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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    2022 US Open Senior Women's Freestyle Preview

    The top seed at 55 kg Jacarra Winchester (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    The road to Belgrade, Serbia and the 2022 Senior World Championships begins this week as the US Open takes place in Las Vegas. While plenty of notable wrestlers have qualified for the World Team Trials or even Final X, there are still tons of quality competitors who need to punch their ticket to Coralville, Iowa for the WTT's. The top-seven finishers at each weight class will lock up a spot at the Trials.

    Here's a look at the ten brackets Senior Women's Freestyle with unseeded threats to watch and a finals prediction, based on current preseeds.

    50 kg


    1. Erin Golston (Badger WC/NYAC)
    2. Alleida Martinez (Titan Mercury WC)
    3. Sage Mortimer (Tornado WC/Titan Mercury WC)
    4. Nina Pham (Texas WC)

    Could we see back-to-back Open championships for Erin Golston? As the top seed, the odds are in her favor. Talk about a model of consistency; Golston has been in the top three in every US Open/Senior National event since 2015. It's difficult to foresee anyone stopping her this week. Next in line is Alleida Martinez, a two-time Cadet world medalist. This season, Martinez captured her second collegiate national title for Menlo and was relatively unchallenged, outsourcing her competition by a 48-2 margin.

    The third seed belongs to King University freshman Sage Mortimer. Mortimer was third in her initial collegiate campaign and a three-time champion during her high school career in Fargo. Martinez isn't the only two-time NAIA champion at this weight, fourth-seeded Nina Pham is, as well. Pham made the finals three times during her illustrious career.

    Unseeded Threat: Charlotte Fowler (River Valley WC)

    The three-time All-American Charlotte Fowler is certainly one that can make a dent in the top-four seeds. Fowler has international experience as she was a U23 world team member in 2018 at 53 kg. She has placed twice at this tournament, eighth in 2018 and seventh in 2020.

    Finals Prediction: Erin Golston over Alleida Martinez

    53 kg


    1. Ronna Heaton (Badger WC/Sunkist Kids)
    2. Areana Villaescusa (Army WCAP)
    3. Alyssa Lampe (Beaver Dam RTC)
    4. Estrella Dorado Marin (Army WCAP)

    Does the Badger WC sweep the first two women's weights? It looks like that could happen as Golston and Ronna Heaton are both seeded first at the lowest women's weight classes. Heaton has established herself as a consistent threat for World/Olympic teams over the past two years. She was a finalist at both the Olympic Trials and the World Team Trials in 2021. In 2020, Heaton made the Open finals, as well.

    Despite Heaton's emergence into the upper echelon at 53 kgs, this won't be a simple coronation for her. The other half of the bracket features second-seeded Areana Villaescusa, who battled back from severe injuries to make the Open finals in 2019, and later that year, Senior Nationals. In her 2019 finals appearance, Villaescusa defeated Dom Parrish in the semis, and battled the Simon Fraser alum multiple times throughout the year. Also on the bottom half of the bracket is veteran Alyssa Lampe. The two-time World bronze medalist has been on the scene at the Senior level for over a decade and is still going strong. Most of her best accolades were down at 48 kg, but she's still going strong.

    The other seeded wrestler is Villescusa's Army WCAP teammate Estrella Dorado Marin. Dorado Marin has had good results as a high schooler with a pair of All-American honors in Fargo at the Junior level and a fourth-place finish at the Cadet WTT's.

    Unseeded Threat: Tiare Ikei and Felicity Taylor

    Both Tiare Ikei and Felicity Taylor were listed as entries, but not in preseeds. If either or both were to compete, they would certainly be in the mix for a spot in the top four. Ikei was a bit of a surprise Open winner back in 2019 as a high schooler.

