Key Takeaways from the week
Exciting dual matchups and surprise upsets at opens made for a great week of Women’s College Wrestling. Here are my 3 takeaways from the action over the past few days:
Warrior Open Created Tough Battles for Top Teams
Several top NCAA and NAIA programs sent wrestlers to compete at the Warrior Open over the weekend. While Iowa claimed another top team finish, there were plenty of surprising individual match results. One of the big headlines from the event was the two high school wrestlers who walked away as champs. At 130 lbs, Taina Fernandez, a freshman out of Maryland wrestled her way to the top of the podium, taking out NCAA All-American Cayden Condit of Lindenwood along with wrestlers from Siena Heights, Iowa, and Providence. Fernandez won three matches by fall and two by tech fall. At 101 lbs, another high school freshman, Jaclyn Bouzakis out of Pennsylvania, also had a wildly impressive tournament taking out #1 (NAIA) Erin Hikiji of Providence and #1 (NCAA) Sterling Dias of Iowa. While we’ve certainly seen upsets like this at open tournaments in both men’s and women’s wrestling, especially at lighter weights, I was particularly impressed by Bouzakis’ competitive decision win over Dias. We sometimes see a quick, solid takedown where a wrestler can then get to a leg lace or tight gut wrench and then turn repeatedly for a quick tech. However, Bouzakis wrestled smart against a very savvy Dias in this match, countering her quick takedown style and frequently setting up shots of her own from ties.
A few other notable wins included Ajayzee Zaballos of Menlo, who is ranked 11th at 123 lbs, who wrestled down at 116 lbs for this tournament and won her championship match against #4 Icart Galumette of Campbellsville by tech fall. Additionally, Lilly Luft who we talked about last week collected another fall against Zaynah McBryde of Life at this tournament resulting in her first championship finish as a Hawkeye. Luft struggled in a few opens and tri duals earlier in the semester, but is becoming a reliable point scorer for Iowa as a freshman. I am curious to see how she continues to perform as the NCAA competition ramps up in the coming weeks. At 123 lbs, however, another championship matchup between Life and Iowa went the way of the Running Eagles as Anna Krejsa notched a decision over Ava Rose. Another fun match was the finals at 109 lbs where a top 10 NAIA matchup took place between #7 Paige Morales of Providence and #9 Tehani Soares of Indiana Tech. While the match did end up in a tech fall win for Morales 12-2, Soares was frequently in on her own shots and caused a few scramble situations that Morales was not able to work through before the two were reset. Still, it seemed in this match at least that Morales was ready for her opponent here and had the upper hand on offense. I am curious to see these two wrestle again at NCWWCs if the brackets shake out that way.
Ranked Duals in Fort Wayne
In addition to the open on Sunday, Indiana Tech also hosted the Warrior Duals on Saturday with #1 (NCAA) Iowa, #1 (NAIA) Life, #7 (NAIA) Campbellsville, #12 (NAIA) University of the Cumberlands, and #13 (NAIA) Indiana Tech, just to name a few. While some of the results were a bit lopsided, a few duals made for interesting matchups.
In Indiana Tech’s dual against Campbellsville, Tech kept it close, winning 4 of 6 matches, but the ranked matchups did not go in their favor. Campbellsville wrestlers like #5 Josie Davis, #10 Gabriella Perez, #2 Emma Walker, and #4 Kendra Thompson, created an insurmountable lead for their team. At 170 lbs, however, #12 Grace Doering for Indiana Tech won the close and tough-fought decision 4-3 over #15 Sierra Chavez of Campbellsville. These two seemed like a tough stylistic matchup for each other, stifling each of their normal dynamic styles of offense.
In addition to Life and Iowa, the University of the Cumberlands went undefeated at the Warrior Duals, winning all 4 duals with 10 undefeated wrestlers. In an exciting ranked matchup against Indiana Tech, it seemed like the Patriots had all the answers, only dropping one match to Tech. In ranked matchups, we saw #5 Elizabeth Dosado of Cumberlands win a close 6-3 decision against #7 Makayla Young. Similarly, #11 Chamira Cooper won a defensive matchup against talented #15 Grace Doering at 170 lbs. Cooper wins 3-1 to further solidify the win for her team.
Unfortunately, a lot of incomplete lineups and a few starters who did not make the trip left some other potentially close matchups, very lopsided, but overall, there was a lot of great wrestling out of Indiana this weekend.
Tough Tri-Dual Losses for Augsburg
The Augsburg women’s wrestling program was a team previously stacked with ranked wrestlers and former All-Americans. I previewed the team in the pre-season highlighting new head coach and two-time Olympian Ali Sprenger. While Coach Sprenger seems to be coaching her girls up to compete well, the team has really just taken the hit from transfers in the offseason. In their first dual against Wartburg with whom they are tied for the #13 spot in the rankings, the Auggies unfortunately had to forfeit four consecutive matches from 109 lbs-130 lbs. The team did rally during the later half of the dual getting a pin from their star #4 Nina Makem at 155 lbs and from Belle Huss at 191 lbs, but it was not enough to pull them out from the forfeit deficit.
The team then took on #11 (NAIA) William Penn, where the Auggies again came up short with their lineup and forfeited the first six matches of the dual. They won the next three with pins from Autumn Flanigan, #4 Nina Makem, and Madison Horn. After a decision loss at 191 against Andrea Smith of William Penn, the final score was 33-16 in favor of the statesmen.
I discussed in my pre-season article that the Auggie had 12 wrestlers on the roster, none of whom are listed at 109 or 116, with only one wrestler at 101 and 123. Even with that deficit, the Auggies won a majority of the matches they competed in all by pin. It is clear they have talent both from their wrestlers and coaching staff, but recruiting and transfer portal work will be pivotal to keep them in the rankings towards the end of the year.
Results this week in major NCAA, NCWA, and NAIA competitions
January 23: #2 (NCAA) North Central vs #T-15 (NCAA) University of Wisconsin-Stephens Point
January 24: #20 (NAIA) Central Methodist 14 vs #19 (NAIA) Baker 27
January 25: #7 (NAIA) Campbellsville 38 vs Lourdes 8
January 26: Indiana Tech Warrior Duals VIEW BRACKETS
January 26: #2 (NAIA) Menlo 43 vs #9 (NAIA) Vanguard 1
January 27: Indiana Tech Warrior Open VIEW BRACKETS
January 29: #3 (NAIA) Grand View 42 vs Missouri Valley 4
January 31: #1 (NCAA) Iowa vs University of Sioux Falls
January 31: #20 (NAIA) Central Methodist vs William Woods
February 2: #3 (NAIA) Grand View vs Avila
February 2: Women’s Division 3 Invite
February 3: Grand View Open