Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships Recap

Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships Recap

Recapping the 2021 Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships.

Mar 11, 2021 by Derek Levendusky
Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women's Wrestling Championships Recap
There were big prizes on the line in Tiffin at the Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships—individual & team national titles, All-American honors, and qualifying spots for the Olympic Team Trials next month in Fort Worth. In the end, it was McKendree, the heavy favorite coming into the event, that won the team title, boasting 6 national champions, 8 total finalists, and 14 All-Americans at the event. The Bearcats, led by head coach Sam Schmitz, finished with 209 points, with King coming in second with 171.5, Emmanuel 3rd with 133.5, and Colorado Mesa 4th with 97.

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There were big prizes on the line in Tiffin at the Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships—individual & team national titles, All-American honors, and qualifying spots for the Olympic Team Trials next month in Fort Worth. In the end, it was McKendree, the heavy favorite coming into the event, that won the team title, boasting 6 national champions, 8 total finalists, and 14 All-Americans at the event. The Bearcats, led by head coach Sam Schmitz, finished with 209 points, with King coming in second with 171.5, Emmanuel 3rd with 133.5, and Colorado Mesa 4th with 97.

Coach Schmitz was pleased with his team, but more reflective on the whole season. “It was a tough year,” admits the coach. “It was hard to balance [everything]. There was a lot of adversity and every team can probably say that. Our girls did a remarkable job of keeping their heads clear and showing up every day and working hard.”

Was there a moment for him that stuck out? “What Felicity Taylor did in the finals was unbelievable,” the coach reflected. “To be down 6-2 with a minute left and come back and lace her opponent for the tech fall. That was unreal.”

Taylor ended up winning the title at 116. McKendree had women in 8 of 10 finals, including one in each of the last six weight classes, winning five of them: Cameron Guerin (130), Brenda Reyna (136), Emma Bruntil (143), Alara Boyd (155), and Sydnee Kimber (191) all won national titles. Joye Levendusky took 2nd at 170, while returning champ Pauline Granados took 2nd at 101. Both Bruntil and Kimber went back-to-back to become 2-time national champions.

Emmanuel’s Angie Gomez (101) was the highest seed to make the finals at #4, and won her first national title with a 3-3 criteria win over Granados.

“I had a little doubt in myself but I just had to wrestle smart,” said Gomez. “I just had to focus because I knew I could win it. I woke up really nervous. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m ranked #4!’ I was really nervous to go against the #1 seed but as soon as I took her down and turned her I knew the match was mine.”

King’s Cheyenne Sisenstein dominated her 123-pound final with a 10-0 tech fall over Colorado Mesa’s Marissa Gallegos. “It was one match at a time,” said Sisenstein. “I’m very good at worrying. If I start adding everything up then things go downhill.” Things did not go downhill for the junior who had an impressive day at the event.

At 170, North Central’s Yelena Makoyed won by 12-2 tech fall over McKendree’s Joye Levendusky. It was 4-2 at the break when the sophomore scored 8 unanswered points to finish the match in the second period.

Augsburg’s Emily Shilson (109) was awarded the OW with a dominating performance, outscoring opponents 30-0 on the day, and McKendree coach Sam Schmitz doubled up with two awards, winning both the “Coach of the Tournament” and the NWCA “Coach of the Year” for the second year in a row. 191 champ Sydnee Kimber of McKendree was awarded the “Most Pins in Least Amount of Time” distinction.

Here’s a quick weight-by-weight recap.

101 Pounds

In what might have been the deepest weight class, #4 seed Angie Gomez looked sharp from the beginning and didn’t give up a single point until the finals, including a shocking 6-0 upset over #1 seed Jackie McNichols in the semis. Returning national champ Pauline Granados nearly missed the finals, when down 3-0 with 10 seconds left against #6 seed Brooke Thurber in the quarterfinals, she hit a takedown-to-turn for 4 points and the win. McNichols fells to 5th place when she lost to #2 seed Lizette Rodriguez who ended up in the consolation bracket when she lost to unseeded Sam Miller of Presbyterian by fall in the quarters. Miller also upset the #7 seed by fall before losing to Granados in the semis.

