The Comprehensive Women's World Team Trials Preview
The Comprehensive Women's World Team Trials Preview
Derek Levendusky takes an in-depth look the women's freestyle field for this weekend's World Team Trials in Lincoln.
Now that we’ve all caught our collective breath from the historic Olympics in Tokyo, it’s time to turn our attention to another event with world-level implications — the U.S. World Team Trials this weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska. Deep fields in six weight classes will battle for team spots to represent Team USA at the World Championships in Oslo, Norway, next month.
Olympic medalists Sarah Hildebrandt (bronze at 50 kg), Helen Maroulis (bronze at 57 kg), Tamyra Mensah-Stock (gold at 68 kg) and Adeline Gray (silver at 76 kg) each earned a trip to Osla by virtue of their performances in Tokyo. Thus, their four weights will not be contested in Lincoln.
Here’s a weight-by-weight breakdown for this weekend:
This is not only the largest, but it’s inarguably the deepest weight class at this year’s event. The top 10 are very close to each other, a history of everybody-beating-somebody matchups, and tournaments marked by hottest-hand champs. Combine the fact that some of the best 50 kg women bumped up because Hildebrandt took 50 kg away, and you have a convergence of the best of two weights. Emily Shilson, a staple at 50 kg, is coming off her first Junior world title, where she looked amazing. But Ronna Heaton was the hot hand at Olympic Team Trials last April at 53 kg, where she beat both Alexandra Hedrick and Dominique Parrish before falling to Winchester in the best-of-three finals. I count 10 women you could make a tier-1 argument for, and then a tier 2 marked by up-and-coming younger wrestlers who all have upset power. Whether it’s the experienced Alyssa Lampe, Amy Fearnside, Whitney Conder, Erin Golston, Parrish, Hedrick, or Areana Villaescusa, or the young-and-hungry Shilson, Jaslynn Gallegos, Alisha Howk, Alleida Martinez, Sage Mortimer, Nina Pham, or Peyton Prussin, this is must-see TV. I haven’t even mentioned other names that have the acumen, accolades, and the skill set to do big things this weekend.
Prediction: I think Shilson gets close to breaking through, but I’m going with Alyssa Lampe, who will not only win the spot, but will win a medal at Worlds, and then retire in glory.
Dark horse: Nina Pham had a magnificent college career, but it has yet to translate to the Senior level. Maybe this time?
Alyssa Lampe (Oregon, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Dominique Parrish (California, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Ronna Heaton (Wisconsin, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Emily Shilson (Minnesota, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Amy Fearnside (Colorado, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Whitney Conder (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Erin Golston (Illinois, New York Athletic Club)
Jaslynn Gallegos (Colorado, Blue Chip Wrestling Club)
Alisha Howk (Wisconsin, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Alexandra Hedrick (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Areana Villaescusa (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Alleida Martinez (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Sage Mortimer (Utah, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Arelys Valles (Florida, Grand View Wrestling Club)
Peyton Prussin ( Nevada, Life University)
Natalie Reyna-Rodriguez (California, McKendree Bearcat Wrestling Club)
Vanessa Ramirez (Indiana, McKendree Bearcat Wrestling Club)
Melanie Mendoza (California, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Nina Pham (California, Texas Panhandle Wrestling Club)
Torieonna Buchanan (Indiana, Team Green Wrestling Club)
Samantha Klingel (Pennsylvania Army, Army/WCAP)
Estrella Dorado Marin (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Very interesting to see Jenna Burkert’s name here. She took Helen Maroulis to the wire at Olympic Trials last April, stealing the wrestling community’s heart with the heart-breaking “I’m sorry Mom” moment after she lost the third match in shocking fashion to Maroulis. Her mother passed away only weeks before the event. Now she comes to World Team Trials at 55 kg and has 2019 World champion and 2021 Olympian Jacarra Winchester in her way — another tall task for the Army/WCAP wrestler. I’m sure Winchester wants to get back on top after a fifth-place performance at the Olympics.
