COLLEGE PREVIEW Cumberland Missouri Valley seek top spot in 2005 06 women s college wrestling seas

By Gary Abbott | Oct. 19, 2005, 12 a.m. (ET)

The women's college wrestling season gets underway this week for many of the teams and individuals at the Sunkist Kids/ASU International Open in Tempe, Ariz. Going into the year, the two strongest teams from the last few seasons, the University of the Cumberlands and Missouri Valley College, are expected to battle for top honors again this year.

Both programs have numerous experienced athletes returning to their lineups, as well as large and talented recruiting classes. Cumberland brings back the most No. 1 ranked wrestlers from last year's college season with six veterans returning. Missouri Valley boasts considerable depth in its lineup, and hopes for some breakthrough performances as the season progresses.

The other full women's college varsity teams are also improved, with Pacific University, Menlo College and Lassen College featuring some strong individuals and solid performances up and down the lineup. It should be an interesting season, as a number of young athletes seem ready to break through this year.

There will be a key competition to end the formal women's college season this year, the College Nationals held at The University of the Cumberlands, March 10-11. This will feature both a team dual meet event and the national championships for individuals. The final test comes at the Body Bar Women's Nationals in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 5-6, with the FILA Junior and University National Championships. There will be a number of college wrestlers who will also make an impact on the Senior level this year.

The University of the Cumberlands

The Patriots have established a model program within women's college wrestling, which annually brings in strong recruiting classes as well as does an excellent job of retaining its athletes for all four years in college. Cumberland is producing Senior-level stars, as well as having an active college team with much depth.

The scary part of this year's team is that none of the stars from last year have graduated. The biggest name in the Cumberland program since its inception is two-time World silver medalist and 2004 Olympian Toccara Montgomery, who missed almost the entire 2004-05 college season with injury. Montgomery is expected back this year at either 158 pounds or 176 pounds.

The other superstar on the team is Alaina Berube at 138.75 pounds, who was second in the 2004 Olympic Trials and 2005 World Team Trials. Berube has had extensive international experience, along with a dominating performance on the domestic and college scenes. As a senior, she is one of the leaders of this team and will be expected to excel again. Berube has made U.S. teams on the age-group in the past, and continues to expand her skills and confidence.

It fact, there are six athletes on the Patriots this year who had No. 1 rankings in college last year, including Montgomery and Berube. The others who were No. 1 on the college scene last season were Suekoilya Shelly at 121 pounds, Othella Lucas at 130 pounds, Heather Martin at 147 pounds and Tabetha Golt at 176 pounds.

Shelly and Martin are also members of Women's Team USA, hold No. 3 national rankings on the Senior level. Both qualified for the 2005 U.S. Junior World Team, and Martin came home with a silver medal. Shelly is listed as possibly going down to 121 pounds, as her teammate Othella Lucas, also one of the No. 1 college athletes from last year, is moving up to 130 pounds. Shelly qualified for a U.S. team last summer.

If you get Shelly down to 121 pounds, and add in last year's No. 1 at 176 pounds, Tabetha Golt (who is listed as being behind Montgomery at 158 pounds, Cumberland looks unbeatable from the middle weights right through the top of the lineup. The team could run from Shelly to Lucas to Berube to Martin to Montgomery to Golt, a murderer's row of talent that should dominate dual meets and score huge amount of points in tournaments.

It is in the lightweights that Cumberland is a bit less experienced and talented, but that does not mean the team will not excel there. Sophomore Jessica Medina returns at 105.5 pounds, and has the potential to be very successful. At 112.25 pounds is freshman Warry Woodard, who had a great high school career in Virginia and was fourth in the FILA Junior Nationals last year at 121 pounds. There is so much depth at 105.5 pounds that it wouldn't be surprising if one of the athletes there moved up to 112.25 pounds and made an impact.

