The Definitive 2019 Women's WTT Challenge Tournament Preview

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By: The Wrestling Quoter (@WrestlingQuoter)

With Women’s Age-Group Nationals completed and our 2019 Junior and U23 World Teams finalized, the stage has been set for the Senior World Team Trials Challenge Tournament to be held on May 17-18 in Raleigh, North Carolina as all qualifiers have been determined. 

Watch World Team Trials Live On Flo

May 17-19 | 10:00 AM Eastern

Key points to note for the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament:

  • At all but four weight-classes, the winner of the World Team Trials (WTT) will advance to Final X to meet the 2019 US Open Champion or returning 2018 World Medalist. 

  • At 53, 62, 68, and 76KG, the winner of the WTT Challenge Tournament will go on to face the sitting 2019 US Open Champion to determine who advances to Final X. 

  • All weights at the WTT will conclude with a Best-of-3 series to determine who advances to Final X. 

  • True-2nd matches will be held, if necessary, to determine #3 National Teamers for 2019. 

  • Challenge Tournament participants qualify for the event generally, meaning they may not necessarily compete at the weight class in which they qualified; nonetheless, they are projected below at the weight in which they competed at the US Open or prior, unless their Women’s Nationals (formerly known as Body Bar, to be referred to as “Junior World Team Trials” or “U23 World Team Trials” below) results preclude them from being projected at only a single weight.


50 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Rutgers: World #19 Whitney Conder, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds: Name (2019 WTT Qualifications)

  1. Erin Golston (Dan Kolov 2nd, Pan Am Championships 2nd, US Open 2nd)

  2. Victoria Anthony (US Open 3rd)

  3. Haley Augello (US Open 4th)

  4. Amy Fearnside (US Open 5th, Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer @ 53KG)

  5. Alleida Martinez (WCWA Champion, Junior World Teamer)

  6. Emily Shilson (Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer, U23 World Teamer)

  7. Asia Ray (WCWA Champion)

If the US Open showed us anything, it’s that the American lightweights run deep. With returning World Teamer Whitney Conder waiting in Final X, two past World Teamers and two past National Teamers enter the WTT as the front-runners to win the challenge tournament. World #5 Erin Golston enters the WTT after putting together a stellar international season, with notable wins over Conder as well as Victoria Anthony and Haley Augello. Her only major domestic stumble has been the recent, decisive 7-0 loss to Conder in the US Open finals. 

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Tight on Golston’s heels are World #7 Anthony, Olympian Augello, and National Teamer Amy Fearnside. Anthony wrestled Conder to a criteria loss in the US Open semifinals, while Augello did the same against Golston. Fearnside took two narrow, one point losses to both Augello (2-1) and Anthony (4-3) at the Open.

Chasing the top group-of-four is a very talented cohort of age-group stars. Cadet World Champion Emily Shilson, two-time Cadet World Medalist Alleida Martinez, and Junior World Bronze Asia Ray are all qualified for Raleigh, but will have to elevate their game to crack through the top-tier and make the Senior National Team. Shilson and Martinez met head-to-head in the US Open consolations in a match where Martinez led by as much as five points and was looking to add to her lead from par terre when Shilson froze Martinez in the middle of a back-bow attempt and secured the fall. 

Soon thereafter, Shilson and Martinez met in the Junior WTT finals and went the distance, with Martinez earning her second Junior World Team spot in three tightly-contested bouts (4-6, 8-6, 5-2) that Wrestling Nomad described as “a [three] match war.” Shilson soon thereafter dominated her way onto the U23 World Team with five straight wins, only facing resistance against non-qualifier Maria Vidales in the final series. 

Asia Ray, who was not present in the US Open, Junior Trials, or U23 Trials, will be a free-radical in the field if she decides to try her hand at the Senior World Team.


53 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Lincoln: World #1 Sarah Hildebrandt, 2018 World Silver

Sitting in the WTT Challenge Finals: Tiare Ikei, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds: 

  1. Katherine Shai (US Open 2nd)

  2. Gracie Figueroa (US Open 3rd, Junior World Teamer)

  3. Cody Pfau (US Open 4th)

  4. Felicity Taylor (U23 World Teamer)

  5. Peyton Prussin (US Open 5th) 

  6. Arelys Valles (Last Chance Qualifier)

With surprise US Open Champion Tiare Ikei waiting in the finals of the WTT, a deceptively small group of athletes enter the challenge bracket at 53KG. Multiple-time National Teamer Katherine Shai and 2018 National Teamer Cody Pfau enter the Trials after good-not-great performances at the US Open with both having lost to Ikei in Vegas in matches where they lead the Cadet World Bronze. 

