Even an admittedly rusty Elena Pirozhkova was good enough to win gold Saturday.
The 2012 world champion and U.S. Olympic Training Center resident outpointed Canada’s Justine Bouchard 2-2, 1-0 in their 138.75-pound freestyle match to win her third Dave Schultz Memorial International wrestling championships and get her international season started off right. The 2012 U.S. Olympic team member was pleased to come out on top at the OTC against Bouchard, a woman she’d wrestled nearly a dozen times before and lost to on several occasions.
“It was just a whirlwind,” said Pirozhkova, a U.S. citizen who was born in Russia and came to the United States with her family at age 3. “You just have to adjust and fight until the last second. This is home, and there’s a lot of people you know, so it’s really great to win it.
“I love this tournament.”
Pirozhkova trailed Bouchard 1-0 in the first before hitting a two-point move that proved to be the tiebreaker after the duo finished at 2-2 at the end of the period. A late takedown in the second proved to be the difference for Pirozhkova, who said she has a lot of work to do to get back to world championship form.
“Honestly, I feel like I’m still really rusty and hesitant on my shots,” said Pirozhkova, who has been training at the OTC for seven years. “I won, but it wasn’t really technically sound and wasn’t the best I know I can wrestle. But, I’m getting there.”
The four-time U.S. Open champion and two-time University World Champion will head to the Ukraine for her next international competition Feb. 12 as she continues to work on improvement. Pirozhkova failed to medal at the London Olympics, a disappointment that serves as motivation for qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
“I was so disappointed in myself,” said Pirozhkova, 26, who finished third at the Dave Schultz Memorial in 2007 and 2011. “I know I’m capable of winning it.”
Former OTC resident Helen Maroulis finally broke through for her first gold at the Schultz with a 2-1, 1-0 victory over China’s Yuanyuan Xiao in their 121 match and was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. Maroulis, who attends Simon Fraser University in Canada, was runner-up at the tournament in 2012 and 2010 and third in 2011 and 2009.
Adeline Gray, an OTC resident ranked No. 1 on the U.S. national team at 147.5, qualified for the 158.5 gold-medal match against China’s Fengliu Zhang, but was unable to compete after suffering an injury in her semifinal win over China’s Yan Hong. Another OTC resident, Veronica Carlson, finished second after being pinned by China’s Feng Zhou in their 147.5 final.