Prediction: Hard to pick against a returning World champion (at this weight). Winchester competed in Tokyo at 53 kg but is now coming up to her natural weight, the weight she won in 2019. Burkert is coming down to 55 kg. That has to be worth something for Winchester, who is already one of the most formidable wrestlers in the world. I think Burkert is capable of beating Winchester in one match, but I don’t see it in a best-of-three. The field also includes U23 National Team member Cheyenne Sisenstein, Senior Nationals champ Vayle Baker, Senior Nationals runner-up Lauren Mason, Junior World teamer Payton Stroud, U23 national runner-up Amanda Martinez, and the always-exciting NCAA runner-up Marissa Gallegos.
Dark horses: Cheyenne Sisenstein has already proven to be one of the best college wrestlers in America, winning an NCAA title last March. She got “big-sistered” by Burkert at Olympic Trials last April, but she did get a feel, too, and has a history of making the right adjustments, thanks to her coaching staff at King. One thing is for sure about Sisenstein, she’ll step on the mat every time thinking she can win.
Lauren Mason (California, Brunson UVRTC)
Marissa Gallegos (Colorado, Colorado Mesa Wrestling Club)
Jenna Burkert (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Jacarra Winchester (Colorado, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Cheyenne Sisenstein (New York, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Vayle Baker (Pennsylvania, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Sophia Mirabella (New York, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Makayla Welch (Minnesota, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Ngao Shoua Whitethorn (Minnesota, Twin Cities Regional Training Center)
Amanda Martinez (Illinois, Cardinal Wrestling Club )
Payton Stroud (Washington, McKendree Bearcat Wrestling Club)
A quick glance at the entries and you see Maya Nelson’s name in there. The 2017 Junior World champ leads a field that includes U23 World Team rep Michaela Beck, McKendree NCAA champions Cameron Guerin and Brenda Reyna, Junior World teamer Claire DiCugno, and the one-and-only XMP, the 2020 Senior Nationals runner-up. Nelson, coming off an injury that took her off the mat for a year, looked solid at the Olympic Trials, where she took second in the Challenge Tournament, getting a win over Jennifer Page 6-1 before falling in the finals 5-0 to Macey Kilty in the finals. She followed it up with a Senior Nationals title in early May. If the bracket goes chalk, you would assume Nelson will hit Beck or Guerin in the finals.
Prediction: Nelson’s offense will be too much for whoever she faces in the finals. Even if anyone in this field could pull an upset win in one of the matches, it’s hard to see them doing it twice. I expect to see Nelson representing Team USA next month in Oslo.
Dark horse: You’ve gotta say XMP, right? That’s what she does. In the years to come, perhaps the young wrestler (remember, she graduated from high school in 2019) will be a frontrunner, not the dark horse. Give her time.
Michaela Beck (New York, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Maya Nelson (Colorado, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Cameron Guerin (Illinois, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Brenda Reyna (Washington, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Briana Kellin (Florida)
Phoenix Dubose (Washington, Team Tornado Wrestling Club)
Xochitl Mota-Pettis (Texas, Rise RTC)
Claire DiCugno (Washington, Takedown Express Wrestling Club)
Esther Han (Utah)
Megan Black (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Tateum Park (Iowa, Twin Cities Regional Training Center)
Can anyone win this besides Kayla Miracle? Besides the fact that she’s beaten anyone she’s wrestled in this field pretty handily, the 2020 Olympian has to be hungry after losing a heartbreaker in the first round in Tokyo. Getting a medal at the World Championships would surely wipe away some of the pain of that loss. There’s a lot of good names in this group — Page, Velte, Figueroa, Luciano, Zavala to name a few. The problem for all of them is that the finals is a best-of-three. Miracle handled Velte at 2019 Final X, with two straight wins at 4-0 & 12-2. So, back to my first question. No, I don’t think so.
Prediction: Miracle will be going to Oslo.
Dark horse: Ana Luciano has a tenacity that makes you believe she can win. She can be hard to score on and is capable of keeping matches close enough to give her a chance to win. She’s been getting better and better at King, making a trip to the finals earlier this year at the NCAA championship event, the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships. So, ya never know.
