Monday, May 27, 2024

Olympic Trials Preview: Four Senior World medalists entered in top-heavy 62 kg field

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The 62 kg women’s freestyle field at the 2024 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Wrestling is arguably the most competitive bracket fans will see in State College with four Senior World medalists in the running, plus a host of up-and-comers seeking to make a statement.

2020 Olympian and two-time World silver medalist Kayla Miracle gets a heavy edge by sitting out until the best-of-three championship series after qualifying the U.S. for the Paris Games at the 2024 Pan American Olympic Games Qualifier.

Miracle has made five straight U.S. World and Olympic Teams at this weight class. Her two World final appearances came in 2021 and 2022. She slotted in 12th place at the Tokyo Games. Miracle is an eight-time Pan American medalist, including a gold medal at the 2019 Pan American Games. She also boasts four age-group World medals from eight appearances at an age-group World Championships event—a U23 World silver, two U20 World bronzes, and a U17 World silver.

During her college career at Campbellsville University, wrestling for her father and head coach Lee Miracle, Miracle claimed four WCWA women’s college national titles from 2015 to 2018, becoming the fourth woman to achieve four-timer status.

Attempting to overtake Miracle for the 62 kg Olympic spot are a trio of past World medalists—Jennifer Page, Macey Kilty and Mallory Velte. Page and Kilty earn the unique advantage of sitting to the challenge tournament semifinals as a reward for winning a World medal in a non-Olympic weight class in 2023—Page was a bronze medalist at 59 kg and Kilty the silver medalist at 65 kg in Belgrade, Serbia, last year.

After making a pair of U20 World Teams in 2012 and 2013, Page took the long route to her first Senior World Team in 2023, and she made the most of it by earned the coveted World medal. Page was close to making a World Team on several occasions prior to last year, earning U.S. National Team status eight times before her remarkable run that ended with bronze in Belgrade.

Page made the drop to 59 kg last year, which is a notable weight cut for her, after coming up short of the 62 kg Final X series. She took second place to U20 World bronze medalist Adaugo Nwachukwu in the finals of last year’s U.S. Open, forcing her to change weights or wait until next year to try her luck. She made the decision to go at the non-Olympic weight and the rest is history.

The road to State College has been a winding one for Kilty, who made it to match three of the 2020 Olympic Trials championship series against Miracle before being forced to default mid-match due to injury, handing the Olympic berth to Miracle. After two years off active competition, Kilty has returned to form. She was the U.S. Open and Final X champion last year at 65 kg, going on to capture her first Senior-level World medal in Belgrade, Serbia.

Kilty is a five-time age-group World medalist holding a U23 World silver medal, two U20 World silver medals, and U17 World gold and bronze medals. She was the Pan American champion at 65 kg earlier this year.   

Another veteran star who will make the challenge tournament a dog fight is Velte, a two-time Senior World bronze medalist and three-time U.S. World Team member. Velte won her first World medal at 62 kg in 2018 and moved up to 65 kg for the bulk of this Olympic quadrennial. She earned World bronze No. 2 at 65 kg in 2022 and has looked strong at the weight class with several international medals under her name, including a Pan American gold in 2023. Velte was the December 2023 Senior Nationals champion at 68 kg.

Miracle earned the right to go qualify 62 kg for the Olympics in Acapulco, Mexico, by winning a wrestle-off bracket with Kilty and Page in early February. In said wrestle-off, Kilty defeated Page by a 12-1 score to enter a best-of-three series with Miracle. It was Miracle taking the series in three extremely competitive matches. Velte also competed at the Pan American Olympic Game Qualifier Wrestle-Off up at 68 kg where she was upended by two-time World champion Amit Elor, 8-0, a match that likely influenced Velte to drop to 62 kg in State College.

The weight is loaded with young talent that could surprise any of the four favorites. 2024 USA Wrestling Women’s College Wrestler of the Year, Nwachukwu of William Penn, is a three-time NAIA champion, a 2022 U20 World bronze medalist and three-time age-group World Team member. She finished as Final X runner-up to Miracle last summer.

Katerina Lange, a NCWWC champion in 2023 for Augsburg, qualified with a silver medal at the Bill Farrell Memorial International. She was a member of the 2023 U23 World Team and holds a U20 Pan American gold from 2021.

Ashlynn Ortega, the December 2023 Senior Nationals runner-up to 53 kg Olympic Trials entrant Jacarra Winchester, made three age-group World teams. Also qualifying through the Senior Nationals were third place Aine Drury, fourth place Maya Letona and fifth place SaVannah Cosme, all rising young stars.

2024 NCWWC champions Claire DiCugno of King and Reese Larramendy of Iowa are also talents coming from the NCAA ranks. Lauren Louive, who has been on past Senior National Teams, got the final spot by winning a tough Last Chance Qualifier field.

While weight classes and final athlete registrations are not finalized until the completion of weigh-ins, this cast of 13 wrestlers is the expected 62 kg field for the Olympic Trials.

Fans looking to attend the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in person can still purchase all session tickets and single session tickets through Ticketmaster.

For those unable to grab a ticket, fear not—all the action from Bryce Jordan Center will be broadcast by NBC properties, April 19-20. The Friday and Saturday evening sessions will be televised on USA Network. NBC’s streaming platform Peacock will host live streams of each mat throughout the competition.

Complete brackets and live results for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials will be hosted on Trackwrestling.com. Fans can also follow @usawrestling on the various social media platforms for regular updates throughout the event.

For more information about the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, please visit usawrestlingevents.com

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