All-Americans

1st Place - Angelina Gomez of Emmanuel

2nd Place - Pauline Granados of McKendree

3rd Place - Lizette Rodriguez of McKendree

4th Place - Jennesis Martinez of Colorado Mesa

5th Place - Jaclyn McNichols of King

6th Place - Sam Miller of Presbyterian

7th Place - Brooke Thurber of UW-Stevens Point

8th Place - Shanna Morris of Tiffin


109 Pounds

This was Shilson’s third national title after winning both the WCWA and the NCWWC last season. She’s never lost a college match and had a convincing 10-0 victory over King’s Aleeah Gould in the finals. Gould owned the bottom of the bracket, gaining two falls and a tech fall before running into Shilson. McKendree had two All-Americans at this weight with 3rd place Natalie Reyna—also the oldest competitor at 29-years-old—and Carly Valleroy, who took 7th. Unseeded Iowa Wesleyan wrestler Alaina Sunlin took 5th place with upsets over the #5 seed and #7 seed.

All-Americans

1st Place - Emily Shilson of Augsburg

2nd Place - Aleeah Gould of King

3rd Place - Natalie Reyna of McKendree

4th Place - Cassy Lopez of Presbyterian

5th Place - Alaina Sunlin of Iowa Wesleyan

6th Place - Emily Mendez of Adrian

7th Place - Carly Valleroy of McKendree

8th Place - Katerina Pendergrass of Ferrum


116 Pounds

After going unchallenged on her way to the finals with two tech falls and a pin, #2 seed Sugey Ceja of Tiffin seemed in control of her finals match against #1 seed Felicity Taylor, holding a 6-2 lead with a minute left. That was when Taylor won a front head battle and transitioned to a leg lace that was so tight she seemed ready to score as many points as she needed to, rolling Ceja across the mat six times for the 16-6 tech fall. King’s Sophia Mirabella played the dark horse role—again—with a 6-5 win over #3 seed Jaslyn Gallegos in the quarters. They met again in the 3rd place match and this time it was Gallegos with the fall.

All-Americans

1st Place - Felicity Taylor of McKendree

2nd Place - Sugey Ceja of Tiffin

3rd Place - Jaslyn Gallegos of Presbyterian

4th Place - Sophia Mirabella of King

5th Place - Melanie Mendoza of King

6th Place - Kasey Baynon of Emmanuel

7th Place - Abby Nelson of UW-Stevens Point

8th Place - Anja Tschohl of Colorado Mesa


123 Pounds

Two years ago, King’s Cheyenne Sisenstein took 7th at WCWA Nationals with a broken ankle. Last season, she made the finals and lost to SFU’s Alex Hedrick. This year she was on a mission, with two black eyes to add to her gritty brand, overwhelming her opponents en route to her first national title. The King junior had three first-period falls before reaching the final and scored a 10-0 tech fall over Colorado Mesa’s Marissa Gallegos. This year it was Gallegos playing hurt, wrestling with a broken hand she suffered in practice a few days before the event, still making her way to the title match for the first time in her college career. This weight also featured three unseeded women making the podium, with North Central’s Mateah Roehl taking 6th, Colorado Mesa’s Elizabeth Miller taking 7th, and Caleeann Blarr of Gannon taking 8th.

All-Americans

1st Place - Cheyenne Sisenstein of King

2nd Place - Marissa Gallegos of Colorado Mesa

3rd Place - Asia Nguyen-Smith of North Central

4th Place - Makayla Welch of King

5th Place - Payton Stroud of McKendree

6th Place - Mateah Roehl of North Central

7th Place - Elizabeth Miller of Colorado Mesa

8th Place - Caleeann Blarr of Gannon


130 Pounds

McKendree freshman Cameron Guerin took her undefeated record to the finals and finished off her perfect season with a national title. It wasn’t easy. North Central’s Amanda Martinez scored an early 4-pointer and was ahead 4-1 at the break, but Guerin climbed back with shots, lightning fast counters, and effective turns to win it 9-6. King had two All-Americans at this weight, with #6 seed Phoenix Dubose outperforming her seed to take 3rd and #2 seed Allison Petix falling to 5th place after losses to #4 seed Martinez and #5 seed Emily Se of Emmanuel.

