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The future of women's wrestling will be on display this weekend in Irving, TX. The annual women's nationals event will determine four world teams and three Pan Am squads.
May 10-12 | 10:00 AM Central
Typically this tournament has decided who would represent Team USA at the UWW Cadet and UWW Junior world championships. This year, they have added the U23 division and the U15 (formerly schoolgirl division) bracket will decide a world team for the first time.
U23 World Team Picks
The Pick: Emily Shilson
A first year Junior, Shilson has long been considered one of the premier young prospects in this country. She was at 43kg last year, but hasn't looked terribly undersized for 50kg at the Open and Dave Schultz. If she is undersized for the weight, it won't make much of a difference this weekend. McKaylabe Campbell has made two Junior teams and a Cadet team and should be in the finals here.
The Pick: Tiare Ikei
Shocker that the girl who wins the Open would be the favorite to make the U23 world team. She's still only 17, and is just a junior in high school. But her experience at the Olympic Training Center this year is clearly paying off, and this U23 field (as well as the Junior bracket) will not be as tough as the one she faced to win in Vegas.
The Pick: Dom Parrish
A smaller bracket than the first two weights, but it has the second, third, and fourth place finishers from the Open. Parrish was 3, 2, 1, 1 at Simon Fraser, going undefeated her last two years and winning the Miranda medal as the best women's college wrestler this year. She teched Alisha Howk in the third place match, and I believe will beat Open finalist Areana Villaescusa (they were on opposite sides of the bracket).
The Pick: Cam Guerin
With updates in the registration, this pick has changed three times now. The Washington native has spent most of her time this year on the senior level, including winning the German Grand Prix. She was a 2017 Junior world team member and 2018 Junior Pan Am silver medalist who was third at the Open.
The Pick: Michaela Beck
The senior national teamer at 57kg last year did not compete at the Open, but should win here. It will be interesting to see the jumps she's made since training in Iowa City.
The Pick: Kayla Miracle
The Open champ is in her final year of U23 age eligibility and will be the leader of this team. Young bucks Alara Boyd and Alex Liles are also in the field, but the team belongs to Miracle and gives her some more matches ahead of the senior Trials in Raleigh next weekend, where she sits in the best-of-three finals on Sunday.
The Pick: Maya Nelson
Nelson made the Open finals from the bottom side, beating Julia Salata in the semis. Jayden Laurent was up at 68kg and lost to Randi Beltz in the finals there. Laurent is an excellent young talent, but Nelson is one of the most sound defensive wrestlers in the country, and can produce points off her opponent's attacks better than just about anyone.
The Pick: Macey Kilty
A late change as Kilty was originally registered for 65kg. Last year's Junior world silver should cruise through this weight.
The Pick: Rachel Watters
Watters continues to be able to gain world level experience, but Alexis Gomez did have a good Open win and is hopefully healthy. Watters did not wrestle at all this college season, but is shooting for her sixth age level world team.
The Pick: Nkechinyere Nwankwo
Somehow the U23 field is not as strong as the Junior field at this weight. But Nwankwo is a potential wrecking ball who was fourth at WCWAs and second at NAIAs. Andrea Sennett has wrestled two straight years at Pan Ams, but was 0-2 at the Open so may not be in top form.
Junior World Team Picks
The Pick: Emily Shilson
A common theme is that our best U23 talent is still Junior eligible, and you will see a lot of repeat picks between the two. Junior worlds are August 12-18 and U23 Worlds are October 28 - November 3 so they have over two months in between to recover. WCWA runner-up McKayla Campbell should be Shilson's primary competition.
The Pick: Tiare Ikei
Ikei will probably have more competition to make the Junior team than the U23 team. Felicity Taylor was WCWA runner-up as a freshman for McKendree, and was in 50kg Junior finals last year here. Peyton Prussin was Ikei's opponent to make the Cadet team last year.
The Pick: Alisha Howk
With Parrish and Villaescusa too old for Juniors, Howk becomes the favorite. She was the world teamer at 53kg last year, and will probably have to go through her 55kg teammate from last Junior worlds in Ronna Heaton to make the team again.
The Pick: Xochitl Mota-Pettis
An undefeated Texas state champ this year for Klein, Mota-Pettis was fourth in this weight a year ago and finished third at Folkstyle Nationals in March. She was in the finals in 2017 opposite Heaton and should make her first world team this year.
The Pick: Michaela Beck
I'm somewhat curious if Cheyenne Bowman can make a splash on the Junior level, but I think the California state champ will run into some problems against the older Beck.
The Pick: Alara Boyd
Alex Liles has made two Cadet world teams and a Junior world team already. In 2017, she was teammates with Alara Boyd on the Cadet team. I believe those two will meet in the finals, and I think it goes Boyd's way, but Liles has always been excellent. Boyd kept her off the world team in 2016, but then Liles beat her 6-5 in the finals of Fargo in 2016. Boyd has the most recent win, a 2-0 win in Folkstyle in 2017.
The Pick: Macey Kilty
We were supposed to get Kilty v Laurent here last year, but they ended up in different weights. Laurent is tremendous and it is unfortunate she may not make a team this year, but it speaks to the depth our women's program is trying to develop.
The Pick: Lena Flanagan
Both the Junior and U23 fields for 68kg don't seem as deep as 65kg, which makes me wonder if Lauarent will bump up. Flanagan was third here last year.
