Menlo claims first-ever NAIA Women's Wrestling Invitational title

Menlo claimed the first-ever NAIA Women's Wrestling Invitational title

JAMESTOWN, N.D. -- Menlo College women's wrestling has been rewriting the women's collegiate wrestling history book all season long and Saturday was one more chapter in what is becoming a lengthy novel. With a dominant 12 All-Americans, five National Champions and eight competitors in the finals, the Oaks cruised to the first ever National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Invitational Championship with a team score of 230.5 -- 76 points better than second place Oklahoma City University. The title marks the second National Title for this team in six weeks as the Oaks also won the WCWA National Championship in Atlanta, Ga. on Feb. 9. Menlo is now the only collegiate women's wrestling program in the sport's history to win both tournaments.

A dozen All-Americans

It was a day to remember for the Oaks. The NAIA awards All-American status to the top four finisher and Honorable Mention All-American Status for finishers in the top eight. Menlo had nine wrestlers finish fourth our better and three more claim eighth or better. All-Americans included: Alleida Martinez (1st), Angela Peralta (2nd), Gracie Figueroa (2nd), Hiba Salem (4th), Iman Kazem (1st), Marilyn Garcia (1st), Precious Bell (2nd), Solin Piearcy (1st) and Tiana Jackson(1st). Brittany Woods-Orrison (7th), Emily Sandoval (7th) and Taryn Ichimura (6th) each earned Honorable Mention All-Americans.

Eight finalists, Five Champs

Eight different Oaks earned the right to wrestle for an individual national title on Saturday, including two in the same weight class. Alleida Martinez (109 lbs) and Solin Piearcy (136 lbs) did the unthinkable, pulling off a clean sweep at their weight class winning both the WCWA and NAIA titles. Iman Kazem (155 lbs), Marilyn Garcia (143 lbs) and Tiana Jackson (123) each won their first ever national titles to round out the five Menlo champions. Gracie Figueroa and Angela Peralta battled to second place finishes.

How it happened

Alleida Martinez claimed her second national title of the year by once again defeating Mckayla Campbell of Campbellsville. Martinez won via 10-0 technical fall on Saturday and had previously pinned Campbell at WCWA. Tiana Jackson, the fourth seed in the tournament, upset #2 seed Koral Sugiyama of Campbellsville, 5-2. Iman Kazem had maybe the most impressive performance in the finals, claiming her first national title by pinning Anna Naylor of Cumberlands in just 39 seconds. She finished the tournament with three pins and a technical fall victory. Marilyn Garcia won her title by edging teammate Angela Peralta 2-0 and Solin Piearcy won her second title by defeating Erica Sotelo of Life, 8-1.

Two is better than one

Very few teams are ever given the opportunity to claim two national titles in the same season. Menlo was not only given the opportunity this season, they won both in remarkable, albeit differing, fashion. The WCWA title featured a movie script-like crescendo that saw Menlo win the necessary three of four individual titles to claim the team crown. The NAIA championship saw fewer dramatics, but an equal amount of pride and dominance. The Oaks were so successful that they wrapped up the NAIA title before the finals matches were even wrestled - a true testament to the overall team effort put forth on Saturday afternoon in snowy North Dakota. The two national titles serve as the first two of the 92-year history of Menlo College.

More hardware

In addition to all of the hardware won by the wrestlers themselves, Coach Joey Bareng added another trophy to his collection, garnering NAIA Coach of the Year Honors. He previously was named the WCWA Coach of the Year in April.

Not even a blizzard can bring down the Oaks

The Jamestown, North Dakota area was hit with a massive winter storm late Wednesday night through Thursday that wreaked havoc on the tournament. Originally scheduled as a two-day event concluding on Saturday, the storm forced the NAIA's hand and the tournament was condensed to just Saturday to allow additional time for team travel. The Oaks struggled to leave the hotel to practice, forcing improvised practices inside their hotel in the days leading up to the event. Focus was not lost and the Oaks clearly were ready to make their mark.

History in the making

The NAIA Invitational was historic for a number of reasons, namely that it was the first officially recognized women's college wrestling tournament by a national multi-sport collegiate organizing body. Women's Wrestling was granted "emerging sport" status by the NAIA prior to the 2018-19 season; the first governing body to launch the sport. 25 NAIA institutions fielded women's wrestling programs in 2018-19, up from 19 the year prior. Women's Wrestling will be eligible for championship status after two year of competition as an invitational sport, and 40 institutions sponsor a varsity women's wrestling team.

Final team standings (top 15):
1 Menlo College 230.5
2 Oklahoma City University 154.5
3 University of Jamestown 137.5
4 Campbellsville University 126.5
5 University of Cumberlands 106.5
6 Wayland Baptist University 105
7 Life University 102.5
8 Southern Oregon 66.5
9 Midland University 45
10 Missouri Baptist University 43
11 Lyon College 40.5
12 Missouri Valley College 39
13 Eastern Oregon University 36.5
14 Waldorf University 22.5
15 Ottawa University 18


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