Justina Di Stasio knew dropping into a lower weight class for the world wrestling championships would come with challenges. There would be changes to her training to focus on quickness, and changes to her diet to maintain her new fighting weight.
Those changes paid off in a big way Wednesday, as Di Stasio won the women’s 72-kilogram final with a 4-2 win over Mongolia’s Nasanburmaa Ochirbat. The world title is Canada’s first since 2012.
Di Stasio, from Burnaby, B.C., was fighting at 72 kilograms after she didn’t make Canada’s team at 76 kg.
“There was a moment of ‘What am I going to do now?’ and I dwelled on that. Then I thought OK, 72 is still awesome and it’s going to take some differences in training like watching my weight and getting quicker,” she said.
“It was a challenge like everything, but it was a good one because today was awesome.”
Di Stasio’s medal was one of three on a successful day for Canada’s women wrestlers. Danielle Lappage took silver in the women’s 65-kg classification with a close 6-5 loss to Finland’s Petra Olli in the final. Later, 2016 Olympic champion Erica Wiebe earned bronze in the women’s 76-kg event with a 4-0 win over Epp Mae of Estonia.
Olivia Di Bacco of Orillia, Ont., fell 7-4 to Tamyra Mensah of the United States in the women’s 68-kg bronze-medal match.
With the three medals, Canada tied its best world championships ever when it won gold, silver and bronze in 2012. The Canadians can top that total when Diana Weicker wrestles for a bronze in the women’s 53-kilogram event and Alexandria Town fights in a 57-kg repechage bout on Thursday.
“We all have to wrestle each other to make the team. Those trials are really hard, then you have all those girls going out and placing at tournaments it builds confidence,” Di Stasio said of Canada’s emerging women’s wrestling team. “It’s like we’re not getting spanked or whatever. We’re wrestling good people in Canada, then you go out and you bring that with you.”
On Wednesday, Di Stasio scored two early takedowns against Ochirbat to move in front 4-0. The Mongolian scored a takedown to close the gap, but Di Stasio defended successfully for the remainder of the match to pick up the win.
“I was trying to keep scoring but she was closing up pretty well,” Di Stasio said. ”But I was just trying to make sure I was in the right position and not giving up too many gaps.
“I gave up one, she got a really good takedown, but it’s OK.”
Di Stasio said she’ll take a month to coach at Simon Fraser University before returning to training in December ahead of tryouts for the national team. The goal is the Tokyo Olympics, although there is no women’s competition at 72 kilograms after that classification was replaced with a 75-kg event following the 2012 London Games.
Earlier, Lappage’s return to the world championships finished just short of a title.
Lappage, from Olds, Alta., was defeated by Olli in a controversial final. Lappage scored with a last-second takedown to tie it at 5-5. However, Olli was awarded an extra point and the match because Lappage had been cautioned earlier for grabbing Olli’s fingers.
“Really disappointing finish obviously,” Lappage said. ”I really thought I had it. Still very confused and emotional about it.”
Lappage jumped out to a 3-0 lead, scoring on a shot clock violation by Olli followed by a takedown. Olli cut the lead to 3-2 before the break with a takedown of her own.
The caution against Lappage plus an Olli takedown gave the Finn a 5-3 lead before the dramatic finish.
“She’s a tough competitor. She knows how to scramble and move,” Lappage said. ”I think I’m better so I wish I had have been a bit more offensive the whole time. Obviously I did OK but I know that was my match to take.”
Despite the disappointing result, the medal capped an impressive return to the world championships for Lappage after two serious injuries threatened to derail her career. After finished eighth in her world championship debut in 2014, Lappage lost a year to a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Then, after making the team for the 2016 Olympics, Lappage suffered a ruptured hamstring while warming up for her first match,
“It’s been two years since then and I’ve been able to come back and make this team again,” Lappage said. ”It’s only the second time I’ve been here even though I feel like I’ve belonged in this position for a long time. So it was really exciting to make the finals, it’s the best I’ve ever done.”
Wiebe, from Stittsville, Ont., capped Canada’s three-medal day with a shutout of Mae. Wiebe was coming off a close loss to eventual champion Adeline Gray in Tuesday’s semifinals.
Also Wednesday, Weicker, from St. Catharines, Ont., advanced to the 53-kg semifinals before losing 10-0 to Sarah Hildebrandt of the United States. Weicker will face the winner of a repechage match between Zhuldyz Eshimova of Kazakhstan and Anzhela Dorogan of Azerbaijan for bronze on Thursday.
Town was defeated 10-0 by Bulgaria’s Bilyana Dudova in the 57-kg quarterfinals, but can fight for a bronze medal Thursday with a win in a repechage bout with Romania’s Kateryna Zhydachevska.
The Canadian Press