UWW Junior Women's Nationals Contenders
Seven of the eight senior world team members this year previously wrestled in junior world championships, so winning this event is a huge step in moving on to the senior level. Let's go over the top contender at each weight, and who might be challenging them for the throne.
Be sure to watch every second of the action, which starts tomorrow with the UWW Cadet nationals. Everything goes live at 9:30am central time.
44kgThe lightest junior weight had been held down by Marina Doi for three years, but will get some fresh blood this year. The bracket nearly doubled in size from last year, with Genae Sampract and Esthela Trevino returning from last year; those two athletes meet in the first round. Sampract pinned Trevino at folkstyle nationals last year. Also on the top half of this bracket is Asia Ray from Texas, who beat Sampract 6-4 in Fargo last year. Ray was an undefeated 6A state champ this year in Texas' girls division at 95lbs. The bottom half of the bracket is also Texas heavy, with last year's Cadet Pan Am rep in Tory Marrufo, and two-time state champ Charlie Hamer. Ray appears to be the favorite to replace Doi on the world team.
48kgWith last year's world teamer at this weight coming back, it is easy to pick a favorite. McKayla Campbell is one of the best seniors in the nation, and will be heading to Campbellsville for college. Most recently, she won folkstyle nationals at 106lbs. Aleeah Gould was Campbell's finals opponent last year, in an epic set of matches that went 16-13 and 14-9. Since then, Gould finished 8th at Fargo, 7th at WCWAs for King, and 3rd at University nationals.
Katlyn Pizzo was third a year ago at this weight, losing to Gould in the semis, and second in the cadet event at 43kg. An undersized 103 during the high school season, she placed 8th in D3 in Michigan, becoming only the third female in state history to do so. Angel Rios was second in the 46kg Cadet field and should see Pizzo in the second round.
Also in the mix is California state champ Angelina Gomez, who was third in the 46kg Cadet division. She'll meet Texas state champ Destiny Dominguez in the second round. A good first round match here is Brooke Thurber against Kateri Rowel, who was a win over Gold. Like 44kg, this bracket nearly doubled in size from last year.
51kgAutumn Gordon has spent a year wrestling on the senior level after making the finals at this weight last year, and even pinned multiple time WCWA champ Cody Pfau, which you can see below. Gordon just started wrestling less than three years ago, and is already one of the best young women in this country.
Over the last year, Cam Guerin was a Fargo champ, UWW Cadet runner-up and took third at folkstyle nationals. She was second in the Cadet 52kg division, upsetting two-time world medalist Alleida Martinez in the semis. Vayle Baker will be trying to make a junior team the day after winning the 49kg spot, averaging nine points a match.
55kgThe marquee match of the weekend should be the 55kg finals between Ronna Heaton and Brenda Reyna. Heaton is one of the most recognizable names at the junior level after being a cadet world champ and runner-up. She was in the third place match at senior trials at 53kg. It wouldn't be shocking to see Heaton tech/pin her way to the finals.
For Reyna, it is her chance to prove that last year's Fargo final was not a fluke. Heaton had gotten the better of Reyna every time before that, but Reyna came in prepared and pinned Heaton to take home the junior belt. With a world team on the line this time, expect all eyes to be on this one.
59kgThe prohibitive favorite is returning Cadet world bronze medalist Gracie Figueroa, who just made her third Cadet world team. The ankle pick extraordinaire is one of the girls pound-for-pound in the country and looking to make a junior team in her first year of eligibility. To make the finals, she should have to get through folkstyle nationals champ Kaden Campbell, who was third at Figueroa's UWW Cadet weight, as well as WCWA third placer Koral Sugiyama.
The bottom half of this weight is going to be a bloodbath. Michaela Beck, who was second in the 56kg field, starts off with Breanna Douglas of Kansas. Douglas was second in the Cadet division last year at 60kg, was third in Fargo at 125 and second at folkstyle nationals at 132. The winner gets King freshman Nicole Joseph, a Fargo AA last year. Also on the bottom half are Arian Carpio, who spends the majority of her time wrestling senior level, and folkstyle nats champ Emma Bruntil.
63kgIt's Maya Nelson's weight and everyone else is just living in it. A year ago, that might not have been the case. Since then, Nelson has absolutely skyrocketed. She just made the senior national team at this weight, and her leg defense has only gotten better. Coming in as the favorite should give her the confidence to jump on leads early and try to put girls away quick.
It's not as though this is a weak weight, either. Skylar Grote is coming down in weight and has made finals every year she's gone to Body Bar. Elissa Douglas also made the finals last year, but is coming up in weight. Alex Lilies won both weights in Fargo and could be a phenom at the WCWA level.
67kgThis is one of the more wide open weights and is coming off a year in which Alexis Porter was the bronze medalist. Jayden Laurent seems as good a pick as any to win the spot; it's been over a year since she didn't make the finals of an event. She's already beaten Hailey Finn in folkstyle, who will be among her primary challengers.
72kgRachel Watters has owned this weight the past two years, and she's back for one more go round. Aside from her junior worlds experience, she now has a full year in a college room and competing up at senior level events. The Iowa native was only seventh at WCWAs, but that was all the way up at 172lbs.
Her main challenges will come from girls going up and down in weight. Nadine Fiege won the non-worlds weight of 79.5kg last year, and Desiree Zavala was 4th at 67kg a year ago. Fiege was fourth up at 191 in WCWA, while Zavala was third at 143 in WCWA. An interesting addition is also the still cadet-eligible Hailey Cancelleri, who had one of the most exciting finals in Fargo last year.