Women's Weekly

North Central's Line-up Dilemma Is Real

North Central's Line-up Dilemma Is Real

Iowa, King, McKendree, and North Central have decisions to make as the post-season looms.

Feb 8, 2024 by Kyle Klingman
Felicity Taylor Moves Down For Senior Season

Imagine a line-up so deep that you could fill two rosters with All-Americans. Imagine a line-up so deep that six quality wrestlers won’t compete at the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships in March.

Welcome to Joe Norton’s world. He has the unenviable task of narrowing North Central’s line-up to 15 for his team’s regional qualifier on Sunday, February 25 in Naperville, Illinois. 

“It’s tough. It’s really tough,” Norton said. “We have 21 All-Americans, and we also have a handful of freshmen that have been nationally ranked at some point this year. The top wrestler at each weight is pretty clear, but choosing the extra five gets tough. 

“Strategy certainly comes into play. We know who the other top teams are. In some cases, it’s where we think a girl can go out and compete for a national title — even if she’s our #2 at the weight. In other cases, it’s looking at weights where we can potentially place two women ahead of the other team’s top scorer, to push them down the podium a bit. 

“As tough as it is though, 19 of those 21 All-Americans are juniors or seniors. Only two are sophomores. So we are really counting on some development of the younger women on the team since they have big shoes to fill the next two seasons.”

North Central’s depth has been on display throughout the season. The Cardinals used “back-ups” during its recent 35-9 win over Aurora, and dominated the D3 Invitational (23 teams) on February 2-3 by using reserves. 

It’s an indication of the overall depth of a team that won the 2023 National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships with 15 All-Americans and three champions. 

There are currently six regionals and the top four wrestlers at each weight qualify for the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 8-9. Each team can qualify up to 15 wrestlers with a maximum of two per weight. 

No bonus points can be scored if two wrestlers from the same team face each other in an attempt to prevent match-fixing. 

Below are the 21 returning All-Americans currently competing for North Central. 

Maddie Avilla, Sophomore
2023 - NCWWC Champ at 101

Sydney Petzinger, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 4th at 109
2022 - NCWWC 2nd at 109

Kendra Ryan, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 5th at 109
2022 - NCWWC 6th at 116

Angelina Graff, Senior
2022 - NCWWC 8th at 109

Jaslynn Gallegos, Senior
2023 - NCWWC Champ at 116
2022 - NCWWC 4th at 116
2021 - NCWWC 3rd at 116
2020 - NCWWC 3rd at 116
2020 - WCWA Champ at 116

Amani Jones, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 2nd at 123
2022 - NCWWC 5th at 123

Asia Nguyen Smith, Senior
2022 - NCWWC 7th at 123
2021 - NCWWC 3rd at 123
2020 - NCWWC 5th at 123

Sara Sterner, Sophomore
2023 - NCWWC 5th at 130

Salmone Walker, Senior
2023 - NCWWC 8th at 136

Yele Aycock, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 2nd at 136

Alara Boyd, Senior
2022 - NCWWC 2nd at 143
2021 - NCWWC 1st at 155
2020 - NCWWC 2nd at 143

Kendall Bostelman, Sophomore
2023 - NCWWC 6th at 143

Niya Gaines, Senior
2022 - NCWWC 2nd at 130

Sara Sulejmani, Junior
2022 - NCWWC 7th at 136

Riley Aamold, Junior
2022 - NCWWC 6th at 143

Tiera Jimerson, Junior
2023 - 7th at 155
2022 - 5th at 155

London Houston, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 3rd at 143

Yelena Makoyed, Senior
2023 - NCWWC 1st at 170
2022 - NCWWC 1st at 170
2021 - NCWWC 1st at 170
2020 - NCWWC 2nd at 170

Brittyn Corbishley, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 3rd at 191
2022 - NAIA 4th at 170

Tatum Heikkila, Junior
2022 - NCWWC 7th at 170

Traeh Haynes, Junior
2023 - NCWWC 2nd at 191

The Big Four Have Decisions To Make

Iowa, King, McKendree, and North Central are in a four-team race for the top spot at the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships on March 8-9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Each team has decisions to make as the post-season draws near.

Here are five questions that will be answered when regionals begin.

What will North Central’s line-up look like?
As outlined above, Joe Norton has the unenviable task of selecting 15 wrestlers for nationals. Those decisions will have implications for the team race with brackets expanding from 20 to 24 this season. 

What will Iowa do at 116 and 123 pounds?
Iowa’s Felicity Taylor moved up to 123 pounds for the season after spending the majority of her career at 116 pounds. That changed on Saturday when the 2021 NCWWC (NCAA) champion won the Grand View Open at 116. 

