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  • Photo: Ben Diers/Augsburg Athletics

    Photo: Ben Diers/Augsburg Athletics

    This Week in Women's Collegiate Wrestling (2/21/2024)

    This Week in Women’s Wrestling (February 13 - February 19)

    With just a few duals this past week as teams prepare for regional conference tournaments to qualify for Nationals, here are a few things to look out for as the regular season comes to a close. 

    1. The first year for 6 NCWWC regional tournaments

    This season, there will be six regional tournaments rather than the five that have been hosted previously to determine who qualifies for nationals among NCAA wrestling programs. The NWCA announced this expansion as a result of the growing number of teams competing and the growth of women’s wrestling overall. Each of these tournaments will take place over the weekend starting with some on Friday, February 23 through Sunday, February 25. 

    Region 1 will be hosted by #10 Lock Haven University. Other schools in Region 1 ranked within the NWCA Team Tournament rankings include: 

    • #T-7 Sacred Heart
    • #9 New Jersey City
    • #T-18 East Stroudsburg
    • #21 Elmira

    Region 2, hosted by #23 Emmanuel College will also include ranked teams:

    • #3 King
    • #T-15 Presbyterian
    • #T-24 Greensboro

    Region 3 at #T-24 Gannon University will see showings from: 

    • #T-18 Tiffin
    • #T-24 Adrian

    Region 4 will be hosted at #1 North Central College and features many other ranked schools: 

    • #T-7 Aurora
    • #T-13 Augsburg
    • #T-15 Northern Michigan
    • #T-15 UW Stevens Point

    Region 5 at Simpson College will feature ranked schools:

    • #2 Iowa
    • #4 McKendree
    • #11 William Jewell
    • #T-13 Wartburg
    • #T-18 Lindenwood

    And finally, the new Region 6 will be hosted by Texas Women’s University with ranked teams:

    • #5 Colorado Mesa
    • #6 Simon Fraser

    Of course, many ranked wrestlers currently compete for unranked tournament teams and this additional regional opportunity means even more top wrestlers at the top of podiums this weekend. To qualify for the NCWWC, wrestlers must place in the top 4 in their weight class at the regional tournament. Teams can send up to 15 qualifiers to nationals, with no more than 2 per weight class. This means, that for some teams that have several wrestlers in the top 4 across multiple weights, some qualifiers may not be selected to compete at the NCWWC. This could impact schools like Iowa, North Central, and King who have multiple ranked wrestlers, and in some cases multiple former All-Americans at each weight. 

    2. Matches to look for at NCWA regionals

    At Region 1, look out for a red-hot #10 Stella Steigler of Lock Haven to give some trouble to a few of the ranked wrestlers for Sacred Heart at 170 lbs. Steigler is listed on the Lock Haven roster at 155 lbs, but after taking a break in action after the Princeton Open, she returned at 170 lbs. There she recently won the top spot at the Pennsylvania Women’s Collegiate State Championships to work her way into the most recent rankings. Both #6 Love Daley and #7 Cara Broadus of Sacred Heart could give anyone trouble, but I am curious to see if 170 lbs is the difference maker for Steigler and she can continue to compete at a high level and qualify for her first NCWWC tournament.

    At Region 4, #4 Nina Makem of Augsburg could get a rematch against #3 London Houston of North Central at 155 lbs. In November, Makem dropped the 4-4 match on criteria to Houston at the Pointer Women’s Open. #7 Noelle Gaffney of Northern Michigan could be a contender here too. However, Makem got a 6-0 decision win over Gaffney at the same Pointer Women’s Open. This is also a weight where North Central could double down with top placers as #6 Tiera Jimerson could make some waves here too. I am fairly certain two of these wrestlers will make up the finals at this weight, but I am curious to see who they will be when the tournament shakes out.