Andrea Schlabach (Ohio, Grand View Wrestling Club)
Sierra Brown Ton (Texas, Twin Cities Regional Training Center)
Mallory Velte (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Gracie Figueroa (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Kayla Miracle (Indiana, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Ana Luciano (Florida, Osceola High School Wrestling)
Morgan Norris (Nevada, Blue Chip Wrestling Club)
Jennifer Page (Colorado, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Zoe Nowicki (Michigan, Bulldog Wrestling Club)
Desiree Zavala (Washington)
This is a really good weight class. I mean, really good. Molinari, Bruntil, Grote, Ortega, Piearcy, Salata, and Boyd, just to mention a few. Where do I start with this group? We all know Forrest Molinari, the two-time World teamer (fifth in 2018 & 2019), and add to the mix U23 World teamer Emma Bruntil, current #1 (at 65 kg) Ashlynn Ortega, 2021 Senior Nationals champ Solin Piearcy, two-time Senior Nats runner-up Skylar Grote, NCAA champ and Junior World teamer Alara Boyd, and Senior-level veteran Julia Salata…did I mention this was a good weight?
Prediction: Molinari is the one to beat, and we’ll have to see if any of the young talent has closed the gap. Bruntil is compelling, bumping up from 62 kg, where she’s had a lot of success.
Dark horse: I think Solin Piearcy is often overlooked, but she’s really good. Molinari’s horse power might be too much, but she can score points.
Julia Salata (Michigan, New York Athletic Club)
Skylar Grote (New Jersey, New York Athletic Club)
Ashlynn Ortega (Colorado)
Forrest Molinari (Arizona, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Marisol Nugent (Massachusetts, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Solin Piearcy (California, Menlo Wrestling Club)
Emma Bruntil (Washington, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club (TMWC)
Alara Boyd (Indiana, McKendree Bearcat Wrestling Club)
Kendall Bostelman (Ohio, Wyoming Seminary)
The Blades-Welker match, if it happens, looks to be the marquee match of the tournament. They have become the faces of the youth movement. Both are coming off Junior World titles, where they absolutely dominated their opponents, and remarkable performances at Olympic Trials, where the then-high school juniors both made the finals. Blades took down Tamyra Mensah-Stock twice, something not many other women in the world have been able to do against the Olympic gold medalist. When Blades and Welker met at the Last Chance Qualifier, it was Blades 16-6. The field also includes Senior Nationals champ Dymond Guilford, NCAA champ Yelena Makoyed, 2020 WCWA champ Rachel Watters, NAIA champ Jordan Nelson, and 2019 U.S. Open Champ and 2021 U23 rep Alyvia Fiske.
Prediction: Kennedy Blades will not only win this weight…she’ll win a World title this year in Oslo.
Dark horse: Everybody is talking about the potential Blades-Welker match, and rightly so, but let’s not forget Yelena Makoyed nearly won the series against Welker in the U23 national finals in May after falling to Welker in the Junior finals earlier the same weekend. Welker, of course, went on to win Junior Worlds. You’d have to think Makoyed could have medaled there too. She also beat Guilford to make that U23 final. Don’t sleep on her, though Blades might be too much for everybody.
Rachel Watters (Iowa, New York Athletic Club)
Lilliann Marie Restrepo (Oregon, Umpqua Wrestling Club)
Nahiela Magee (Colorado, Army/WCAP)
Marlynne Deede (Utah, Twin Cities Regional Training Center)
Kennedy Blades (Illinois, Sunkist Kids Wrestling Club)
Yelena Makoyed (California, Cardinal Wrestling Club)
Aury Naylor (Georgia)
Alyvia Fiske (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Dymond Guilford (California, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Kylie Welker (Wisconsin, Titan Mercury Wrestling Club)
Jordan Nelson (Iowa)
The UWW World Championships will be held in Oslo, Norway, October 2-10. All action can be viewed live on FloWrestling.
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