Exclusive: Adeline Gray ready to be 'star of the show' after Jordan Burroughs versus David Taylor is postponed
A COVID-19 precaution means that the clash between fellow wrestling world champions Adeline Gray and Tamyra Mensah-Stock will headline FloWrestling event on 9 January.
The United States grapplers were originally set to be the co-main event alongside Jordan Burroughs versus David Taylor on the FloWrestling bill.
But a COVID-19 precaution means that the men's event has been postponed to January 13, and all eyes on Saturday in Texas will now be on the women.
“The main card has a nice ring to it," five-time world champion Gray told Olympic Channel on the eve of the event. "I’m looking forward to going out on the mat and being the star of the show.”
Battle of the reigning world champions
Similarly to Burroughs and Taylor, there are a combined six world titles between Gray and Mensah-Stock.
But unlike the men, the women are both current world champions - Mensah-Stock having won her maiden world championships gold in 2019 at 68kg.
To add more spice to the proceedings, Gray and her opponent are long-time training partners, meaning they are fully aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"When you get to train with someone as powerful and as amazing of an athlete as Tamara, you realise their potential," Gray continued.
"It's a little scary when you have to go and step on the mat with that potential, because I know that when we're training together, there are positions and there are moves and there is power that she has that make me uncomfortable." - Adeline Gray to Olympic Channel
"I imagine tomorrow I might have some some moments that I'm really going to have to fight through. I'm looking forward to that challenge because I haven't lost to an American wrestler since 2012, and she is at my caliber."
Size versus speed
Gray and Mensah-Stock have met on the mat in competition once before at the 2017 Dave Schultz competition, where the former prevailed comfortably.
But Texas native Mensah-Stock has improved immeasurably since then, proved by her world title two years later.
Saturday's match will take place at Gray's preferred weight division of 76kg, while her opponent will be making a big step up from her comfort zone of 68kg.
"I definitely am an advantage being a little bit bigger," Gray admitted. "But typically we train around this weight, so it's nothing that she hasn't felt before. She's going to be able to handle that power and that strength the same way that I am going to have to understand and deal with her speed.
"My game plan is to try to slow her down as she doesn't have that extra little bit of weight on her. Ultimately, I think I will come out on top, even if it means that I had a little extra weight to help me." - Adeline Gray to Olympic Channel.
"It's very challenging to predict how out match will go. You could see a close match with maybe just a push out, maybe a lucky takedown. She has been exposed to my dominant moves and I've taught her how to defend some of them.
"You could see one of us get caught off guard. There could be a brief moment where one of us takes a breath and we see that opportunity to score and it could happen either way. There's going to be some a lot of strategy.
"You're going to see a very exciting match where we will definitely be respecting each other for our talents. I think Tamara and I both have some star power. We are the main card and women are worth watching."
Gray's improved mental game
After fracturing ribs at the Pan American Games in March 2020, Gray did not compete again until October's US Nationals, which she won.
With the increased time off the mat due to the coronavirus pandemic, she decided to improve her mental fortitude.
"When the gyms shut, we found other creative ways to make gains," the 29-year-old, who was knocked out of the Rio 2016 Olympic quarter-finals due to injuryshe said.
"Mentally, I think I've really done some different training with meditation and visualisation. I developed a better understanding and method of breaking down past pain that I think was holding me back in certain ways. The concept is that we can embrace those moments and be our own best self out there on the mat.
"I'm looking forward to testing that out in a major competition against a top opponent like Tamara."
Where to watch
The event can be streamed online at FloWrestling on January 9, and begins at 8pm EST (CET-6).