All-Americans

1st Place - Cameron Guerin of McKendree

2nd Place - Amanda Martinez of North Central

3rd Place - Phoenix Dubose of King

4th Place - Emily Se of Emmanuel

5th Place - Allison Petix of King

6th Place - Lana Perez of Gannon

7th Place - Eunique Davis of Tiffin

8th Place - Naomi Henry of New Jersey City


136 Pounds

Brenda Reyna won the rematch against Ana Luciano, this time in the national finals, a 1-1 grind that was full of action regardless of the low score. When these two met in January at the Tornado Duals, it was all Luciano in a 12-2 win, but Reyna was still finding her sea legs, returning from an injury that took her off the mat for almost two years. When Reyna went 3-0 at the Captain’s Cup, it was obvious that she was back and she proved it again at this year’s NCWWC. #6 seed Autumn Flanigan, an Augsburg freshman, coming into the tournament a relative unknown at the collegiate level, beat the #3, #4, and #5 seeds to take 3rd place.

All-Americans

1st Place - Brenda Reyna of McKendree

2nd Place - Ana Luciano of King

3rd Place - Autumn Flanigan of Augsburg

4th Place - Michelle Camacho of McKendree

5th Place - Julia Padilla of Emmanuel

6th Place - Daisy Scholz of Iowa Wesleyan

7th Place - Abigail Denney of North Central

8th Place - Elisa Cox of Adrian


143 Pounds

2-time McKendree national champion Emma Bruntil was in a tight battle against King #2 seed Ashlynn Ortega in the finals, with Ortega holding a 1-0 deep into the first period. That was when Bruntil got to a low level single and turned it into a match-ending leg lace at the 2:43 mark. #3 seed Felicity Bryant held her seed, placing 3rd with an 8-0 decision over Augsburg freshman Kya Rybacheck in the match for 3rd place. Rybacheck upset the #5 seed, 2020 WCWA Champion Zoe Nowicki, by fall in the quarters. Unseeded Adrian sophomore Megan Vondrasek also made the podium.

All-Americans

1st Place - Emma Bruntil of McKendree

2nd Place - Ashlynn Ortega of King

3rd Place - Felicity Bryant of Emmanuel

4th Place - Kya Rybachek of Augsburg

5th Place - Zoe Nowicki of Adrian

6th Place - Kaylee Lacy of Colorado Mesa

7th Place - Megan Vondrasek of Adrian

8th Place - Jordan Johnston of Schreiner


155 Pounds

“Feels awesome,” said McKendree national champion Alara Boyd of her finals victory over Emmanuel’s Kayla Marano. “I’ve been waiting for a rematch with her.” When they met earlier in the season, it was Marano 6-3. Last time, Marano hit Boyd with a 4-pointer. This time, it was Boyd who hit the big move, a 4-pointer in continuation out-of-bounds from a gut wrench while Marano held a quad pod position. In the end, Boyd was able to avoid Marano’s funky 2-on-1 offense and get the 8-2 win. #3 seed Marlynne Deede’s only loss was to Boyd in the semis. She came back to take 3rd with a win over the #4 seed, King freshman standout Viktorya Torres, by fall at 1:30.

