Wrestling

Wrestling star Erica Wiebe punches ticket to Tokyo as Mexico make history 

The Pan American championships in Ottawa provided some Olympic-sized moments on the mat. Team USA secured Olympic qualification in all six women's freestyle weight classes.

By Ken Browne ·

Erica Wiebe qualifies for Tokyo 2020

Rio 2016 wrestling gold medallist Erica Wiebe will defend her title at Tokyo 2020 after a stomping semi-final win at the Pan American Championships in Canada.

Her 6-0 victory in the 76kg semi-final over Ecuador's Genesis Rosangela Reasco Valdez keeps the dream of consecutive Olympic gold medals alive.

"It seems a little surreal," Wiebe said, after her win.

"I'm just so happy that Wrestling Canada, United World Wrestling and the organising committee were able to take the necessary precautions so we could wrestle."

The Olympic champion found her focus and made it count.

"I knew it was going to be a challenging day regardless of the situation but I stayed in my wrestling stance and executed my game plan and I'm excited for what's to come," she said.

"I came here for one reason only — to punch my ticket to Tokyo." - Erica Wiebe

Her fellow Canadian wrestler Danielle Lappage also made the mat her own and will join Wiebe at the 2020 Olympics.

Danielle Lappage qualifies for Tokyo 2020

The top two finishers in each weight category win an Olympic spot at the Pan Am champs in Ottowa, so every Saturday semi-final felt like a final.

And it was delight for another Canadian wrestler as Danielle Lappage bossed her 68kg final four contest winning 10-0.

She joins Wiebe on the Canadian team set to wrestle for glory in Tokyo.

"I was so focused, and we did what we needed to do," Lappage said.

The 29-year-old law student at the University of Calgary said it was "amazing" that the event went ahead.

"My mom, my aunt, my boyfriend were still allowed to come and watch, and they were the three people I needed. It was extremely special regardless."

Mexico's moment

Alma Valencia Escoto became the first Mexican woman in history to qualify for the Olympic Games in wrestling when she won her semifinal match at 57 kg,

She had to take the hard road to Tokyo too facing Canada's 2019 World champion Linda Morais in the semi-final, managing to pin Morais for victory.

Valencia Escoto went on to win the finals by injury default to take home gold medal too.

Team USA on fire

Team USA will compete in all six women's freestyle weight classes at the Tokyo Olympics after making the mat their own in Ottawa.

Already secured berths at 68kg and 78kg due to 2019 World Championship wins by Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Adeline Gray, all four U.S. wrestlers at the Pan Am champs won their semi-finals to join them.

Rio 2016 Olympic champion Helen Maroulis led the way defeating Puerto Rico's Nes Marie Rodriguez Tirado 11-0 in the semi-final.

Maroulis looks in mean form, taking out 2019 World champion at 59 kg Linda Morais of Canada by technical fall earlier in the day.

Sarah Hildebrandt (50kg), Jacarra Winchester (53kg), and Kayla Miracle (62kg), all followed suit, securing the USA a shot at every weight class in Tokyo.

U.S. wrestlers guaranteed quota places for the 2020 Olympics and the individual wrestlers who will fill those spots will later be decided at the USA wrestling trials.

Those were originally scheduled for 4-5 April in Pennsylvania but have been postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

But the United States grapplers weren't the only ones to seal maximum quota spots at the Pan Am champs as Cuba also made a strong Olympic statement.

Cuba's men grab maximum quota places

Much like the USA, Cuba already had two wrestlers qualified at 67kg and 130kg thanks to top showings at the 2019 Worlds.

The Cuban team still had four spots to confirm at the competition in Canada on Friday, and they did it in style.

Luis Orta had already qualified before downing the United States' Ildar Hafizov 7-0 in the 60kg final.

Hafizov handed the US the other Tokyo 2020 spot.

At 77kg Cuna's Yosvanys Peña also topped the podium, dominating Mexico's José Andrés Vargas 8-0 in the final.

Daniel Gregorich signed his name on the Olympic list too by making the 87kg final, but frustratingly had to concede to U.S. wrestler Joe Rau due to injury.

Both should be in Tokyo.

Gabriel Rosillo rounded off a fine weekend for the Caribbean nation booking the final berth for Cuba, winning his semi-final to progress to the 97kg final where he defeated G'Angelo Hancock of the US in a tight 11-8 encounter.

There was some joy for Colombia too as Julian Horta fought his way to a quota spot at 67kg, winning the final 4-0 against American Alejandro Sancho

In the heavyweight 130kg contest, Chile's Yasmani Acosta defeated Brazil's Eduard Soghomonyan 9-0 in the final.

Both booked spots for their countries at the Summer Games.