Wrestling·Preview

Canadian wrestler Erica Wiebe ready to defend Olympic title in Tokyo

Olympic champion Erica Wiebe headlines a group aiming to bring home Canada's fourth Olympic wrestling gold medal. With two returning Olympians and two athletes making their Olympic debut at Tokyo 2020, Canada looks to improve upon its single-medal performance from 2016.

Everything you should know for the Tokyo 2020 wrestling competition

Four Canadians aiming for the podium in Olympic wrestling

2 months ago
2:32
Danielle Lappage (68kg), Erica Wiebe (76kg), Jordan Steen (97kg) and Amar Dhesi (125kg) are set to compete for Canada as the Olympic wrestling competition starts on Sunday. 2:32

Canada has won 17 Olympic medals in wrestling dating back to 1908, and Olympic champion Erica Wiebe headlines a group aiming to bring home the nation's fourth Olympic wrestling gold medal.

With two returning Olympians and two athletes making their Olympic debut, Canada looks to improve upon its single-medal performance from 2016.

Here's everything you need to know about wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics, which begins streaming live on CBCSports.ca on Saturday at 10 p.m. ET:

Format

288 wrestlers will compete for 18 gold medals across three competitions that are each divided into six weight categories.

There will be a men's and women's freestyle tournament with 96 competitors each, and a men's-only Greco-Roman tournament with 96 competitors.

A direct elimination system decides the two finalists for each gold medal match, but athletes who lose to the finalists during the tournament are granted a second opportunity to win one of two bronze medals through the repechage rounds.

Canadian competitors

Wiebe and fellow Rio Olympian Danielle Lappage will be joined by Olympic newcomers Amar Dhesi and Jordan Steen in Tokyo.

Wiebe took home gold in the women's 75kg event during her Olympic debut in 2016, joining Tonya Verbeek and Carol Huynh as Canada's only female Olympic wrestling medallists. She is competing in the women's 76kg freestyle event and is poised to reach the podium once again.

The 32-year-old punched her ticket to Tokyo by finishing atop the 76kg weight class at the Pan American Olympic qualifier last year in Ottawa.

WATCH | Wiebe's journey to Tokyo 2020:

My Story: With Olympic gold came Olympic level pressure for Erica Wiebe

3 months ago
3:21
Returning to the mat with a gold medal from Rio wasn’t what Wiebe thought it would be. After questioning whether she wanted to keep wrestling, the Olympian is ready to take on Tokyo. 3:21

She won gold at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series in March and bronze at the Poland Open in June, which served as the final ranking event before the Olympics.

Lappage, 30, also made her Olympic debut in 2016, but she suffered a career-threatening ruptured hamstring ahead of her opening match that forced her to forfeit and withdraw from the rest of the tournament.

Lappage won silver at the world championships in Budapest upon returning to the international stage in 2018, and she was nominated for the women's 68kg freestyle event in Tokyo with her semifinal win at the Pan Am Olympic qualifier.

WATCH | Lappage better than ever after career nearly ended in Rio:

Danielle Lappage’s career almost ended in Rio - but she’s back with coach Paul Ragusa and better than ever

3 months ago
2:10
An injury at the Rio 2016 Olympics almost ended her career, but with a lot of hard work and a supportive coach, Danielle Lappage is ready to take on Tokyo. 2:10

A warrior who has battled through injuries and endured rehabilitation over the years, Lappage underwent her second ACL reconstruction last summer following the postponement of the Games.

Canada will have two athletes in the men's freestyle competition, with Dhesi and Steen wrestling in the 125kg and 97kg events, respectively.

Dhesi is coming off a gold medal performance at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series in March, while the previous year saw him defeat Rio Olympian Korey Jarvis in the national trials final before claiming silver at the Pan American championships.

Dhesi secured his Olympic berth with his national trials victory and his result at the Pan Am Olympic qualifier, where he made it to the final. At 25 years of age, he is Canada's youngest, and heaviest, wrestler in Tokyo.

WATCH | Amar Dhesi secures Olympic spot:

Amar Dhesi clinches spot for Tokyo Olympics

2 years ago
1:46
Amar Dhesi will represent Canada at the 2020 Olympics in the 125 kg weight class. 1:46

Steen, 30, jumped up weight classes from 86kg to 97kg in 2018 and immediately began producing results, winning bronze at both the Commonwealth Games and Pan American Championships that year.

