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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    This Week in Women's Collegiate Wrestling (1/2/2024)

    Big Tournaments for Womens Wrestling

    After a week off for most teams during the holidays, things picked up this week with two big tournaments. Several teams and unattached wrestlers headed to Iowa for the Soldier Salute, while others traveled to Illinois for the Midlands Championships. While both tournaments were a little less stacked than previous seasons, there were still some great matches and important moments to recap, so I will highlight some key takeaways with full brackets linked for anyone looking for complete results.


    High School Champs at 101, 109 and 130

    We have seen some high school upsets on the men’s side at tournaments throughout this season, and the high school girls showed they were ready to do the same. In an incredible run at 101 lbs, Madison Nieuwenhuis a sophomore from Plainwell, Michigan had an impressive run after her first-round bye with a tech fall and pin before meeting 2023 NCWWC Champion and current #4 Madison Avila of North Central in the finals. In their match, Nieuwenhuis looked strong and energized. She was consistently the aggressor taking shots, and Avila actually got a passivity warning in the first. In the second, Nieuwenhuis was able to capitalize on the only takedown of the match and run a half to get the pin. 

    At 109 lbs, high school freshman Kayla Batres out of Milford, Connecticut earned a 1st place finish after getting the win over former NCWWC champ and current #10 Pauline Granados of McKendree in the semis and then taking out returning All-American and #4 Kaelani Shufeldt of Lock Haven in the finals. Batres' wins were all held to decisions by the tough slate of college opponents, but she still showed dominance from such a young competitor. 

    Finally, at 130 lbs, another high school freshman Taina Fernandez of Bowie, Maryland made her way to the top of the podium with dominant wins of her own. In the quarterfinals, she faced former NAIA All-American Nichole Moore of McKendree. Moore is also a 2023 U23 World Team Member.

    Then, in the premier upset of the tournament, Fernandez got the 12-1 tech over #2 Lexi Janiak of Aurora who is also a returning All-American and 2023 NCWWC finalist. In her finals match, Fernandez finished her run with a 10-0 tech in the finals over returning All-American #6 Salome Walker of North Central.

    Potential NCWWC national previews

    At 101 lbs at Midlands, we got to see the match that was almost the finals match at the 2023 NCWWCs. Last year, Lizette Rodriguez lost a decision by criteria in the semis that kept her out of a finals matchup against the eventual champion Madison Avila of North Central. At Midlands, these two met up in the semis and Avila got a 3-2 decision win. This is not the first time we have seen these two match up, in fact, they wrestled at the Region IV tournament last year where Rodriguez actually claimed the first-place spot with a 5-4 decision over the Cardinal. These two seem to have each other figured out, so it will be exciting to see which wrestler continues to have success this year if they meet up again at regionals or nationals.

    After wrestling this past April at U23 Nationals Viktorya Torres of McKendree and Kendall Bostelman of North Central met on the consolation side of the bracket and Torres had a dominant tech fall. She repeated that result here at Midlands in the semis winning 11-0. Both made it to the quarterfinals last year and lost, however, Torres competed last year at 136 lbs. Bostelman could very well see Torres again in March, so finding a way to hold off her offense and have more successful shots of her own will be pivotal in attempting to reverse these recent results now that Torres has bumped up into her weight class.

    155 lbs had a very intriguing final with sophomore #6 Noelle Gaffney of Northern Michigan losing 3-2 to #7 Tiera Jimerson of North Central. Gaffney actually beat Jimerson last month in the finals of the Adrian Invite by decision. Last year, Gaffney qualified for NCWWCs as a freshman but was bounced pretty early in the tournament. Jimerson is a 2x All American finishing in 5th in 2022 and 7th in 2023. These two seem to be a stylistic challenge for one another with both favoring heavy hand-fighting followed by quick, explosive shots. I would love to see these two match up again and see if either can create a more dominant game plan over the other.

    While some brackets were a little small, there were still some awesome results from different collegiate programs and individual wrestlers who competed unattached.

    You can check out the full brackets here.

    Soldier Salute

    #1 Life vs #1 Iowa Makes for Exciting Matchups

    Life University holds the top team spot in NAIA with wrestlers in the top 10 at every weight. Iowa, in their first year competing, holds the top spot for NCAA schools with top 10 wrestlers at each weight as well. While these two teams will compete at separate national championships, there are always sparks when their athletes do get matched up. That was certainly the case here where quite a few of the highlight matches of the tournament came between the Eagles and the Hawkeyes.

