Meet The 15 Olympic-Bound Wrestlers For Team USA

by Alex Abrams

The fifteen Olympic-bound wrestlers who emerged victorious from the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling will no doubt feel that it was all worth the wait.
After a year’s postponement because of the coronavirus pandemic, a year of waiting to see if they’d qualify for the Olympic Games, the country’s best wrestlers took to the mat Friday and Saturday for Trials, and there was plenty of action inside the partially-filled Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas. 
Fifteen wrestlers qualified for the U.S. Olympic wrestling team that will travel this summer to compete at the Tokyo Games, which was also pushed back one year because of the pandemic. They could be joined by three more athletes should they qualify their weight classes next month.
Here’s a little more about the fifteen wrestlers who are already Tokyo-bound.

Sarah Hildebrandt has been training for this moment as a resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Hildebrandt, 27, the 2018 world silver medalist, qualified for her first Olympic Games by overpowering Victoria Anthony, whose energetic style has earned her the nickname “Vortex.” Hildebrandt swept the finals with a pair of victories, 12-2 and 10-0. 

Hildebrandt has three times earned a spot on the U.S. world team (2016, 2018-19). Her dominant performance on Saturday has given her the opportunity to represent Granger, Indiana, population around 30,000, at the Tokyo Games.

Jacarra Winchester had to make a decision after winning a world championship at 55 kg. in 2019 — whether to move up or down in weight. But she couldn’t stay where she was.
Since 55 kg. isn’t an Olympic weight class, Winchester, 28, decided to move down to 53 kg. after going up to as much as 62 kg. She said she felt she didn’t feel comfortable competing at the higher weight classes because of her size.
Winchester, of San Lorenzo, California, made the right call. She qualified for her first Olympic Games on Saturday, earning a 7-4 decision and a 12-2 technical fall victory over Ronna Heaton.

At one time, Helen Maroulis told her mother that she was retiring from wrestling following her last concussion in 2018. The side effects from all her injuries had taken a toll on her.

Maroulis, 29, showed she’s not yet done with the sport. 

She became the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling at the 2016 Rio Games, and she’ll get a chance to defend her title after qualifying for the Tokyo Games.

Maroulis, a two-time world champion, needed all three matches against Jenna Burkert in the final round to win her weight class. In the deciding third match, Maroulis pinned Burkert in 24 seconds to claim victory and continue her remarkable Olympic comeback.

Kayla Miracle celebrated her 25th birthday on Friday. The following day, she qualified for her first Olympic Games.

Miracle had split her first two matches with Macey Kilty in the 62 kg. finals, but she was declared the winner after Kilty suffered an injury and was forced to default 32 seconds into their decisive third match.

Miracle, the Culver, Indiana, native, proved herself by wrestling against boys in high school. She won three consecutive U.S. Open championships (2017-19), and finished eighth at the 2019 world championships.

Miracle moved to Phoenix, Arizona, to train with the Sunkist Kids wrestling club.

Tamyra Mensah-Stock will finally get the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games after a technicality prevented her from wrestling four years ago in Rio.
Mensah-Stock, 28, won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in 2016, but she didn’t go on to compete at the Rio Games because Team USA failed to qualify in the 68 kg. weight class. 
That won’t be an issue this time around for Mensah-Stock, the 2019 world champion who earned a world bronze medal in 2018. She swept teenager Kennedy Blades in Saturday’s finals, winning 12-4 and 8-1, to qualify for her first Games.
Mensah-Stock was named the 2019 United World Wrestling women’s wrestler of the year.

 Adeline Gray was considered a medal contender at the 2016 Rio Games, but she was bothered by a shoulder injury that eventually required surgery. She was upset in the quarterfinals.

Gray, 30, a five-time world champion, appears back to her dominant form. She earned a pair of technical fall victories over Kylie Welker, 10-0 and 11-0, in Saturday’s finals to qualify for her second Olympic Games.

Gray is the only U.S. wrestler to win five career senior world titles. She’s also a two-time world bronze medalist (2011 and 2013) and a two-time Pan American Games champion (2015 and 2018).

Thomas Gilman will continue in the long line of former University of Iowa wrestlers to compete at the Olympic Games.

Gilman, 26, a three-time All-American at Iowa, qualified for his first Games by overpowering Vitali Arujau to sweep Saturday’s final round. Gilman pinned Arujau in 5:42 in the first match and then closed it out with a 2-2 decision in the second match.