    Another Region 4 situation to keep an eye on is at 191 lbs. While North Central holds the top 2 ranked spots with Brittyn Corbishley and Traeh Haynes respectively, #4 Sandy Guerrero of New Jersey City and #5 Sydney Manos of Aurora should not be overlooked. Manos kept it close against Haynes at the North Central Open before dropping the match 7-4. Guerrero has big wins over Manos, #7 Madeline Hodges of Sacred Heart, and is 16-1 this season with 5 pins and 7 tech falls. Guerrero was a 2x All-American in her 2021 and 2022 seasons, but missed the tournament last season due to injury. She will be looking to qualify at the top to put her in a good position to finish in the top eight again at the NCWWC.

    At Region 5, look for firework matches at most weights given that both Iowa and McKendree should be sending former All-Americans and new wrestlers with real All-American potential at almost every weight. There is also still a question mark about former NCWC/NAIA Champ Emma Bruntil and where she will weigh in to compete at regionals.

    A highlight would be to see a finals rematch between #1 Shelby Moore of McKendree vs #3 Felicity Taylor of Iowa at 123 lbs. However, this raises the question of where Taylor will actually compete at in this tournament. After competing for most of the season at 123 lbs, she bumped up for the Grand View open a few weeks ago. Either of these wrestlers will show out no matter who they compete against, but I’d love to see this rematch and see if Moore could flip the result, or if Taylor continues to end up on top.

    Finally, at Region 6, prepare for some impressive performances from Simon Fraser and Colorado Mesa, especially at 136 lbs, where we could see the 3rd matchup between #2 Jade Trolland of Simon Fraser and #4 Holly Beaudoin of Colorado Mesa this season. In both December and February, Trolland emerged victorious, but only by close decisions. Beaudoin will certainly be looking for redemption and adjusting her strategy to get the win here, especially with qualification on the line.

     3. NAIA Conferences 

    The 2nd sanctioned NAIA Women’s Wrestling Tournament takes place in early March, and wrestlers will be competing this weekend for their spot. Bids for the national tournament are more similar here than for the NCWWC as conferences unlock automatic bids per weight class based on the number of ranked wrestlers at each weight class and then having a select number of at-large bids as well, selected by a committee. It does differ in that each team can have a maximum of 12 wrestlers qualify, and unlike NCWWCs, all wrestlers can score team points at nationals, the team just does not earn bonus points when teammates wrestle one another.

    The teams are divided into 5 conference tournaments to compete in. The Cascade Collegiate Conference will host:

    • #1 Menlo
    • #4 Southern Oregon
    • #5 Providence
    • #12 Vanguard
    • Eastern Oregon
    • Evergreen
    • Simpson
    • Westcliff

    Last season, Southern Oregon landed the top spot with Menlo in second and Providence in third.

    The Heart of America Athletic Conference will include wrestlers from:

    • #3 Grand View 
    • #7 William Penn
    • #T-14 Baker
    • #T-14 Missouri Valley
    • Central Methodist
    • Dickinson State
    • Waldorf

    Last year, Grand View claimed first place by a 43-point margin over Iowa Wesleyan, which closed after last season. The next highest-scoring team was Central Methodist, with William Penn finishing last. With WP absorbing several talented wrestlers from Iowa Wesleyan, look for them to greatly improve on their seventh place finish from last year.

    The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference will include:

    • #T-14 Hastings
    • #17 St. Mary
    • #18 Doane
    • #20 Ottawa
    • Avila
    • Dakota Wesleyan
    • Friends
    • Jamestown
    • Midland University
    • Morningside
    • York

    Hastings had a historic win last year, followed by Midland.

    The Mid-South Conference will host:

    • #2 Life
    • #8 Cumberlands
    • #11 Campbellsville
    • #13 Indiana Tech
    • Brewton-Parker 
    • Lourdes
    • Montreat
    • Rochester
    • Siena Heights
    • St. Andrews

    Bonus points, and multiple ranked wrestlers played a big role in Life’s first place finish last season, with a 34-point lead on third place finishers Cumberlands, despite both teams having 4 individual champions. Campbellsville finished in second and crowned one champion.