Cumberland has also stocked up on top young freshmen recruits, including Woodard, Tara Williams of Washington and Jessica Jauck of California at 121 pounds, Krisha Childress of Kansas at 138.75 pounds and Clarissa Dalke of Texas at 158.5 pounds. These athletes probably won't sniff the starting lineup this year, but all will be involved in numerous tournaments and will be expected to perform in future seasons.

The Cumberland program has a Senior-level focus in its preparation. However, the team will have to continue to train hard and improve to hold its position as the premier college women's wrestling team.

University of the Cumberlands projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Jessica Medina (CA, soph., No. 4)
112 - Warry Woodard (VA, fr.)
121 - Suekoilya Shelly (TX, jr., No. 1 at 130)
130 - Othella Lucas (CA, jr., No. 1 at 121)
138 - Alaina Berube (MI, sr., No. 1)
147 - Heather Martin (OH, soph., No. 1)
158 - Toccara Montgomery (OH, sr., No. 1)
176 - Theresa Fennell (TX, soph., No. 5)

University of the Cumberlands depth chart
105 - Medina, Deseree Cazeras (TX, soph., No. 3 at 112), Melissa Gerard (MI, soph.), Daisy Callado (TX, jr.), Vanity Vazquez (FL, fr.), Aquila Hills (NC, jr., No. 7), Becky D'Ambrosio (OH, sr.), Rene Mortenson (CA, jr.), Ana Ramey (TX, soph.)
112 - Woodard, Christine Selover (CA, fr.), Brittany Owens (TX, fr.), Talina Martinez (TX, fr.), Kristin McKenna (FL, jr.)
121 - Shelly, Tara Williams (WA, fr.), Jessica Jauck (CA, fr.), Maggie Klauck (FL, jr.), Antonesia Giles (CA, fr.), Tiffany Gay (MA, sr.)
130 - Lucas, Krystal Kiyuna (HI, fr.), Ashley Denhz (FL, fr.), Kristina Bishop (CA, fr.), Jesse Shirley (OH, sr.)
138 - Berube, Megan Nevill (MI, jr., No. 5 at 147.5), Krisha Childress (KS, fr.), Nikki McNeal (AK, fr.), Jenna Strickler (IL, fr.), Daphne Moriel (TX, fr.), Allison Hooper (TX, jr.), Aja Smith (IN, sr.)
147 - Martin, Shelly Ruberg (OH, sr., No. 2), Sherri Hilliard (ND, jr.), Candace Hornbeck (VA, fr.), Sherolynn Eppinger (OH, fr.), Annie DeCresente (CA, fr.)
158 - Montgomery, Tabetha Golt (VA, soph., No. 1 at 176), Clarissa Dalke (TX, fr.), Natasha Guzman (FL, fr.)
176 - Fennell, Lisa Obregon (TX, soph.), Jesse Clifton (GA, sr.),

Missouri Valley College

The Viking team continues a tradition of a strong lineup with veteran competitors, bolstered once again by a large and talented recruiting class. This program set the standard for women's college wrestling when the sport was created and will be expected every year to compete for the top spot in the women's college team rankings. Coach Carl Murphree has built a team which has earned a right to believe could be the best college squad in the nation.

The top wrestler on this team was injured and unable to compete last year, junior Stephany Lee at 158 pounds. Lee was a University World champion a few summers ago and has been as high as No. 2 on the Senior level ladder. She was hurt last winter on a tour to Russia when she pinned the Olympic silver medalist then missed the entire season. Lee trained all summer, and should be ready to tear things up again this season, both in the college and Senior divisions.

The veteran on the team is senior Brooke Bogren at 130 pounds, who has been nationally ranked on the Senior level since high school. Bogren has had her share of challenges with injuries and has not become the dominant athlete many hoped she would become. On the college level, she has been one of the most successful, and her experience will again be a very positive influence on the entire Viking team.

Missouri Valley should have a good lineup in the lightweights, with a number of talents coming back. At 105.5 pounds, Tanya Miyasaki and Tabithia Ramsey both return, and both have held high college rankings in past years. Ramsey could move up to 112 pounds, where Maika Watanabe is back after grabbing a No. 2 college ranking last year. One of the most experienced athletes on the team is Clarissa Calibuso at 121 pounds, also with a solid national college ranking last year.