He also achieved his best result at the world championships in 2018 with a 12th-place finish. Steen won a U Sports national title during his time at Concordia, and he earned his spot in Tokyo with a semifinal win at last year's Pan Am Olympic qualifier.

Steen comes from an Olympic family, as his mother, Andrea, competed as a hurdler at the 1984 Games, while his father, Dave, won bronze in decathlon at the 1988 Games.

International athletes to watch

In women's freestyle, reigning Olympic champion Risako Kawai of Japan is considered a favourite to defend her title on home soil. Kawai won gold in the 63kg event in Rio but is competing at 57kg in Tokyo.

Adeline Gray, the first American wrestler to win five world titles, will provide stiff competition for Wiebe in the 76kg event. The 28-year-old has a second chance at Olympic glory after falling in the quarters in Rio.

Fellow American Tamyra Mensah-Stock is a favourite in the 68kg event, having won the same event at the Matteo Pellicone ranking series after claiming a world title in 2019. Both Americans earned top seeds.

Japan's Sara Dosho is also competing at 68kg in Tokyo, and she won the 69kg event in Rio to become the nation's first female heavyweight gold medallist.

In men's Greco-Roman, Cuba is poised to build off their strong performance in Rio with returning gold medallists Mijain Lopez and Ismael Borrero.

Lopez, 38, is entering his fifth Olympic games with three-straight gold medal victories. He is competing in the 130kg event once again in Tokyo, while Borrero is wrestling at 67kg.

For men's freestyle, a big name to watch is reigning world champion Abdulrashid 'The Russian Tank' Sadulaev. With four world titles and an Olympic gold medal on his resume, he is undoubtedly one of the most dominant freestyle wrestlers in the world.

Top-seeded Sadulaev is competing in the 97kg event after taking home gold at 86kg in Rio, but he will have to get past American Kyle Snyder who is returning to defend his Olympic title.

The pair have faced each other twice before, both for world titles. Sadulaev got the best of Snyder in 2018 after the American beat him out for gold in 2017.

Turkey's Taha Akgul and Iranian Hassan Yazdani will also look to defend their Olympic crowns in Tokyo, but they too must contend with major competition on their path.

Akgul won the 125kg event in Rio and most recently claimed gold at the European wrestling championships in April. But he will be competing in the same event as rival Geno Petriashvili of Georgia and powerhouse Gable Steveson of the U.S.

Petriashvili is reigning world champion at 125kg, and two of his three world title victories came against Akgul. Steveson won gold at the Pan American championships in May and is coming off an undefeated NCAA national title run.

After winning gold at 74kg in Rio, Yazdani has moved up to 86kg. American David Taylor is also competing at 86kg in his Olympic debut, an event he won gold in at the 2021 Pan American championships.

Everything else

  • Japanese women have claimed 11 wrestling gold medals in the last three Olympics, including four in Rio
  • The men's Greco-Roman and women's freestyle events have slightly increased the upper-limit in each weight category compared to Rio
  • Wrestling was one of the original sports included in the first modern Olympic Games in 1896

Key dates

  • July 31: Men's Greco-Roman (60kg, 130kg) and women's freestyle (76kg) semifinals
  • Aug. 1: Men's Greco-Roman (77kg, 97kg) and women's freestyle (68kg) semifinals, men's Greco-Roman (60kg, 130kg) and women's freestyle (76kg) final and bronze-medal matches
  • Aug. 2: Men's Greco-Roman (67kg, 87kg) and women's freestyle (62kg) events begin, men's Greco-Roman (77kg, 97kg) and women's freestyle (68kg) final and bronze-medal matches
  • Aug. 3: Men's freestyle (57kg, 86kg) and women's freestyle (57kg) events begin, men's Greco- Roman (67kg, 87kg) and women's freestyle (62kg) final and bronze-medal matches
  • Aug. 4: Men's freestyle (74kg, 125kg) and women's freestyle (53kg) events begin, women's freestyle (57kg) final and bronze-medal matches
  • Aug. 5: Men's freestyle (65kg, 97kg) and women's freestyle (50kg) events begin, men's freestyle (74kg, 125kg) and women's freestyle (57kg) final and bronze-medal matches
  • Aug. 6: Men's freestyle (65kg, 97kg) and women's freestyle (50kg) final and bronze-medal matches

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