1999, also hopes to snap the streak of eight straight team titles by Japan, which owns 25 of the all-time championships.

The most notable of the current American women is Adeline Gray, who will shoot for her seventh all-time World championship (which would be the most by any USA wrestler), and Helen Maroulis, the first American woman to win Olympic gold to go along with three World championships. They were also medalists at the 2020 Olympics, held in Tokyo in 2021, when a now-retired Tamyra Mensah Stock sandwiched Olympic gold between two World titles.

Overall, the United States has won 90 all-time World medals (24 gold, 37 silver, 30 bronze) to go along with nine additional Olympic medals (two gold, two silver, five bronze).

Tricia Saunders

What is remarkable about these numbers is that USA women did not start competing in the Worlds until 1989, two years after the first women’s World Championships took place. And women’s wrestling did not take place in the Olympics until 2004, a century after an American male wrestler won a first-ever Olympic gold medal.

There have been several significant pioneers in women’s wrestling:

  • Afsoon Johnston (bronze), Asia DeWeese (silver) and Leia Kawaii (silver), who became the first American women to claim a medal in 1989;
  • Tricia Saunders, the first USA woman to win World gold in 1992 and added three more before the decade ended;
  • Kristie Marano, who won nine all-time World medals, including two gold;
  • Iris Smith, the first black American woman to claim a World title in 2005 and first woman wrestler to appear on the cover of WIN Magazine.

WIN Magazine will provide comprehensive coverage of the 2023 UWW World Championships in its next issue, printed Sept. 28. Click here or call 888-305-0606 to subscribe.

Click here to view a year-by-year look at how American women have fared in past World Championships and Olympic Games.

The following is a list of the All-Time USA Women’s Freestyle World Gold Medalists:

6 – Adeline Gray – 6 (67 kg 2012, 76 kg 2014, 76 kg 2015, 76 kg 2018, 76 kg 2019, 76 kg 2021)

4 – Tricia Saunders (46 kg 1992, 47 kg 1996, 46 kg 1998, 46 kg 1999)

3 – Helen Maroulis (57 kg 2015, 57 kg 2017, 57 kg 2021), plus one 1 Olympic Gold (57 kg 2016)

2 – Tamyra Mensah-Stock (68 kg 2019, 68 kg 2022), plus one Olympic Gold (68 kg 2020)

2 – Kristie Marano (68 kg 2000, 67 kg 2003)

1 – Sandra Bacher (68 kg 1999)

1 – Iris Smith (72 kg 2005)

1 – Clarissa Chun (48 kg 2008)

1 – Elena Pirozhkova (63 kg 2012)

1 – Jacarra Winchester (55 kg 2019)

1 – Dominique Parrish (53 kg 2022)

1 – Amit Elor (72 kg 2022)

Click here to view the history of USA men’s freestyle at past World Championships and Olympic Games.

Click here to view the history of USA Greco-Roman at past World Championships and Olympic Games.