Add in talented Rachel Billerbeck, a sophomore who reached a No. 4 national ranking on the Senior level last year at 138.75 pounds last year, and you see how tough the Vikings will be in the light and middle weights. Billerbeck has great potential to be a star on the Senior level, but will need to continue to progress at the highest levels as her college career moves forward.

Other starters could include Brittany Jones at 147.5 pounds and Alecia McCoy at 176 pounds, both who have received experience over the past few seasons. The Vikings should have a good team for both dual meets and tournaments, and the team wrestles often and attends all the big events.

The team can count on some veterans such as Astrid Gomez, Erica Chew and Julie Duarte at 130 pounds and Emily Rinehart at 138 pounds. However, the large freshman class has Coach Murphree excited, with athletes with great potential including Jennifer Germany of California at 121 pounds and Lacy Novinska of Wisconsin at 147 pounds. If one of the veteran starters goes down with injury or faulters, the team has sufficient depth and talent to move somebody else in who will be competitive.

Missouri Valley College projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Tanya Miyasaki (HI, soph.)
112 - Maika Watanabe (CA, jr., No. 2)
121 - Clarissa Calibuso (HI, jr., No. 6 at 130)
130 - Brooke Bogren (KS, sr., No. 2)
138 - Rachel Billerbeck (TX, soph., No. 2)
147 - Brittany Jones (TX, soph., No. 8 at 158),
158 - Stephany Lee (HI, jr.. No. 2)
176 - Alecia McCoy (TX, jr., No. 6)

Missouri Valley College depth chart
105 - Miyasaki, Tabithia Ramsey (TX, jr., No. 4 at 112), Angelee Homma (HI, jr.), Elizabeth Ashley (CA, soph.), Norine Cruz (CA, soph.), Kristina Varland (WY, fr.)
112 - Watanabe, Brittney Sevy (AK, soph.), Carmen Ramos (TX, soph.), Samantha Shuman (NE, fr.)
121 - Calibuso. Jennifer Germany (CA, fr.), Courtney Martell (VT, soph.), Brittany Fair (TX, fr.), Denise Rivera (TX, fr.)
130 - Bogren, Julie Duarte (CA, jr., No. 5 at 121), Astrid Gomez (TX, soph., No. 3), Erica Chew (TX, jr., No. 4 at 121), Sharlee Solis (CA, fr.), Chaneal Meletia (HI, soph.), Kayla Chambers (CA, fr.), Stephanie Haver (TX, soph.), Nicole Husted (MO, soph.), Jamie Kennedy (MI, fr.), Amanda Velasquez (TX, soph.)
138 - Billerbeck, Emily Rinehart (CA, jr.), Maria Dunn (Guam, soph.), Karen Howe (TX, fr.)
147 - Jones, Lacy Novinska (WI, fr.), Sara Hilliard (KS, fr.)
158 - Lee, Selina Perez (HI, jr., No. 3), Celeste Contreras (TX, fr.)
176 - McCoy, Collette Curtis (KS, fr.), Gillian Hampton (MO, fr.)

Pacific University

The Boxers from Pacific look to have an experienced team entering the new women's college wrestling season, with an opportunity to improve in both dual meets and tournament performances. Scott Miller's team should have a solid competitor in every weight division, but as with other seasons, the team would have some challenges if injuries put some of the starters out of the lineup.

The top wrestler on the team is junior Kapua Torres at 112 pounds, who held down a No. 1 national ranking on the college last year. Torres followed up a strong college season with a very impressive spring, competing with skill on the USA Wrestling age-group circuit. She won a gold medal at the FILA Junior Nationals, and placed a strong second at the University Nationals, losing only to World Team member Jenny Wong. Her ability and leadership will be a big part of the team's success this year.

