BRISTOL, Tenn. – The last site of U.S.A. Wrestling's Final X will have many King University ties as four of the 10 competitors are former Tornado. However, the four King women's wrestlers will all square off against each other on Saturday night in Bethlehem, Pa. Forrest Molinari will take on Julia Salata at 65 kilograms and Sarah Hildebrandt takes on Haley Augello at 53 kilograms for a spot on the U.S. World Team.
Salata reached the Final X by winning her first U.S. Open title back in April, defeating Molinari 5-0 in the finals. Salata is a current assistant coach for the Tornado and has competed at the Junior World Championships twice and the University World Championships twice. Her best finish of bronze came at the 2014 University World Championships in 2014. Salata is one of King's seven four-time WCWA All-Americans as she won two national titles, coming in 2014 and 2015.
Molinari came back to reach the Final X by winning the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament in May, taking the best 2-of-3 championship series in straight bouts, 4-0 and 3-1. She finished seventh at the 2015 Junior World Championships and competed at the U23 World Championships last season. In her three years at King, Molinari was a three-time WCWA All-American, winning her lone national title in 2016.
At 53 kilograms, Hildebrandt reached the Final X by defeating Augello 6-1 to take her first U.S. Open title back in April. She was a member of the Junior World Championship team in 2012 and 2013 before making her first Senior World Team in 2016. In 2016 she finished 10th at the Senior World Championships. While at King, Hildebrandt won two national titles and finished runner-up once, earning WCWA All-America honors three times.
Augello became King's first U.S. Olympian in 2016 and earned her way to the Final X by winning the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament with two straight technical fall victories in the finals, 10-0 and 11-0. She won gold in 2011 at the Cadet World Championships and was a Junior World Team member in 2012 and 2013 before finishing ninth at the 2016 Olympic Games. Last year she finished eighth at the Senior World Championships. While at King, Augello was a three-time WCWA national champion in her three years on campus.
King will have three World Team members following Saturday night as the two winners will join Alli Ragan who earned her spot with a Final X victory on June 9 in Lincoln, Neb. Ragan earned her spot in the Final X by taking silver at the 2017 World Championships, her second straight World silver medal. In the Final X, Ragan defeated Jenna Burkert 4-0 and 5-0, to make her sixth straight U.S. Senior World Team. Ragan was King's first four-time WCWA All-American, winning two national titles in her time on campus.
The last time King had three World Team members was in 2016 when Augello qualified for the Olympic Games and Ragan and Hildebrandt were on the World Team.
There will be five best-of-three championship series on Saturday night at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. The first round matches are scheduled for 7:00 p.m. with the second round to follow at 8:15 p.m. The if necessary third round is slated for a 9:30 p.m. start.
The World Championships are scheduled for October 20-28 in Budapest, Hungary.