    Finals Prediction: Ronna Heaton over Alyssa Lampe

    55 kg


    1. Jacarra Winchester (USOPTC/Titan Mercury WC)
    2. Marissa Gallegos (Colorado Mesa)
    3. Alisha Howk (Sunkist Kids)
    4. Lauren Mason (Brunson UVRTC)

    We've certainly got a favorite here at 55 with Jacarra Winchester in the field. Winchester was a 2019 World Champion at this weight. Since it's a non-Olympic weight, Winchester had to drop down to 53 kg for the Olympics, a spot she won over Heaton. Last year, Jacarra moved back up to 55 kg, but fell to Jenna Burkert in the WTT finals. Winchester comes into the Open a few months removed from a Yasar Dogu title at this weight.

    Colorado Mesa star Marissa Gallegos assumes the second seed at 55 kg. She has finished in the top three of the NCWWC Championships in each of the last three years. Gallegos also was a sixth-place finisher at Senior Nationals in 2019 and competed at the 2020 Olympic Trials. Two-time age group world team member Alisha Howk will try to prevent Gallegos from a finals appearance opposite Winchester. Though it came against a small field, Howk recently won the 2022 Bill Farrell.

    Looking to pull a big upset in the top semi is Lauren Mason, a two-time third-place finisher for Simon Fraser. Mason has now been training with the RTC out of Utah Valley.

    Unseeded Threat: Peyton Stroud (McKendree Bearcat Wrestling Club)

    The two-time All-American Peyton Stroud has been an important part of a McKendree team that won their third consecutive NCWWC national championship in 2022. Last year, Stroud was a Junior World Team member, and took eighth place in Ufa.

    Finals Prediction: Jacarra Winchester over Alisha Howk

    57 kg


    1. Amanda Martinez (Cardinal WC)
    2. Cameron Guerin (Titan Mercury WC)
    3. Alex Hedrick (Titan Mercury WC)
    4. Adriana Dorado Marin (Army WCAP)
    5. Ngao Shoua Whitethorn (Victory School of Wrestling)

    This is a weight class that could be a lot of fun, as it appears to be wide open. Top-seeded Amanda Martinez is a graduate assistant at North Central after earning All-American honors twice for the Cardinals, including a finals appearance in 2020.

    Two-time NCWWC national champion Cameron Guerin. Guerin has taken third at the Open on two occasions and is looking to get over the hump. She's also wrestled for a bronze medal in the first of her two trips to the Junior World Championships. Getting to the finals this year will be a task in and of itself with Alex Hedrick as the third seed. The Simon Fraser national champion, Hedrick, was a 2018 Open champion and wrestled Helen Maroulis for the world team spot later that year.

    The second of the two Dorado Marin sisters, Adriana, will be the fourth seed at 57 kg. Adriana was a Cadet national champion in Fargo and represented the US at the Cadet World Championships in 2019. It'll be interesting to see her development training with the WCAP.

    Unseeded Threat: Jennifer Soto (Daniel Cormier WC)

    High school senior Jennifer Soto could have an impact here. The three-time California state champion is a two-time Fargo Junior runner-up and a 2019 Cadet champion. She has some international experience competing at the Pan-American Championships at two different age groups.

    Finals Prediction: Alex Hedrick over Amanda Martinez

    59 kg


    1. Xochitl Mota-Pettis (Rise RTC/USOPTC)
    2. Brenda Reyna (Army WCAP)
    3. Nanea Estrella (Spartan Combat RTC)
    4. Claire DiCugno (Colorado Mesa)
    5. Bridgette Duty (Army WCAP)

    Perhaps the most exciting woman to watch in this tournament is Xochitl Mota-Pettis at 59 kg. Mota-Pettis can rack up points in a hurry and usually wow's the crowd in doing so. In each of the last two Open's, Mota-Pettis has finished third and second, respectively. The last time Mota-Pettis took the mat she dominated the field at the Bill Farrell and didn't surrender a point in four matches, including a 10-0 tech of Heaton.

    2021 NCWWC national champion Brenda Reyna gets the second seed. Reyna is a McKendree grad that now competes for the Army WCAP. She'll rely on her international experience, which includes a pair of Junior World berths.

    One of the members of the first Iowa Hawkeye women's program, Nanea Estrella, is the third seed. Estrella was an NAIA runner-up for Menlo last year and was a UWW Junior National champion in 2020.