The Boxers have a solid group of athletes in the middle weights, with Michelle Ludwig at 130 pounds, Brenna Larkin at 138 pounds and Titilope Lawani at 147 pounds. All were nationally ranked on the college level last year, and have had solid finishes in a number of tournaments. Lawani is moving up in division, so it will be interesting to see how she handles the adjustment. These athletes will be expected to perform if Pacific has any hopes of climbing in the rankings.

There are other athletes who have experience and could have considerable impact during the season, including Valerie Prise at 105.5 pounds, Stacey Martell at 158 pounds and Ashley Truchan at 158 pounds. The team could have a pair of freshmen in starting roles, led by Kelsey Campbell at 121 pounds and Megan Richardson at 176 pounds. While in high school in Oregon, Campbell already had placed in a number of Senior-level tournaments.

Coach Miller was able to bolster his lineup with the signing of eight freshmen. Most are unproven, but will provide some needed depth for the team during the busy part of the schedule. It will be up to Miller and his coaching staff to bring these new athletes into the system, and only time will tell of this year's rookie class will make a difference in the long term.

Pacific is a team with good potential, especially at the end of the season if a few of their athletes step up their performance. This team has shown consistency, and would love to get some momentum going into the big year-end competitions.

Pacific University projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Valerie Prise (CA, soph.)
112 - Kapua Torres (HI, jr., No. 1)
121 - Kelsey Campbell (OR, fr.)
130 - Michelle Ludwig (CA, jr., No. 6 at 138.75)
138 - Brenna Larkin (AZ, jr., No. 5 at 138.75)
147 - Titilope Lawani (CA, soph., No. 3 at 138.75)
158 - Stacey Martell (OR, sr., No. 6 at 147.5)
176 - Megan Richardson (CA, fr.)

Pacific University depth chart
105 - Prise, Kat Schuller (FL, fr.)
112 - Torres, Dana LaMonica (WA, fr.)
121 - Campbell, Shannon Logan (NY, jr.), Alenna Nilsen (AK, fr.), Jean Laschever (WA, fr.)
130 - Ludwig, Teresa Ayala (CA, jr.)
138 - Larkin, Kellie Nardiello (CA, fr.)
147 - Lawani, Leila Maloff (FL, fr.)
158 - Martell, Ashley Truchan (HI, soph., No. 8 at 176)
176 - Richardson

Menlo College

For the first time perhaps in the history of this program, Menlo College has a team with both individual talent and a measure of team depth. Coach Lee Allen has been able to retain some experienced athletes from last year's team and mix in some strong recruits with potential. Menlo should be very improved in dual meets from the past, and will be a factor in a tournament setting.

The team is led by last year's No. 1 athlete at 105.5 pounds, junior Sara Fulp-Allen, who is already a star on the Senior level. Fulp-Allen won the U.S. Senior Nationals last year, and placed second in the World Team Trials. She was also a FILA Junior National champion last year. She won medals at two major international events last summer, a silver at the Junior World Championships and a bronze at the World University Games. Fulp-Allen is the leader of this team, and seems to be improving steadily on the international level.

Last year's strongest newcomer was Laurin Daniels, who returns as one of the nation's best 130-pounders on the college level. Now, as a sophomore with more experience, Daniels will be expected to start winning medals at some of the bigger competitions on the schedule.

Among the top recruits is a junior college transfer, Sabrina Lancelotti-Valdez at 112 pounds, who held a national ranking last year for Lassen College. Lancelotti-Valdez will help anchor the light weight lineup for Menlo, which should be very strong if freshman Carla O'Connell lives up to expectations at 121 pounds. O'Connell was successful on the national level in high school, and would give the team four strong athletes in the opening weight classes if she quickly develops into a winning college wrestler.

Coach Allen expects strong progress from sophomore Jade Prudent at 138 pounds, who had injury problems last year but showed the potential to be an impact athlete. The team veteran is senior Dina Tavera at 147 pounds, who has been an anchor in the Menlo lineup for many years.