The Pick: Alexis Gomez
A couple girls with ties to Illinois are the favorites based on entries right now. Gomez upset the top seed at the Open and is from Illinois, while Joye Levendusky was an All-American for McKendree (in Illinois) as a freshman but is originally from New York.
The Pick: Kori Bullock
Lot of unknown in this weight, so I'm going with a known quantity who made Final X and was on the U23 world team last year. She won bronze at U23 worlds, was third in the Open at this weight on the senior level, and finished sixth at WCWAs. Kenya-Lee Sloan also placed at the Open but did not wrestle Bullock.
Cadet World Team Picks
The Pick: Sterling Dias
The returning world bronze medalist and Fargo champ will be a huge asset to our team in her second year as a Cadet. Dias was also a U15 Pan Am champ in 2016.
The Pick: Alex Szkotnicki
A first year Cadet and rising star on the scene, she is one among a group of very strong girls coming from Maryland, which is poised to have their best year on the women's scene in quite some time. A U15 Pan Am champ last year, she also won Gotham last month and then pinned her primary opposition at Northeast Regional, Fargo third placer Grace Gundrum.
The Pick: Sage Mortimer
One of my favorite weights of the Cadet division. The returning third and fourth place finishers in Mortimer and Rayana Sahagun will be there, as well as schoolgirl runner-up Nyla Valencia. Mortimer was your Fargo champ, won a U15 Pan Am gold in 2016, and is ranked #2 in the country, but could also face competition from #7 Estrella Dorado Marin. Keep an eye on Heaven Fitch, Shea Reisel, and Gotham runner-up Sydney Petzinger as well.
The Pick: Montana Delawder
Talk about a weight that might get blownup. NHSCA champ Delawder is my pick, but Folkstyle champ Cristelle Rodriguez certainly can finish on top of the podium as well. Rodriguez won a U15 Pan Am gold last year and in February claimed her first California state title. There's too many girls coming into this weight to really gauge how they'll fare against each other. Jenavi Alejandro won Gotham, but she finished behind Tehani Soares in Fargo last year.
The Pick: Leilah Castro
One of our more underrated age level wrestlers, Castro was the only one to beat Alexys Zepeda last year and won Super 32 over Pan Am junior silver medalist Vayle-Rae Baker. She wrestled for bronze last year at worlds and won Fargo the year before that. Top-10 ranked Camille Fournier, a Texas champ, and Monica Garcia, a Cali champ, will be in the hunt.
The Pick: Skylar Hattendorf
I was surprised Hattendorf didn't win her Schoolgirl bracket last year, and would have been the 1 seed at NHSCAs but elected to compete with the boys instead. Devin Patton has been a pleasant surprise this spring. She did not place at 53kg here last year, and was just fourth in Texas. Since then though, she's won Folkstyle Nationals and Gotham to emerge on the scene as a real threat. Two returning placers in London Houston and Skye Realin will be here. Fargo finalist and #4 Nanea Estrella can absolutely win, as well as Fargo placers in #8 Carolina Moreno and #9 Nonnie Justice.
The Pick: Cheyenne Bowman
There are seven ranked athletes in this bracket, plus last year's Schoolgirl champ in Destiny Rodriguez of Oregon. Bowman is ranked #1 at 132, may very well be in the Junior finals and won Pan Ams last year. However, the Cali state champ was unable to compete at worlds last year, so hopefully the four kilos allows her to hold weight better this summer. She might dominate the bracket, but FolkNats champ Kylie Welker and NHSCA champ Maggie Palmore are both ranked top-five. The quarters on will be excellent, featuring Jordan Suarez, Grace Pauls, Tiera Jimerson, and Charmayne Delong
The Pick: Lillian Freitas
A very interesting weight that for whatever reason attracted a bunch of Fargo fourth placers all converging in one bracket. You have #15 Tiffani Baublitz, who was on the U15 Pan Am team in 2016, and last year's U15 Pan Am gold medalist in Lillian Freitas. A freshman state champ in California, Freitas is the highest ranked athlete in this bracket, #6 at 144lbs. Back to the Fargo fourths though, #17 at 144 Seda Tsarni was a Gotham champ, #10 at 138 Jade Herzer was a FolkNats champ, then there is also #12 at 138 Hannah Strauss, and unranked Jessi Johnson. Rounding out the ranked athletes is #12 at 144 Sara Sulejmani.
The Pick: Amit Elor
I cannot stress enough how big of a prospect Elor is. If you are coming into this from the folkstyle world, or need a comparison on the men's side, it's Spencer Lee at this age. A U15 Pan Am champ last year, she went undefeated as a freshman to win Cali states, rolled through the Junior division in Gotham, and is regularly competing at a very high level with our senior level wrestlers at training camps. She's ranked #2 at 152 behind Kennedy Blades, a match we all want to see, whether it's for a world team spot, a Fargo title, or at Who's #1.
The Pick: Kennedy Blades
It's always nice when the world team member is back, and Tristan Kelly also got to experience Pan Ams, where she earned a silver. However, Kennedy Blades is about to take the torch from Macey Kilty of best high school wrestler in America. It should make for an excellent final series.
Unfortunately for Kelly, her final high school season will be next year, and Colorado has sanctioned a women's state tournament for the 2020-21 school year. But Kelly, among others, will be an example for younger girls in her state to follow as they enter in a new era.