All-Americans

1st Place - Alara Boyd of McKendree

2nd Place - Kayla Marano of Emmanuel

3rd Place - Marlynne Deede of Augsburg

4th Place - Malea Palahniuk of North Central

5th Place - Viktorya Torres of King

6th Place - Taylor Hites of Tiffin

7th Place - Zoe Gress of Colorado Mesa

8th Place - Mia Dow of Lindenwood


170 Pounds

In a group that featured a top three that have battled each other multiple times since November, #1 seed Makoyed came out on top. The North Central sophomore seemed to walk into the finals on the top side of the bracket, dismantling opponents with a fall and two wins by technical superiority, all in the first period. It was not such an easy path for McKendree #2 seed Joye Levendusky. After two straight first period tech falls, she faced Colorado Mesa #3 seed Tristan Kelly in the semis. In one of the matches of the tournament, the Bearcat captain came back in the second period from a 3-0 deficit to get the 6-3 win and reach the finals. In the title match, Makoyed went out to an early 4-0 lead when Levendusky followed with a takedown, making it 4-2 at the break. Makoyed went on a tear in the second period, scoring 8 unanswered to get the 12-2 tech fall and win her first national title. Kelly, only a freshman, came back to take 3rd with a tech fall over King’s Nia Crosdale, who is now a 3-time All-American.

All-Americans

1st Place - Yelena Makoyed of North Central

2nd Place - Joye Levendusky of McKendree

3rd Place - Tristan Kelly of Colorado Mesa

4th Place - Nia Crosdale of King

5th Place - Heaven Byrd of Emmanuel

6th Place - Morgan Davidson of Tiffin

7th Place - Faith Tuttle of Augsburg

8th Place - Jasmine Hale of Adrian


191 Pounds

McKendree’s Sydnee Kimber made her case for being one of the best to ever do it at 191, winning her second national title in a row with early termination in the finals. In a rematch of last year’s final, Kimber gave wrestling fans a similar result, finishing off King’s Tavi Heidelberg with a fall at 1:01. Last year Kimber scored a 10-0 tech fall at 2:23. McKendree junior Grace Kristoff took 3rd with a fall over Tiffin’s Jessie Lee, her first All-American honors. Lee is now a 3-time All-American.

All-Americans

1st Place - Sydnee Kimber of McKendree

2nd Place - Tavi Heidelberg-Tollson of King

3rd Place - Grace Kristoff of McKendree

4th Place - Jessie Lee of Tiffin

5th Place - Cristina Santoyo of Emmanuel

6th Place - Isabeau Shalack of Colorado Mesa

7th Place - Amara Devericks of Gannon

8th Place - Sandra Guerrero of New Jersey City


All finals results

101: #4 Angie Gomez (Emmanuel) over #3 Pauline Granados (McKendree) 3-3 

109: #1 Emily Shilson (Augsburg) over #2 Aleeah Gould (King) 10-0

116: #1 Felicity Taylor (McKendree) over #2 Sugey Ceja (Tiffin) 16-6

123: #1 Cheyenne Sisenstein (King) over #2 Marissa Gallegos (Colorado Mesa) 10-0

130: #1 Cameron Guerin (McKendree) over. #3 Amanda Martinez (North Central) 9-6

136: #2 Brenda Reyna (McKendree) over #1 Ana Luciano (King) 1-1

143: #1 Emma Bruntil (McKendree) over #2 Ashlynn Ortega (King) 12-1

155: #2 Alara Boyd (McKendree) over #1 Kayla Marano (Emmanuel) 8-2

170: #1 Yelena Makoyed (North Central) vs. #2 Joye Levendusky (McKendree) 12-2

191: #1 Sydnee Kimber (McKendree) vs. #2 Tavi Heidelberg (King) by fall 1:01

The highest finisher at each weight that wasn’t already qualified for the Olympic Team Trials
received a qualification spot. Here’s the qualifiers.

U.S. Olympic Team Trials Qualifiers

101- Angelina Gomez (Emmanuel)

109 - Aleeah Gould (King)

116 - Felicity Taylor (McKendree)

123- Cheyenne Sisenstein (King)

130 - Amanda Martinez (North Central)

136 - Brenda Reyna (McKendree)

143 - Felicity Bryant (Emmanuel)

155- Alara Boyd (McKendree)

170 - Joye Levendusky (McKendree)

191- Sydnee Kimber (McKendree)


Derek Levendusky is a freelance writer at American Women’s Wrestling and FloWrestling. You can find him on Twitter: @awwnewsfeed and @AWWderek.