Forrest Molinari is headed back to the world championships.
Molinari, a member of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club, won Final X on Saturday, defeating Maya Nelson, two matches to one, in the best-of-three series inside the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway, New Jersey.
In doing so, Molinari secures the 65-kilogram (143 pounds) spot on the United States' women's freestyle world team. She will represent the red, white and blue at the Senior World Championships, set for September 14-22 in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
It will be Molinari's second trip to the Senior World Championships — she will be joined by past Iowa State All-American Pat Downey, who will represent the men's freestyle team at 86 kilos (189) — and her third age-level world tournament. Last year, she qualified for both the Senior and U23 World Teams, finishing fifth in both competitions.
Molinari returned this year as the prohibitive favorite to qualify for her second Senior World Team and backed up that praise with a U.S. Open title in April. She defeated Nelson there in the finals, 5-1, giving her an automatic berth to Saturday's Final X.
Nelson, one of America's brightest young freestyle talents, won the world team trials challenge tournament last month to set up a rematch, then pushed Molinari to the brink by taking the first match on Saturday, 5-3, thanks to two first-period takedowns.
Molinari stormed back to take match two by a 12-2 technical fall. She exploded for two takedowns and two exposures to lead 8-1 in the first. Nelson added a step-out point, but Molinari responded with another takedown, during which Nelson hurt her knee. A fourth takedown secured the takedown for Molinari, setting up a third, winner-take-all match.
There, Molinari and Nelson were tied 1-1 after the first period, but Molinari scored a two-point exposure on the edge to take a 3-1 lead in the second. Nelson’s coaches challenged the call, but it was upheld, giving Molinari a 4-1 lead. That score stood up as the final, giving Molinari the series win.
It took a gritty, tough performance from Molinari to earn a spot on this summer’s world team. It will take more of the same if she wants to win a world championship in a few months.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.