    At 130 lbs, we saw #10 (NCAA) Emily Frost take on #2 (NAIA) Sarah Savidge. While Frost has had some strong matches in her freshman campaign, Savidge is a returning national finalist and U20 Pam-Am Team Member and just seemed to be too much in this match. Savidge scored 8 of her 10 points in the first period, starting with a 4-point move and then 2 subsequent single-leg takedowns. Frost had some strong defense and was able to hold off some of Savidge’s attacks until the two go reset, but she has a little bit of growing yet to do to be competing more competitively with the top of the weight class in either division. 

    At 136 lbs, we saw the first of 3 finals between Iowa wrestlers and the 3 McBryde sisters of Life. Lilly Luft of Iowa took on #9 (NAIA) Zaynah McBryde, the youngest of the 3 sisters. Luft is also a part of the talented freshman class at Iowa, and although she does not have many signature wins yet this season, I look for her to develop well in the Iowa room considering the additional talent they have at 136 lbs. McBryde qualified for the tournament last year, and made it to the top 12, but also lacks the signature wins and All-American status her sisters have earned in their time so far. Both of these wrestlers have exactly the pedigree and potential to climb the rankings and become dominant at the weight, especially in future seasons. In this match, the two seemed fairly even, with McBryde taking a majority of the shots, but Luft showing strong defense. In the end, McBryde’s calculated and frequent attacks gave her the edge with a 5-2 decision.

    The finals match at 143 lbs was the match of the day. If you have not already watched it, please do so here. #1 (NCAA) Reese Larramendy took on #1 (NAIA) Jamilah McBryde. Both wrestlers seemed to immediately recognize patterns and weaknesses in their opponents and capitalize on them. McBryde was able to hit multiple duckunders and slide-bys when Larramendy had her elbows high in their ties. On the flip side, Larramendy was able to execute some single-leg and high crotch shots when McBryde took big steps forward on her lead leg. Each wrestler had double-digit points headed into the second period. With just under a minute left, Larramendy went for a throw on the edge when she felt McBryde get strong underhooks. That move put her in danger and gave McBryde a four-point move to go up 20-18. Not even 10 seconds later, Larramendy hit a duckunder of her own to tie the score 20-20. From the takedown, McBryde had to work to not give up any additional points from a turn. With 20 seconds left on the clock, the two squared up again. Larramendy initiated a takedown that landed the two in a scramble with McBryde trying to get her hips back to the outside and Larramendy able to catch an ankle from her knees. McBryde had a strong whizzer, however, and was able to use that momentum to throw Larramendy to her back. McBryde was able to get in position to hold her opponent for the pin. This match was high-flying, high-scoring, and just a roller coaster for the two athletes. In the background of the video footage, you can see photographers and videographers on the edge of the mat, switch their focus from the men’s finals happening simultaneously to capture the action in this women’s finals match. Obviously, these are two of the most talented athletes at the weight, so to watch them compete at that level for a combined 40 points before the final pin, was so impressive. I hope there is an opportunity for them to compete again, and other wrestlers could learn a lot about these formidable opponents by watching how they competed against one another.

    In the last Iowa vs Life finals match of the day, Bella Mir took on #2 (NAIA) Latifah McBryde at 155 lbs. Mir was certainly headed into this match looking to get an Iowa win over Life for her team, but also looking for a little bit of redemption as well. These two actually met up at last year’s Soldier Salute, where Mir was wrestling unattached. In that match, McBryde got the pin in just over 4 minutes in the match. However, in this match, Mir was ready and secured a pin of her own in just over a minute. Mir had been on a roll during the tournament with 4 total pins and a tech fall to make up 5 of her 6 wins. This is certainly a result that could flip back in McBryde’s favor if the two met up again, but more so serves as a testament to the growth in just a year that Mir has shown. Right now, Iowa has #1 (NCAA) Marilynne Deede at 155 lbs, but Mir represents the depth of the Hawkeyes at a few weight classes. Mir was presented the Most Outstanding Wrestler of the tournament and continues to prove why she is one to keep an eye on.


    Results this week in major NCAA, NCWA, and NAIA competitions

    Midlands VIEW BRACKETS

    Soldier Salute VIEW BRACKETS


    Upcoming Events

    January 5&6: NWCA National Duals

    January 5: NUWAY Combat Women’s Open

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