Burnaby/Abbotsford – Led by Olympic and world champions and a top seed going into the event, the SFU Red Leafs wrestling program will be represented by a star-studded group of alumni at the World Championships, which began today in Belgrade, Serbia.
SFU will have five alumni in the women’s competition and one in the men’s freestyle lineup, while three more will be coaching with Canada.
Any wrestler who places in the top five of an Olympic weight class will earn a berth to the 2024 Olympic Summer Games in Paris, France. The women’s freestyle Olympic weight classes are: 50 kilograms, 53 kg, 57 kg, 62 kg, 68 kg and 76 kg. The men’s freestyle Olympic weight classes are: 57 kg, 65 kg, 74 kg, 86 kg, 97 kg and 125 kg.
Representing Canada, Karla Godinez Gonzalez of Surrey, B.C., is the top seed in the women’s 55-kg division, a year after she captured world bronze in the same event.
Her sister Ana is the fourth-seeded 62-kg wrestler and is an under-23 world champion (2021) in the weight class. Since then, she has added a Commonwealth Games (2022) silver medal, U23 World (2022) bronze medal and Pan-American Championships (2023) gold medal to her collection.
Burnaby, B.C.’s Justina Di Stasio, who is also an assistant coach with SFU, is looking to qualify for the Olympics in the 76-kg division. She is a former world champion (2018), Pan American Games champion (2019), and Commonwealth Games gold medalist (2022).
The Red Leafs will have two alumni competing for the United States. Dominque Parrish is the defending world champion at 53 kgs, while history-maker Helen Maroulis is in the 57-kg weight class.
Parrish (Scotts Valley, California) won the senior world title last year in her championship debut, going undefeated in a competition where six others were seeded above her. Maroulis is the first American woman to: win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling (2016), and earn two Olympic medals after taking bronze in 2020. The wrestler from Rockville, Maryland, is also a three-time world champion.
The women’s freestyle competition at the 2023 World Wrestling Championships will take place between September 18 and 21.
Nishan Randhawa of Abbotsford, will be wrestling for Canada in the men’s freestyle 97-kg weight class. It will be his third consecutive appearance at the senior world meet. Randhawa won bronze at the Pan-American Championships earlier this year, and gold at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The men’s freestyle 97-kg competition will be contested over two days, September 18-19.
Current Red Leafs assistant coach Raj Virdi is on Canada’s coaching staff alongside fellow SFU alumni Owen Dawkins and Dave McKay.
– with files from Wrestling Canada Lutte and USA Wrestling
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