North Central's Yelena Makoyed (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Yelena Makoyed, a senior at North Central College, was elected as the inaugural 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.
Makoyed was a 2023 NCWWC national champion at 170 pounds, the national championships for institutions from the NCAA. She finished with a 28-0 record, with 15 pins and 11 technical falls. She is now a three-time NCWWC national champion.
Other tournaments which Makoyed won during the 2022-23 college season were the NCWWC Region 4 Championships, the College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin Championships, the Adrian Open and the Pointer Open. Makoyed, along with her teammates, led North Central to the 2023 NCWWC National Team title, as well.
"I am super proud of her. She is incredibly deserving of the award. She has won a lot of awards, but this one is special. It is cool for her to win the first one. She has been a trend-setter for our program, and she led us to a national title. We would not have won a team title without her. It is not just the points that she scored, but also the leadership she has provided and what she has done for us in recruiting. She is a trailblazer, and that is where women's wrestling is now," said North Central College head coach Joe Norton.
Makoyed is currently on the USA Wrestling Senior National Team, with a No. 2 ranking at 76 kg/167 lbs. During the college season, she travelled with Team USA to the Zagreb Open Ranking Series Event in Croatia, winning the gold medal at 76 kg.
"USA Wrestling is very proud of Yelena Makoyed. She has been incredibly involved in USA Wrestling programs for years. I can't think of a better person to win this inaugural award. Congratulations to Yelena, North Central College and to all of the great finalists. What a great year for women's college wrestling!" said Rich Bender, USA Wrestling Executive Director.
Makoyed received 42% of the combined vote to secure the award over five other undefeated college national champion finalists.
The other finalists, in alphabetical order, were junior Lexie Basham of Texas Wesleyan University, redshirt junior Marissa Gallegos of Colorado Mesa University, graduate student Dymond Guilford of the University of the Cumberlands, sophomore Adaugo Nwachukwu of Iowa Wesleyan University and senior Peyton Prussin of Life University.
Prussin, Basham, Guilford and Nwachukwu were NAIA national champions this year, while Gallegos was an NCWWC national champion this season. Guilford and Prussin are three-time national champions, Nwachukwu and Basham are two-time national champions and Gallegos is a one-time national champion.
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 six finalists were selected from a pool of 13 college national champions who were identified as potential candidates after the national tournaments were completed.
USA Wrestling Women's College Wrestler of the Year Award winners
2023 - Yelena Makoyed, senior, North Central College