For Shai, who had taken time away from competition the past couple years, her Open finals loss ought to serve as both a wake-up call and motivator as she looks for, at the least, yet another National Team selection. Pfau, whose performance against Ikei was marred by an apparent injury, has the skills to make it through to Final X should she put her best wrestling together. 

Cadet World Bronze and four-time age-group World Teamer Gracie Figueroa will be a formidable barrier between Ikei, Shai, or Pfau from reaching Final X. Figueroa and Ikei scrapped to a three-match series in the Junior WTT finals, with Figueroa emerging as Junior World Teamer (3-0, 2-5, 6-1 Fall). At the Open, Figueroa lost a 9-6 match to Katherine Shai in which her offensive output could not overcome Shai’s veteran-defense. If she can make the adjustments, Figueroa could take the bracket. 

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A late addition to the field is Felicity Taylor, who beat Vayle Baker (projected at 55KG) twice in-a-row (6-3, 2-1) to make the U23 World Team at this weight. Rounding out the field are Peyton Prussin, a Fargo Junior runner-up last summer, and Arelys Valles, who is in her second-consecutive WTT. 


55 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Lincoln: World #8 (#19 @ 57KG) Jacarra Winchester, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds: 

  1. Dominique Parrish (US Open 3rd, WCWA Champion, U23 World Teamer)

  2. Areana Villaescusa (US Open 2nd, Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer @ 57KG)

  3. Shauna Isbell-Kemp (US Open 5th)

  4. Alexandra Hedrick (Pan American Champion, Junior World Teamer)

  5. Alisha Howk (US Open 4th, Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer)

  6. Vayle Baker (Last Chance Qualifier)

The leaders of the 55KG challenge field are WCWA Champion Dominique Parrish and US Open Runner-up Areana Villaescusa. The two have split four matches between the US Open and U23 World Team Trials leading up to the Senior Trials. Villaescusa struck first-blood at the Open in a tight-bout (5-5 criteria) and added a pin over Shauna Isbell-Kemp (3-2 Fall) en route to the Open finals. 

After her stumble against Villaescusa, Parrish powered through the consolation bracket, notching wins over Isbell-Kemp (5-2) and Alisha Howk (10-0) in the process. At the U23 Trials, Parrish threw another 10-0 technical superiority on Alisha Howk to set up a rematch with Villaescusa in the U23 WTT finals. Villaescusa made it two wins over Parrish in a row in match one (4-0), but it was Parrish who won the next two matches to make the U23 team (6-5, 10-2). 

2012 National Teamer Shauna Isbell-Kemp reasserted herself on the national scene at the US Open on the strength of two wins (7-5, 4-3) over Alexandra Hedrick. World #13 Alexandra Hedrick, who competed at Final X a year ago at 57KG, had a less-than-ideal showing at the US Open but since rebounded to make her second-straight Junior World Team, avenging a 6-4 loss at the Open to Alisha Howk when she beat Howk in straight-matches (4-2, 6-1) in the Junior WTT final series. 

Young prospect Vayle Baker rounds out the field as the Last Chance Qualifier. Baker won a Fargo Junior national title last year and recently placed 4th at Junior WTT, taking a loss to Howk (7-1) in the semis. Baker subsequently made the U23 WTT finals at 53KG but fell in two matches to Felicity Taylor (projected at 53KG).

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57 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Rutgers: Becka Leathers, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Helen Maroulis (2018 World Teamer)

  2. Jenna Burkert (US Open 2nd, 2018 World Teamer @ 59KG)

  3. Arian Carpio (U23 World Teamer)

  4. Cameron Guerin (US Open 3rd, Junior World Teamer)

  5. Kelsey Campbell (US Open 4th)

  6. Allison Petix (US Open 5th)

  7. Shaina Murray (Last Chance Qualifier)

Should Helen Maroulis return to competition this year, she will be the favorite in Raleigh to make it through to Final X. In case you’ve been asleep for the last decade, Maroulis is a three-time World/Olympic Champion with two other World medals to her name and has been on every World or Olympic team since 2011 save the 2012 London team. Even if Maroulis is absent from the WTT Challenge Tournament, a solid group of seasoned competitors will seek to give Becka Leathers a run for her money at Final X. 

