WCWA PREVIEW Oklahoma City seeks to defend title as women s college season kicks off in October

By Cisco Cole | Oct. 04, 2010, 1:44 p.m. (ET)
The Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) commences its third year of competition this October. The WCWA was created three years ago to give female wrestlers a place among college athletes.

Colleges began creating varsity women's programs in the late 1990s. In previous years, female wrestlers could only compete on club teams or amongst male squads at the college level. This year, high school programs around the country comprise well over 6,000 female wrestlers, a number that has grown every year since 1994. In order to accommodate high school graduates, the WCWA, now comprised of 10 U.S. teams and two Canadian teams, has grown exponentially since its emergence just three short years ago. Today, most of the colleges and universities within the WCWA offer scholarships and are varsity sports. This has been a very positive step for the sport of wrestling as a whole, and an outstanding opportunity for female wrestlers in particular.

Last season, the WCWA showcased a lot of great female wrestlers making their mark nationally and revealed many strong programs on the rise.

Oklahoma City University won its second straight WCWA title last season, as well as the NWCA National Duals, and enters the 2010-11 season with many returners and some talented new faces. Two-time champion Michaela Hutchinson, returns to defend her WCWA title as well as Stephanie Waters, Amberlee Montgomery and Britteny Delgado. Also returning are national runners-up Nicole Woody and Melissa Simmons, and All-Americans Ashley Hudson, Tessa Plana, Brittney Roberts, and Sam Phillips. The Stars made some key moves in the off-season signing Junior National and High School National Champions Megan Yamaguchi and Brittany Goebel as well as perennial High School All-Americans Karra Stratton and Kristi Garr. Other key recruits include Brianna Rahall, Madelynn Mcilwain, Kayla Chappel, Beatrice Martinez, and Junior College transfer Ashlee Phy.

Last year's runners-up, the University of the Cumberlands has a shift in leadership. Former Patriot Alaina Berube takes over a talented Patriots team that in past years boasted several national team and individual titles. Berube, a veteran of the Senior international circuit and former collegiate national champion, will no doubt be ready to lead the charge in 2010-11. The Patriots lose their national champion at 72 kg, Lauren Knight, to graduation as well as multiple time All-American Jackie Stiles who has assumed assistant coaching duties at rival King College. Yet the Patriots will have returning All-Americans Lauren Louive, Christen Paysee, Lakia Henderson, Lisa Guiterez and Cyena Hee. Other key recruits include Katie Clemens, Kerstin Harmon, Allyson Blessman ,Kira Espinoza-Levy , Jennette Mitchell, and Shelby Scott. The Patriots still boast the largest roster in the WCWA and will again have several talented wrestlers to choose from within their organization.

Simon Fraser, Canada's premier wrestling institution, had a solid showing last season with a third place finish with three National Champions and a runner-up finish at the NWCA National Duals. The Clan returns all three champions in Victoria Anthony, Danielle Lappage and Hilary Greening. Both Anthony and Lappage were 2010 Junior world champions and bring a wealth of experience to an already dominant squad. Anthony also won a 2009 Junior World title. The Clan also returns All-Americans Laura Gordon and Taylor Dick as well as transfer Helen Maroulis. Maroulis was last year's champion at 59kg and will make an immediate impact for the Clan. Their key recruits include Hiroko Araki, Nikkie Brar, Chloe Ivanoff, Gina Carpenter, Bailley Halvorson, Ashley Topnik, Jenna Mclatchy Chilliwack, and Justina Di Stasio.

Missouri Baptist University took home fourth place honors last season with several finalists. The Spartans have lost several of their key wrestlers to graduation as well as a couple to transfer, but return 2009 All-American Shamain Danner and expected starter Caitlyn Chase, who did not compete at the national tournament last season due to injury. The Spartans will no doubt have a rebuilding year; but with young, talented, incoming freshman like Leslie Tamayo and Carolyn Benale, the transition should be easy. Other key recruits include Mei ling Keiki, Hanna Lane, and Christina Galarneau.

Jamestown College finished fifth at last season's WCWA National Championships and third at the NWCA National Duals. The Jimmies return everyone from last year's squad as well as 2009 National Champion Tani Ader, who sat out at the 2010 campaign. The Jimmies boasted several All-Americans last year including 2-time third place finisher Tiffany Sluik, Nichole Yarrington, Michele Quiles, Justina Luafalamana, Christina Ordonez, Jami Moore and Amanda Athon; as well as the return of former All-American Michelle Canete. Jamestown had a couple of key pick-ups this summer with incoming freshman Natalie Rutt, a 2-time Junior National Runner-up and Christana Zamora, a California State Champion and High School All-American. Alex Holt was also a high-school All-American finishing second. Other key recruits include Sierra Horan, Rio Crismore, Areil Oster, Sarine Perez, Chianti Mrazik, Jessica Kope and Sarina Smith.

