2023-2024 Early NCAA Lineup Looks

Will McKendree's Massive Recruiting Haul Lead To National Title?

Will McKendree's Massive Recruiting Haul Lead To National Title?

McKendree has a loaded line-up with plenty of options. Who will end up where by the end of the season?

Aug 18, 2023 by Kyle Klingman

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Alexio Garcia was busy last season. The rookie head coach went on a recruiting spree to replenish a team that was fractured by the transfer portal. 

Former coach Sam Schmitz led the Bearcats to the first three National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships before departing after the 2022 season. 

Some left. Some stayed. The result was a new-look team that eventually finished third at the 2023 national championships. 

McKendree is missing two key pieces from last year's team that contributed to all three title runs. Sydnee Kimber, a four-time NCWWC champion at 191, graduated. Alara Boyd, a 2021 national champion and three-time finalist who didn’t compete late in the season due to an injury, is a graduate assistant at North Central. 

The team returns three-time champ Cameron Guerin and undefeated five-time champ (four NCWWC, one WCWA) Emily Shilson, along with All-Americans Lizette Rodriguez, Payton Stroud, and Jennifer Soto. 

That’s in addition to All-American transfers Olivia Shore (Tiffin), Solona Mottola (Tiffin), Shalya Shotwell (Life), Sophia Mirabella (King), Faith Cole (Iowa Wesleyan), and Tristan Kelly (Colorado Mesa/WCAP). 

Then there’s McKendree’s jaw-dropping high school recruiting haul. The Bearcats landed many of the best pound-for-pound seniors in the country, including Shelby Moore (#2), Destiny Rodriguez (#3), Alex Szkotnicki (#8), Kiara Ganey (#2 at 200), Savannah Gomez (#3 at 138), Estella Gutches (#10 at 132), Ruby Rios (#7 at 152), and age-level World medalist Lillian Freitas.

Fitting all the pieces together and figuring out weight classes will be the delightfully challenging part of Garcia’s job this season. McKendree joins Iowa, King, and North Central as early front runners for the 2024 national crown.

Shilson and Guerin enter as the favorites at 109 and 130 respectively, which provides stability the team needs. Shilson transferred from Augsburg late in the season and only competed at regionals and nationals, so it’s unclear how often she will be in the line-up. There’s plenty of depth at 109 so options aren’t an issue. 

Shore was a national champion at 101 for Tiffin in 2022 but it’s uncertain if she can make the weight, so she might move up. Lizette Rodriguez has been a fixture at 101, placing third for three consecutive seasons. 

There are several instances where a wrestler could be an option at multiple weights, and there’s no indication of who will redshirt and who will compete as true freshmen. 

The Bearcats had eight All-Americans and three champions last season but no placers at 136, 143, and 155. It appears inevitable that true freshmen will occupy those spots given the immediate need at all three weights. 

This team is loaded with talent and should be a force all season. Figuring out the line-up will be the ongoing storyline as McKendree attempts to win its fourth NCWWC crown in five seasons. 

Who Wrestles Where? Bearcat Options For 2023-24 Season

Placings at National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships are in parentheses unless otherwise noted.

101 Pounds
Olivia Shore, SO (1)
Lizette Rodriguez, SR (3-3-3)

109 Pounds
Emily Shilson, SR (1-1-1-1-1)
Olivia Shore, SO (1)
Faith Cole, SO (6 NAIA)
Alex Szkotnicki, FR

116 Pounds
Payton Stroud, SR (8-5-5)
Salyna Shotwell, JR (2 NAIA)
Alex Szkotnicki, FR

123 Pounds
Jennifer Soto, SO (4)
Sophia Mirabella, JR (4)
Payton Stroud, SR (8-5-5)
Shelby Moore, FR

130 Pounds
Cameron Guerin, JR (1-1-1)
Solana Mottola (5)
Shelby Moore, FR

136 Pounds
Savannah Gomez, FR
Estella Gutches, FR

143 Pounds
Savannah Gomez, FR
Caroline Gilstrap, FR

155 Pounds
Destiny Rodriguez, FR
Lillian Freitas, FR
Ruby Rios, FR

170 Pounds
Tristan Kelly, JR (3)
Lillian Freitas, FR

191 Pounds
Kiara Ganey, FR
Chrissy True, FR