    Continuing the team of young talent at 59 kg is Colorado Mesa freshman Claire DiCugno. DiCugno was sixth at nationals this season and competed on the Junior World team in 2021. Before meeting Mota-Pettis, DiCugno will have to get through another contender from the Army WCAP, Bridgette Duty. A two-time Open placer (8th in 2019 and 4th in 2020), Duty also became the first NAIA national champion for the University of the Cumberlands in 2021.

    Unseeded Threat: Montana DeLawder (Haines Trained WC)

    Right behind DiCugno on the podium at nationals was Montana DeLawder, who finished seventh as a freshman for King University. DeLawder came into the national tournament as the top seed and only finished with three losses. Before her junior year of high school, DeLawder won a Junior National title in Fargo at 112 lbs.

    Finals Prediction: Xochitl Mota-Pettis over Brenda Reyna

    62 kg


    1. Kayla Miracle (Sunkist Kids)
    2. Jennifer Page Rogers (Nittany Lion WC/Titan Mercury WC)
    3. Alex Liles (Army WCAP)
    4. Andrea Schlabach (Grand View WC)
    5. Adaugo Nwachukwu (Swamp Monsters WC)
    6. Nina Makem (Twin Cities RTC)
    7. Emmily Patneaud (McKendree Bearcat WC)

    One of the deepest weights at this tournament (62 kg) is also headed up by one of the biggest stars of the event. US Olympian and 2021 World silver medalist, Kayla Miracle, has grabbed a hold of this weight class, as her own, since 2019, despite an imposing list of challengers. Miracle is seeking her third career US Open title. She was last in action at the Rudis SuperMatch card where she posted a one-sided victory over Emma Bruntil, 8-2.

    Next in line is Jennifer Page, who has emerged as a world team threat over the last couple of years. Page was third behind Miracle at the 2021 WTT's. She's also looking to capture her third career Open championship, after winning in 2020 and 2021 (at 65 kg). To get another crack at Miracle, Page will need to get by 2021 Open runner-up Alex Liles. An age-group phenom, Liles has three stop signs from Fargo and made a pair of Cadet World Teams, along with one at the Junior level.

    Iowa collegiate wrestlers Andrea Schlabach and Adaugo Nwachukwu will likely square off in the quarters to see who meets Miracle in the semis.

    The sixth and seventh seeds belong to Nina Makem and Emmily Patneaud, both of whom were top-five finishers in the 136 lb weight class at the NCWWC tournament in 2022.

    Unseeded Threat: Sierra Brown Ton (Twin Cities RTC)

    NCWWC runner-up Nina Makem isn't the only one from the Twin Cities RTC that can have an impact here. Sierra Brown Ton is a collegiate All-American and two-time Open placer. She was third at this weight in 2021.

    Finals Prediction: Kayla Miracle over Jennifer Page

    65 kg


    1. Emma Bruntil (USOPTC/Titan Mercury WC)
    2. Mallory Velte (Beaver Dam RTC/Titan Mercury WC)
    3. Destiny Lyng (California)
    4. Rachel Watters (Hawkeye WC/NYAC)
    5. Amanda Hendey (Titan Mercury WC)

    The 65 kg weight class is not as large as some of the others, but it's loaded with talent. Top-seeded Emma Bruntil has already had a remarkable 2022 and we're not even halfway through it. She has grabbed titles at the Ivan Yarygin and the Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov, before taking bronze Yasar Dogu. Last year, Bruntil was a WTT's runner-up to Forrest Molinari.

    2018 World bronze medalist Mallory Velte is the second seed. Velte has impressed this year, as well. She fell to Bruntil in the finals of the Kolov-Petrov and was a silver medalist at the Yasar Dogu. Last year, Velte was a WTT runner-up to longtime rival, Miracle, but this year she's moved up to 65 kg and experienced the same level of success.

    A pair of collegiate national champions from Oklahoma City, Destiny Lyng and Rachel Watters, comprised the fourth and fifth seeds. Watters has placed at the Open every year since 2015; however, she's seeking her first title. Recently, Watters was a runner-up at the Bill Farrell. Former King University national champion and 2016 Olympic Trials participant Amanda Hendey rounds out the five seeds.