    Finally, the Sooner Athletic Conference/American Midwest Conference includes:

    • #6 Texas Wesleyan
    • #9 Oklahoma City
    • #10 Missouri Baptist
    • Central Christian
    • Health Sciences & Pharmacy
    • Jarvis Christian
    • Wayland Baptist
    • William Woods

    Last season, the top three teams kept it super close, with Texas Wesleyan finishing with a 5-point lead on Missouri Baptist, and Oklahoma City finishing just two points shy of them. This season could present a similar nail-biter, with a fairly even distribution of ranked talent on these teams.

    4. Matches to look out for at NAIA Conferences

    At the NAIA Championship tournament last year, Erin Hikiji of Providence dropped the finals match 2-1 to teammate Ira Navarro, who graduated after last season. This year, I think #1 Hikiji will make the finals again, and will have some tough competition if she gets there. She could see #3 Kayla Mckinley-Johnson of Menlo, who finished fifth after losing in the Round of 16 at NAIAs and 4th at conferences. Mckinley-Johnson has certainly jumped levels this season, and a match between the two of them could be fireworks.

    The Heart of America Conference is a chance for #1 Mia Palumbo and #1 Adaugo Nwachukwu to reclaim their titles, this time in the Statesman singlet. At 136 lbs, #2 Andrea Schlabach of Grand View will have a chance to redeem herself after her loss in the finals at 130 lbs to Skye Realin of CMU. She has seen her fair share of ranked competition, and as a multiple-time qualifier and former All-American, she could easily make it to the finals where she would likely face Nwachukwu. The two did not wrestle in their dual as Nwachukwu bumped up to 155 lbs, but the two have wrestled a few times in international competition, with Nwachukwu claiming victory. I am curious to see if Schlabach has figured out a formula to get the win here, or if Nwachukwu will continue to show that she is at another level.

    At the Mid-South Conference championships, I will be looking to see if the unstoppable half of Life’s lineup holds up against tough conference competition, starting with #2 Sarah Savidge at 130 lbs, through three tough McBryde sisters at 136 lbs-155 lbs, and finishing strong with #5 Margaret Graham and #5 Madeline Welch at 170 and 191 lbs, respectively. The match I have highlighted the most however is a rematch at 143 between #1 Jamilah McBryde and #2 Emma Walker of Campbellsville. Walker pinned her way to the finals where she completed her perfect run with a pin over McBryde in just under 2 minutes. However, at the dual earlier this month, Jamilah secured a 13-3 tech fall over Walker. This is sure to be a fast-paced and action-packed match between these two athletes.

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

    February 13: #14 (NAIA) Missouri Valley (27) over Central Methodist University (20)

    February 16: #2 (NAIA) Life (32) over #11 (NAIA) Campbellsville (17)

    Regionals and Nationals

    If you are near any of these locations, consider spending your weekend at one of these tournaments, cheering on these athletes and catching some of the awesome action, especially in the final rounds.

    NCWWC Regionals:

    • Region I: Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA | Saturday, Feb. 24
    • Region II: Emmanuel College, Boston, MA | Friday, Feb. 23
    • Region III: Gannon University, Erie, PA | Saturday, Feb. 24
    • Region IV: North Central College, Naperville, IL | Sunday, Feb. 25
    • Region V: Simpson College, Indianola, IA | Friday, Feb. 23
    • Region VI: Texas Woman's University, Denton, TX | Sunday, Feb. 25

    NAIA Conferences:

    • Cascade Collegiate Conference: Atherton, CA | Feb. 25
    • Heart of America Athletic Conference, Oskaloosa, IA | Feb. 24
    • Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, Crete, NE | Feb. 24
    • Mid-South Conference: Bowling Green, KY | Feb. 23
    • Sooner/American Midwest Conference, McPherson, KS | Feb. 24 

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