Jenna Burkert, the returning World Teamer at 59KG, is joined by 2012 Olympian and three-time World Teamer Kelsey Campbell as those with Senior World Championship experience. Burkert looked outstanding at the US Open, earning two first-period technical superiority wins before losing a competitive 7-5 match to Leathers in the finals. 

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Recently minted to the Junior World Team, Cameron Guerin has a legitimate claim to the title here at the Challenge Tournament. At the Open, Guerin beat Campbell not once but twice (6-4, 2-0 Fall) and lost only to Becka Leathers (14-4). Guerin also notched a definitive 8-0 win over Allison Petix. Guerin’s most recent slip came at the hands of eventual U23 World Teamer Arian Carpio (5-0) at those respective trials. Carpio went on to beat Allison Petix in the final series (4-0, 6-2). Petix had previously beaten Shaina Murray, a graduating high school prep and the Last Chance Qualifier, by 10-0 technical superiority in the U23 WTT quarters.


59 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Lincoln: Alli Ragan, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Abby Nette (US Open 2nd, WCWA Champion, U23 World Teamer)

  2. Lauren Mason (US Open 3rd)

  3. Lauren Louive (US Open 4th)

  4. Megan Black (US Open 5th)

  5. Michaela Beck (Junior World Teamer)

  6. Maya Porter (Last Chance Qualifier)

With two-time World Silver Alli Ragan back in Final X after a dominant US Open performance, the contenders at 59KG will have to navigate a heavily-tiered group to challenge the TeamUSA mainstay in Lincoln. 

Leading the field is WCWA Champion Abby Nette, who did not concede a point to anyone not named “Alli Ragan” at the US Open. Nette notably beat returning National Teamer Lauren Louive (10-0) in the Open semifinals and, in the U23 Trials Finals, she beat Lauren Mason in emphatic fashion (10-0, 10-0) to make her second straight U23 Team. 

Mason finished 3rd at the Open after beating Lauren Louive in a close 2-2 criteria match. Both Mason and Louive separated themselves from the remaining qualifiers having both beat 2017 U23 World Teamer Megan Black at the Open (2-0 Fall and 14-4 technical superiority, respectively). Mason also beat Maya Porter (10-0) in the Open consolation semifinals. With Black having beat Porter by 4-0 Fall in the 5th-6th match, there is a clear pecking order at the weight. 

Rounding out the field are age-groupers Michaela Beck, who recently made the Junior World Team in dominant fashion, and the aforementioned Maya Porter as the Last Chance Qualifier. 


62 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Lincoln: World #3 Mallory Velte, 2018 World Bronze

Sitting in the WTT Challenge Finals: Kayla Miracle, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Desiree Zavala (US Open 2nd)

  2. Solin Piearcy (WCWA Champion)

  3. Alexis Porter (US Open 3rd)

  4. Brenda Reyna (US Open 4th)

  5. Alara Boyd (Junior World Teamer)

  6. Alexandria Liles (US Open 5th)

  7. Brianna Csontos (Last Chance Qualifier)

At 62KG, contenders at the WTT will have a monumental task ahead of them to advance through the trials process and make the World Team due to the fact that both 2018 Final X participants, returning World Bronze Mallory Velte and US Open Champion Kayla Miracle, are sitting in Final X and the Challenge Finals, respectively. Velte and Miracle have separated themselves from the field as the two top-wrestlers in the nation at the weight by at least ten points over the course of the qualifying season.

Leading the pack will be Desiree Zavala, who notched a 7-0 decision and a 2-0 Fall over Junior World Bronze Alexis Porter and National Teamer Brenda Reyna, respectively, at the US Open. Zavala also won an action packed 17-9 match over Alara Boyd at the U23 Trials

WCWA Champion Solin Piearcy will likely be in the mix for National Team contention should she enter, having won her collegiate national title in a bracket including trials qualifiers in Porter, Nicole Joseph (projected at 65KG), Destiny Lyng (projected at 65KG), and Kayla Marano (projected at 68KG). Piearcy beat both Joseph and Marano by technical superiority at WCWAs.

Close behind the likes of Zavala, Piearcy, Porter, and Reyna will be age-group stars in Alara Boyd, Alexandria Lilies, and Brianna Csontos. Boyd, a two-time Cadet World medalist, earlier this month made the Junior World Team. 