Brianna Gonzalez has been the 116-pound starter all season and will presumably stay there for the post-season unless she moves up to 123. As outlined above, each team can take two wrestlers per weight to regionals. Ava Rose appears to be the logical choice at 123 pounds if Taylor and Gonzalez stay at the same weight. 

Below is a guess on what Iowa’s 15-member line-up might look like for regionals as it stands today.

101: Emilie Gonzalez, Sterling Dias
109: Ava Bayless
116: Brianna Gonzalez, Felicity Taylor
123: Ava Rose
130: Emily Frost
136: Lilly Luft
143: Reese Larramendy, Ella Schmit
155: Marlynne Deede, Bella Mir
170: Kylie Welker, Haley Ward
191: Jaycee Foeller

Will King Cut Down To Move Up?
King University has a powerful team, too — but 123 is an interesting dilemma for head coach Jason Moorman. Montana DeLawder and Virginia Foard have gone back and forth all season, and the Tornado have #1 Samara Chavez at 116.

Chavez competed at 50 kg (110 kg) in December for the U.S. Nationals, so maybe a line-up shift is possible. King’s line-up might look like this if Chavez and Foard moved down a weight. 

101: Jessica Corredor, Avery Kibelbek
109: Samara Chavez, Danielle Garcia
116: Virginia Foard, Melanie Mendoza
123: Montana DeLawder
130: Victoria Baez-Dilone
136: Claire DiCugno
143: Yasmine Oliveira
155: Cheyenne Bowman
170: Tiffani Baublitz
191: Alexa Garcia

Is Emily Shilson Competing?
Early indications were that Emily Shilson would be in the McKendree line-up for the post-season. However, Shilson, an undefeated four-time NCWWC champion, is not listed on the team’s online roster. 

The three-time age-level World champion has not qualified for the 2024 Olympic Trials, so college nationals would be one of two remaining opportunities. She only wrestled in regionals and nationals last year, so Shilson may join the team for regionals on Friday, February 23. 

Payton Stroud is currently in the transfer portal but is still listed on the team’s online roster page.

Where Will Emma Bruntil Compete?
Emma Bruntil won the 2021 National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships before focusing solely on international competitions. She made the 2023 Senior World team at 68 kg (149.5 pounds) where she finished sixth. 

Unlike Shilson, Bruntil is listed on the team’s roster page. The Bearcat star normally competes at 65 kg (143) so this is her ideal weight. Bruntil’s international accolades make her the favorite at 143 or 155. 

Upcoming Tournaments

Below are links to brackets for upcoming weekend tournaments.

Cerritos Women's Open on Saturday, February 10
Midland Warrior Open on Saturday, February 10
JCU Women's Open on Sunday, February 11

The Week That Was

Below are links to brackets for last weekend’s tournaments.
D3 Invitational on Friday, February 2
Northland Women’s Open on Friday, February 2
Grand View Open on Saturday, February 3
RMAC Championships on Saturday, February 3
Bobcat Open on Sunday, February 4

It’s Happening!

Women's wrestling took another step toward becoming the 91st NCAA championship sport, with its projected first NCAA championship occurring in winter 2026. Read all about it here.

A Legend Says Good-bye

One of the most popular wrestlers in U.S. history will call it a career.

Jenna Burkert, a 2021 World bronze medalist, announced her retirement with a lengthy post on Instagram. Burkert will no longer compete at the 2024 Olympic Trials where she was expected to contend for the 57-kg spot.

Click here to read more about her journey and to watch Flo’s documentary on Burkert’s life.

High School Freshman Dominating College Opens

High school freshman Taina Fernandez just won her third college open of the season. Click here to learn more about her incredible run.

The Unbreakable Tatiana Suarez

Former teenage wrestling star Tatiana Suarez is the focal point of a new HBO documentary. Click here to learn more about her wrestling background and where you can watch.

Pan-Am Olympic Fever

Only four women’s matches took place in Denver last weekend to decide representatives for the Pan-American Olympic qualifier. Dom Parrish (53 kg), Kayla Miracle (62 kg), and Amit Elor (68 kg) will attempt to qualify the United States for the Olympics during the tournament held in Acapulco, Mexico, at the end of February. Click here for links to interviews and matches.

Women’s Spotlight


Three-time Fargo champ Nebi Tsarni discusses her decision to attend the Air Force Academy and her role in Maryland's flourishing wrestling culture.


Katie Biscoglia of Raccoon River won her second Iowa state championship and is on pace for four. She discusses her quest for history, national competitions, and influencing the next generation.