    Unseeded Threat: Alexis Gomez (Grand View WC)

    Though just a junior at Grand View, Alexis Gomez has a long history of success at the Open. Gomez finished in the top eight in 2018 and 2019. She'll be a difficult out for any of the seeded wrestlers.

    Finals Prediction: Emma Bruntil over Mallory Velte

    68 kg


    1. Solin Piearcy (Menlo WC)
    2. Nahiela Magee (Army WCAP)
    3. Sienna Ramirez (Southern Oregon RTC)
    4. Kairah Cantillo (Grand View WC)

    This weight class is extremely small with only five wrestlers among the entries and four received seeds. Menlo national champion Solin Piearcy. Piearcy is looking to go back-to-back after winning the Open in 2021. Nahiela Magee has finished in the top five at the US Open and Senior Nationals, in three different weight classes, since 2017. She'll likely get her highest finish ever this week. The third seed belongs to Sienna Ramirez, the cornerstone of the Southern Oregon program. Ramirez became the school's first national champion in 2021 and was a five-time All-American.

    Finals Prediction: Solin Piearcy over Nahiela Magee

    72 kg


    1. Amit Elor (NYC RTC/Titan Mercury WC)
    2. Skylar Grote (Beaver Dam RTC/NYAC)
    3. Marlynne Deede (Twin Cities RTC)
    4. Aury Naylor (Georgia)

    We've got another small field at 72 kg. Leading the way is 2021 Cadet and Junior World Champion Amit Elor. The high school senior dominated the competiton at the Junior level and is now ready to showcase her talents against the Senior division. Elor's always been able to find success against older competitors, so I don't see why this would be any different. Coming in as the second seed is Skylar Grote, an Open runner-up in each of the last two years. Grote was also fourth at the WTT's last year.

    The third seed belongs to Marlynne Deede who was third in a loaded 155 lb NCWWC weight class this season. It was the third time in as many tries that Deede placed at the national tournament. Last year, Deede was fourth in the Open at 76 kg.

    The fourth seed here is Aury Naylor, who has placed in the top-six in Vegas on three occasions.

    Finals Prediction: Amit Elor over Skylar Grote

    76 kg


    1. Victoria Francis (Hawkeye WC/Titan Mercury WC)
    2. Yelena Makoyed (Cardinal WC)
    3. Dymond Guilford (USOPTC/Titan Mercury WC)
    4. Precious Bell (Titan Mercury WC)
    5. Joye Levendusky (McKendree Bearcat WC)
    6. Tristan Kelly (Army WCAP)
    7. Jordan Nelson (Hawkeye WC)

    All of the weights have seen entry numbers dwindle and at 76 kg that's definitely the case. However, in this instance, there are a lot of talented competitors in the mix. The top seed belongs to the most-seasoned wrestler of the bunch is two-time world team member Victoria Francis. In her most recent world-level competition, Francis wrestled for a bronze medal at 72 kg. Francis won the Open back in 2017 and has made the Open/Senior National finals three times since.

    Senior-level mainstays Dymond Guilford and Precious Bell get the third and fourth seeds, respectively. The former high school teammates have gone back and forth over the years and could meet in the finals, or perhaps somewhere in the consi's.

    There's also familiarity between the second and fifth seeds, Yelena Makoyed and Joye Levendusky. The pair met in the finals of the NCWWC Championships in each of the last two years with Makoyed getting her hand raised both times.

    2018 double Fargo national champion, Tristan Kelly, also a Cadet World Teamer the same year, comes in as the sixth seed. Kelly was third in the NCWWC weight class featuring Makoyed and Levendusky in 2021, while at Colorado Mesa. She now is a part of the Army WCAP team.

    The seventh seed, Jordan Nelson, was third at the NAIA level this year for Life University. Her only loss at the tournament was a one-pointer to Guilford, who was competing for Cumberlands. A year earlier, Nelson was a national champion.

    Finals Prediction: Victoria Francis over Yelena Makoyed

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