In the same Junior bracket, two-time Cadet World Teamer and returning Junior World Teamer Liles stumbled in a 4-4 criteria loss to non-qualifier Dalia Garibay before rebounding for third. 

Last Chance Qualifier Brianna Csontos, who earned the Golden Boot at Junior Pan Ams a year ago, will have to make major strides to make the Senior National Team, as she did not place at either the US Open or the Junior WTTs though she did finish 7th in the U23 Trials.


65 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Rutgers: World #4 Forrest Molinari, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Maya Nelson (US Open 2nd, Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer, U23 World Teamer)

  2. Amanda Hendey (Grand Prix of Germany 2nd)

  3. Macey Kilty (US Open 3rd, Junior World Teamer)

  4. Julia Salata (Pan American Champion)

  5. Nicole Joseph (US Open 4th)

  6. Destiny Lyng (US Open 5th)

  7. Melissa Jacobs (Last Chance Qualifier)

With the exception of Amanda Hendey, all qualifiers at 65KG were present at the US Open. Junior World Champion Maya Nelson had the upset win of the bracket in Vegas when she shutdown defending US Open Champion Julia Salata (8-0) after beating Destiny Lyng (10-0), a freshman double WCWA/NAIA All-American this past season. Nelson then made this year’s U23 World Team by beating trials qualifier Ashlynn Ortega (projected at 68KG) in straight-matches (6-1, 12-0) and may be the primary threat to incumbent Forrest Molinari. 

Pan Am Champion, World #4 Salata -- chasing her first Senior World Team -- will seek to put herself back at the front of the 65KG weight and earn what would be her second-straight Final X bid. 

Among those chasing Nelson and Salata is Amanda Hendey, a past National Teamer who lost to Nelson at the Dave Schultz Memorial (5-0) in January. In February, Hendey qualified for the trials by making the Grand Prix of Germany finals, beating Macey Kilty (3-1) in the process. 

A Cadet World Gold and Junior World Silver last year, Kilty is right up at the top of the heap to make it to Final X having lost only to Forrest Molinari at the US Open. Kilty earned her 3rd-place medal at the Open on the strength of identical 11-0 technical superiority wins over Destiny Lyng and this year’s 136lbs WCWA Runner-up Nicole Joseph. Kilty had beaten Joseph (7-0) in the first round and, at Junior Trials, stamped another technical superiority victory over Lyng (10-0). 

Finally, Melissa Jacobs will complete the Trials field as the Last Chance Qualifier.


68 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Rutgers: World #2 (#18 @ 72KG) Tamyra Mensah-Stock, 2018 World Bronze

Sitting in the WTT Challenge Finals: Randi Beltz, US Open Champion

  1. Macey Kilty (Dave Schultz Memorial Highest Placer, U23 World Teamer)

  2. Jayden Laurent (US Open 2nd, WCWA Champion, Junior World Teamer)

  3. Ashlynn Ortega (US Open 3rd)

  4. Kayla Marano (US Open 4th)

  5. Skylar Grote (US Open 5th)

  6. Brighton Hutton (Last Chance Qualifier)

The US Open served as a valuable preview of the Challenge Tournament at 68KG based on the abundance of head-to-head matchups between the eventual Trials qualifiers. Randi Beltz sits in the Finals, having created a sizable gap between herself and the field at the Open, winning the title with a 10-1 victory over Jayden Laurent in the championship match. Laurent, a National Teamer last year fresh off making her second-straight Junior World Team, is among the top contenders having beat two-time Cadet World Teamer Ashlynn Ortega (4-2) in the Open semifinals. In her respective Open performance, Ortega beat both Skylar Grote (7-3) and Kayla Marano (6-1). 

Marano, once a Cadet World teammate of Ortega, beat Grote (4-3) in a combative Open consolation semifinals after pushing Beltz in a close semifinal (10-9).  Entering as the Last Chance Qualifier is Brighton Hutton, a past collegian for Missouri Baptist.

Add in Macey Kilty, who is in the thick of the competition in two weight-classes. Having placed at the US Open as well as made the Junior World Team at 65KG, Kilty decided to bump to 68KG for U23 Trials and won the World Team spot there as well, knocking off some serious 68KG contenders in the process. Kilty beat Skylar Grote (8-0) in the semis before rattling off two technical superiority victories over Jayden Laurent (11-0, 12-2) in the final series. Whichever weight she goes, Macey Kilty will be a threat to make Final X. 