Missouri Valley College has been a pioneer in women's wrestling and has had many of its alumni and former wrestlers go on to success at the international level. The Vikings return WCWA runner-up Randi Beltz, and All-Americans Britteny Heatherly and Jordan Hagerman as well as bringing some talented freshman to an experienced team. Brittany Faust and Chandra Engel, both multiple time Junior and High School All-Americans, lead the class. Engel, a 2008 high school graduate, was a highly toted recruit before opting not to wrestle right out of high school. She will return to the mat and make an immediate impact for the Vikings. Other key recruits include Melissa Bublitz, Brittany Jones, Tierra Williams, Trisha Young, Courtney Richardson, Bailey Gambrell, Danielle Curlis, Mary Correia, and Melanie Real.

Lindenwood University brings back national runner-up Shawna Isbell to an experienced squad that placed 7th nationally and 5th in the NWCA National Duals. The Lionesses will have help from All-Americans Angie Vyborny, Jenny Garza and 2009 AA Pricilla Caldera as well as transfers Jessica Scott and India Walker. A couple of incoming freshman will also help bolster their roster in Brittany David, a multiple time California state placer and national high School All-American and Tanya Kusse, a multiple time Junior All-American and nationally ranked wrestler from New York. Other key recruits include Seanelle Esperanza,Brianna Gedeon,Veronica Hernandez, Alysia Kenter, Ruth Leger, Claudia Pena, Nicole Silva, Jenna Stefanovich, Holly Thein, and Melissa Vernon. Lindenwood University appointed 2004 Olympian Toccara Montgomery as the new head for a talented Lions team.

The United States Olympic Education Center (USOEC) at Northern Michigan has produced some of the best female wrestlers in the nation. The USOEC is focused on developing athletes for the next level and are subsequently not as strong of a dual team, but always has individual talent. They return a couple of very tough individuals in Schuyler Brown (after a stint at Missouri Baptist), and Amber Miracle, both returning All-Americans from the season previous. They will also be helped by returnees Carlene Sluberski, a runner-up in 2008 boys state in New York, and Angelie Akuna, who wrestled varsity last season and was a match away from All-American status last season. The USOEC brought in a couple of solid talents in Anneliese DeAragon, the top ranked wrestler in her weight and transfer and NWCA All-American Monique Dilliner. Other key recruits are Lilia Gudzyuk, Gabrielle Klein, and Ashley Sherill.

Menlo College will miss the leadership of two-time National Champion Katherine Fulp-Allen, a mainstay on the WCWA circuit the past four years, but will have the guidance of returning All-Americans Keaton Long and Brittany Caolie as well as long time starter Jacquelyn Davis. The young squad picked up a couple of upstarts in Tammy Saechao and Juliette Gonzalez, both CA state placers. Other key recruits are Chanelle Alarcon and Alana Colon. The Lady Oaks also have a new face in the head coach role. Marcie Van Dusen, past Olympian and World Team member, as well as California native, steps in to fill the shoes of legendary wrestler and coach Lee Allen, who retired after seeing both of his daughters through the program. Van Dusen has served as the California Girls Junior National Team coach the past two years, and will no doubt draw from her experience as she leads her team into the 2010-11 season.

Second year program King College placed 10th in 2009-10 and looks to better their placing this season. There is no other team that made the strides recruiting that the Lady Tornadoes did. They return four All-Americans from last year's squad in Ana Cummings, Morgan Pitsford, Angel Brewer and Sheilah Gray. But it will be the incoming freshman that will make the difference for King this season. Hannah Martin, a multiple time Junior and high school national champion leads the stellar group. Ali Ragan, and Marina Lambert are also highly decorated Juniors that have made a big impact on women's age group wrestling. Haylee Childs, Sarah Anderson, Stacy Martin, Pamela Abshire and Kat Perez are also multiple time All-Americans expected to come in and challenge right away for varsity spots. This incoming class is bolstered by experienced transfers in Luzette Villegas, Amber Floyd, Emily Martin, and last year's WCWA runner-up Lisa Martinez. Other key recruits: Shannon Constantine, Victoria Ngyuen, Kayla Bartosch, Virginia Whitehead-Rozar, Shana Lee Prifte, and Emili Russell.

Other teams and individuals to watch this year include the University of Regina, a competitive Canadian program that boasts two former Junior World teams members and returning WCWA All-Americans Jazmine Slinn and Lisa McKibben. The Lady Cougars also picked up tough freshman in Samatha Topp, Brianna Thompson, Emily Bretnall, and Savanaha Tot.

Emily Harper, from University of Wisconsin-River Falls, is a returning All-American and will start the season highly ranked.

Wayland Baptist, a first year program under the guidance of successful coach Johnny Cobb, will take the mats this year with a roster comprised almost entirely of freshman. Yet transfers Ofelia Valdez, Bethany Courcamp and 2007 WCWA National Champion Carrie Clark (who took some time out of wrestling) will no doubt take on the leadership role on the upstart program.

The Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association is a completely autonomous association currently administering programs of intercollegiate athletics participating in the sport of women's wrestling in accredited colleges and universities. The fundamental intent of the WCWA is that intercollegiate athletics is an integral part of the total educational program of the institution. This belief is strongly reflected in the governing documents, activities and organizational structure of the Association. Established in 2008, the WCWA is the first intercollegiate women's wrestling association governing body to provide championship opportunities for collegiate women's wrestlers.