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The United States was in search of its first Olympic medal in women’s freestyle wrestling.
Not only did Helen Maroulis deliver, but she made sure it was a golden moment for the USA Wrestling program coached by former University of Iowa three-time All-American Terry Steiner.
Maroulis captured the 53-kilogram title, beating Japan’s acclaimed champion Saori Yoshida, 4-1, in the finals Thursday at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Maroulis is the USA’s first Olympic champion in women’s freestyle and the first USA wrestler to earn gold in these games.
The final was a battle between 2015 World champions. Maroulis won the 55-kg title last September in Las Vegas, while Yoshida won the 53-kg crown.
Maroulis trailed 1-0 at the break, but scored a takedown in the opening minute of the second period for a 2-1 edge. She added another takedown in the final minute to secure the gold medal.
According to Trackwrestling.com’s Andy Hamilton, Yoshida had won 16 straight World and Olympic titles.
Maroulis produced a tremendous tournament just to get to the gold-medal match. Maroulis finished 5-0, recording two technical falls and a semifinal pin over Sweden’s 2015 World silver medalist Sofia Mattson. She capped the tournament with successive victories over the returning World runner-up and champion.
Steiner has coached the women’s national freestyle team since 2002. He helped lead them to a third-place finish at the 2015 World Championships with three medalists.
Former World champion Adeline Gray did not place in the 75-kg division. She fell to Vasilisa Marzaliuk, of Belarus, 3-1, in the quarterfinals. Marzaliuk, ranked fourth, lost to Canada’s second-ranked Erica Wiebe in the semifinal, eliminating Gray from medal contention.
Elena Pirozhkova attempted to join Maroulis on the medal stand, wrestling for bronze Thursday. Pirozhkova had to settle for fifth, falling to Kazakhstan’s Yekaterina Larionova in the medal round.
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