Gilman, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, isn’t new to international competition. He earned a junior world bronze medal in 2014 and a senior world silver medal three years later. He’ll turn 27 before this summer’s Tokyo Games.

8. Kyle Dake - Men's freestyle (74 kg.)

Kyle Dake pulled off an impressive win in perhaps the most anticipated match of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. It was Dake versus 2012 Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs, a four-time world champion. 

Dake, 30, a two-time world champion at a higher weight class, had struggled in his meetings with Burroughs over the years. He had won only once in their eight head-to-head matchups before Saturday.

Nonetheless, Dake needed only two matches to beat Burroughs in Saturday’s finals, winning 3-0 and 3-2. 

“To go out and put on a show like I did and be able to go out and get my hand raised is something I’ve been missing the past few years,” Dake said.

9. David Taylor - Men's freestyle (86 kg.)

David Taylor said he didn’t want to take anything for granted after a difficult past few years. He missed out on qualifying for the Olympic Games in 2016, and he suffered a major knee injury that forced him to sit out nearly a year in 2019.

Taylor, 30, a 2018 world champion, will make his Olympic debut in Tokyo this summer. He swept Bo Nickal, a close friend and training partner, in the 86 kg. finals with a pair of wins — 4-0 and 6-0. 

A native of St. Paris, Ohio, Taylor won a pair of national championships at Penn State before having more success on the world stage. He’s a two-time World Cup champion (2017 and 2018), and he claimed two more titles at the Pan American Championships in 2018 and 2019.

Kyle Snyder was age 20 when he became the youngest U.S. wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games.

Snyder, now 24, will get the chance to defend his title and continue his dominance in the weight class this summer in Tokyo. The two-time world champion is 38-2 in international matches over the past two years.

Snyder beat fellow former Ohio State wrestler Kollin Moore, 10-0 and 5-1, to qualify for his second Games. Snyder won three national championships with the Buckeyes, and he has since added two more world medals to his trophy case — a silver in 2018 and a bronze the following year.

Gable Steveson’s year is off to a great start. He has already won a national title at the University of Minnesota and qualified for the Olympic Games.

Steveson won’t turn 21 until May 31, but he has already established himself as one of the top American heavyweights.

Steveson, who won a junior world championship in 2017, made it look easy in Saturday’s finals against two-time world bronze medalist Nick Gwiazdowski. He earned a 10-0 technical fall victory in the first match and followed it up with a 10-4 decision over Gwiazdowski.

Ildar Hafizov was a 2008 Olympian for Uzbekistan. He’ll soon get the chance to compete at the Olympic Games as an American.

Hafizov, 33, who was a three-time member of the Uzbekistan world team, shut out Ryan Mango in the finals. He earned a 7-0 decision and an 8-0 technical fall victory over Mango to add some more international flavor to Team USA. 

Hafizov has been training for the Games in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While this will be his first time competing for the U.S. in the Olympic Games, he was on the U.S. world team in 2017 and in 2019.

Alejandro Sancho has made his presence on the international stage known more over the past few years.

A Miami native, Sancho, 27, placed second at the 2016 Pan American Championships and took second at the 2020 Pan American Olympic Qualifier. He was the 2017 U23 World Team Trials champion. 

Sancho needed only two matches to defeat Ellis Coleman in their 67 kg. Greco-Roman final. He scored a pair of decisions — 2-0 and 3-1 — to qualify for his first Olympic Games.

John Stefanowicz is a newcomer to 87 kg. He recently moved up in weight because his preferred weight — 82 kg. — isn’t an Olympic weight class.

Stefanowicz, 29, wasn’t slowed down in the finals at the heavier weight. He swept two-time U.S. world team member Joe Rau with a pair of decisions — 6-5 and 2-1 — to secure his first trip to the Olympic Games.

Afterward, Rau left his shoes on the mat to signal his retirement from the sport.

Stefanowicz, a native of Fawn Grove, Pennsylvania, won a title at the 2020 Pan American Championships. 

G’Angelo Hancock missed out on qualifying for the Rio Games, finishing third at the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He ensured that wouldn’t happen again.  

Hancock, who turns 24 on July 27, scored back-to-back 8-0 technical fall victories over Braxton Amos to earn a spot at the Tokyo Games. 

Hancock is a three-time member of the U.S. world team. He earned a title at the 2020 Pan American Championships, improving on his silver-medal finish at the 2019 Pan American Games.

Alex Abrams has written about Olympic sports for more than 15 years, including as a reporter for major newspapers in Florida, Arkansas and Oklahoma. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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