72 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Rutgers: Alyvia Fiske, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Erin Clodgo (2018 World Teamer)

  2. Victoria Francis (US Open 2nd)

  3. Alexandria Glaude (WCWA Champion)

  4. Iman Kazem (US Open 3rd)

  5. Rachel Watters (US Open 5th, Pan Am Championships 2nd)

  6. Dymond Guilford (WCWA Champion, Grand Prix of Germany Champion)

  7. Andrea Sennett (Grand Prix of Germany 2nd)

  8. Lena Flanagan (US Open 4th)

  9. Stephanie Simon (Last Chance Qualifier)

A deep set of challengers enter the Challenge bracket at 72KG. Returning World Teamer Erin Clodgo tops the list, currently ranked World #13. Right behind her is Victoria Francis, a World Teamer in 2017 that sat out last season due to a tainted supplement. Stepping right into the heat of the competition after her lay-off, Francis showed she still has the level with a runner-up finish at the US Open. It will not be easy for either Clodgo or Francis, as there is a more than capable cast of entrants staking their own claim to Final X. 

At the US Open, Iman Kazem lost to eventual Open champion Alyvia Fiske before rattling off major consolation-side wins over Dymond Guilford (11-6), Rachel Watters (12-2), and Lena Flanagan (13-2). Kazem may very well have to exorcise some more WCWA demons in the WTT Challenge bracket, as WCWA Champion Alexandria Glaude -- who beat Kazem (6-2) for her national title -- is also qualified for the Trials. 

National Teamer Rachel Watters, who participated in Final X at this weight-class last year, will look to recover her form entering the WTT. Ranked #16 in the World, Watters wrestled Francis to a close 5-4 loss in the semis before her aforementioned lop-sided technical superiority defeat to Kazem in the consolation bracket at the Open. 

The weight-class also features both Grand Prix of Germany finalists from earlier this year, i.e., WCWA Champion Dymond Guilford and Andrea Sennett. Guilford beat Sennett via 4-0 decision in round robin competition for the tournament title. Finally, Junior-eligible Lena Flanagan, who competed down at 68KG for Junior Trials, and Last Chance Qualifier Stephanie Simon complete the Challenge field. 

Whoever ascends through the bracket to Final X will meet a very game Alyvia Fiske. At the Open, Fiske earned wins over Kazem (4-0) and Francis (5-4). Most recently, Fiske beat Guilford in straight-matches (6-0, 4-4) to defend her Junior World Team spot at the weight. Fiske then followed that performance with a dominant run to the U23 World Team, outscoring her opponents 43-0 in five matches including a fall.


76 Kilograms

Sitting in Final X Lincoln: World #1 Adeline Gray, 2018 World Champion

Sitting in the WTT Challenge Finals: Precious Bell, US Open Champion

Projected Seeds:

  1. Hannah Gladden (US Open 2nd)

  2. Korinahe Bullock (US Open 3rd, Junior World Teamer)

  3. Nahiela Magee (US Open 4th)

  4. Kenya-Lee Sloan (US Open 5th)

  5. Destane Garrick (WCWA Champion)

A tight-group of three wrestlers enter the Challenge field with a reasonable claim to win the bracket and face US Open Champion Precious Bell in the final series. Hannah Gladden, a National Teamer a year ago at 72KG, earned wins over Korinahe Bullock (2-2 criteria) and Kenya-Lee Sloan (10-4 Fall) at the US Open. 

Right behind Gladden are Bullock, who just made the Junior World Team and wrestled in Final X a year ago, and Nahiela Magee. Bullock beat Magee in a tight 4-4 criteria match for 3rd-place at the US Open and recently beat Sloan in straight-matches (12-0, 10-1) in the Junior WTT finals. The unknown of the bracket will be 191lbs WCWA Champion Destane Garrick, should she enter. 

Regardless of who emerges from the Challenge Tournament, they will have their a steep path to climb to reach the World Team. Precious Bell will present quite the challenge for anyone else looking to reach Final X, having tech’d and pinned her way through the Open field and later making the U23 World Team. That said, whoever makes it to Lincoln will have to beat the best wrestler in the World twice to make the 2019 World Team.

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