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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Nwachukwu Named 2024 Women's College Wrestler of the Year

    Adaugo Nwachukwu, a junior at William Penn University, was elected as the 2024 winner of the USA Wrestling Women’s College Wrestler of the Year today.

    This was first announced on FloWrestling’s The Bader Show this morning.

    The award was selected by a vote from three major constituent groups: wrestling journalists, women’s college head coaches and the fans. Each of these groups accounted for one-third of the vote.

    Nwachukwu was the 2024 NAIA champion at 136 pounds, the national championships for institutions from the NAIA. She finished with a 21-0 record, with all of her victories with bonus points, including six pins and 15 technical falls. Nwachukwu was the Heart of America Conference champion. By winning the NAIA Nationals, Nwachukwu has also qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

    She is now a three-time NAIA champion. Her first two NAIA national titles were for Iowa Wesleyan, and after the college was closed down, she transferred to William Penn.

    “She is one of the most exciting athletes to watch in women’s college wrestling. She has an unbelievable dynamic that not many wrestlers have. People in the arena turn their heads to her, because they know a big move will happen. Her results show that she is deserving of this award, especially with her bonus points rate, with technical falls and pins in all of her matches. I don’t know how many times she made it out of the first period in her matches. She put the team on her shoulders at the national tournament, knowing the importance of bonus points. She pinned her way through the national tournament. This is very exciting and we are very proud of her,” said William Penn head coach Jake Kadel, who has coached Nwachukwu for her entire college career.

    Nwachukwu has been very successful on the international and national level in women’s freestyle. She has competed on three U.S. age-group World Teams, the 2022 U20 World Team and the 2023 U20 and U23 World Teams. She was a 2022 U20 World bronze medalist. She has won USA Wrestling national titles on the Senior, U23 and U20 age levels. A native of San Jose, Calif., she was a California state high school champion for Silver Creek High School.

    “Congratulations to Adaugo for putting together one of the most dominant performances in U.S. women’s college wrestling history this season. Her future is very bright. She has already had a massive impact on Team USA at the age-group and Senior levels. We’d also like to recognize all of the amazing finalists, who are a true testament to the ascent of women’s college wrestling in the United States,” said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director.

    Nwachukwu received 21% of the combined vote in a very close race to secure the award over seven other college national champion finalists.

    The other finalists, in alphabetical order, are senior Marlynne Deede of Iowa, senior Cameron Guerin of McKendree, fifth-year senior Tavia Heidelberg-Tillotson of Menlo College, junior Amani Jones of North Central, junior Carolina Moreno of Southern Oregon, junior Mia Palumbo of William Penn and sophomore Kylie Welker of Iowa. Nwachukwu is the only finalist who was also a finalist for the award in 2023.

    Nwachukwu, Heidelberg-Tillotson, Moreno and Palumbo were 2024 NAIA national champions, while Deede, Guerin, Jones and Welker were 2024 NCWWC champions (for NCAA institutions). Guerin is a four-time college national champion. Nwachukwu and Moreno are three-time college national champions. Deede is a two-time college national champion, while Heidelberg-Tillotson, Jones, Palumbo and Welker are one-time college national champions.

    Each of the voting groups for the award selected different athletes as their top choice. Fans selected Jones as their No. 1, coaches selected Guerin as their No. 1 and journalists selected Nwachukwu as their No. 1. Fan voting increased this year by 18% over last year.

    The award was created in 2023 and the first winner was Yelena Makoyed of North Central College.

    Women’s college varsity wrestlers from all of the recognized college organizations were eligible, including NCAA, NAIA and NJCAA/junior college programs. The finalists were selected by a committee overseeing the award program, featuring representatives of the media, college coaches and wrestling fans. These eight finalists were selected from a pool of 31 college national champions who were identified as potential candidates after the national tournaments were completed.

    USA Wrestling’s goal is to elevate the new award to have the significance and impact as other college athletic awards, such as the Dan Hodge Trophy for men’s college wrestling, the Heisman Trophy for college football, the Hobey Baker Award for men’s college hockey, the Patty Kazmeier Award for women’s college hockey, the Naismith College Player of the Year in men’s and women’s basketball, the Dick Howser Trophy in college baseball, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year and similar college awards.


    USA Wrestling Women’s College Wrestler of the Year Award winners

    2024 – Adaugo Nwachukwu, junior, William Penn University

    2023 – Yelena Makoyed, senior, North Central College

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