Helping give the team some new-found depth are a number of recruits. Jade Perry is a transfer competing at 138 pounds and a potential impact athlete. The team is excited about Ashley Evans-Smith at 147 pounds, J'amie Sage at 121 pounds and Shareese Muholand at 112 pounds, all who had impressive high school careers. Monique Cabrera gives the team a presence at the 158-pound division.

In the past, the success of Sara Fulp-Allen has been the headline news for the Menlo College team. However, this year offers an opportunity for a number of other wrestlers to make an impact on a national level, and perhaps some exciting new athletes to showcase alongside Fulp-Allen.

Menlo College projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Sara Fulp-Allen (CA, jr., No. 1)
112 - Sabrina Lancelotti-Valdez (CA, jr., No. 7)
121 - Carla O'Connell (CA, fr.)
130 - Laurin Daniels (WA, soph., No. 4)
138 - Jade Prudent (TX, soph.)
147 - Dina Tavera (CA, sr.)
158 - Monique Cabrera (CA, fr.)
176 - Open

Menlo College depth chart
105 - Fulp-Allen, Rita Ramirez (CA, soph.), Lauren Tallman (CT, fr.)
112 - Lancelotti, Shareese Muholand (CA, fr.)
121 - O'Connell, J'amie Sage (CA, fr.)
130 - Daniels
138 - Prudent, Sasha Avila (TX, fr.), Jade Perry (CT, soph.)
147 - Tavera, Ashley Evans-Smith (CA, fr.)
158 - Cabrera
176 - Open

Lassen College

As a junior college, Lassen College will always be faced with trying to build a team with newcomers. Once an athlete completes her two-year stint, she will have to move on to a four-year school. Experience will come from sophomores who have a year of college wrestling under their belt. Coach Paul Gomez has an additional challenge to find ways to quickly improve any of the freshmen athletes under the heat of battle.

This year, the team will have some problems with depth, as most of the weight classes are filled with just one athlete. However, some of those who will be starting are second-year wrestlers, and showed improvement as freshmen.

The top returning athlete is Andrea Hale at 138 pounds, who has been ranked as high as No. 4 in her weight on the college level and has placed in some national-level events in recent seasons. She was sixth at the 2005 U.S. Nationals on the Senior level last year, but her coaches believe she can make it down to 138 this year again.

The team has some solid depth in the heavy weights, with Juana Jaurea at 147 pounds, Rachel Knight at 158 pounds and Irene Proulx at 176 pounds returning from last year's squad. Proulx has a ranking as high as No. 3 on the college scene last year. All three were active in many events last year, and should have more confidence heading into this season.

The other two returning athletes on the team are Ashley Nethercott at 112 pounds and Summer Scott at 130 pounds. A newcomer who could see time in the starting lineup is Molly Brouwer at 121 pounds. The team has three other freshmen on the roster, but two are in the highest weight classes, which does not give Coach Gomez much help if any of the starters go down with injury or are unable to compete.

Lassen should have enough talent to be able to make an impact on the individual basis, especially if the wrestlers continue to wrestle often and to improve. The lack of depth is the biggest concern, and something that can only improve with a strong recruiting year next spring.

Lassen College projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Open
112 - Ashley Nethercott (CA, soph., No. 8 at 130)
121 - Molly Brouwer (NM, fr.)
130 - Summer Scott (CA, soph., No. 8 at 138.75)
138 - Andrea Hale (IL, soph., No. 4 at 147)
147 - Juana Juarez (CA, soph., No. 5 at 158.5)
158 - Rachel Knight (CA, soph., No. 6)
176 - Irene Proulx (CA, soph., No. 3)

Lassen College depth chart
105 - Open
112 - Nethercott
121 - Brouwer
130 - Scott, Ally Stocker (CA, fr.)
138 - Hale
147 - Juarez
158 - Knight
176 - Proulx, Katie Namura (CA, fr.), Christine Robertson (CA, fr.)

W.O.W. club of Pennsylvania

Ron Tirpak runs a club program for women college wrestlers in the Philadelphia region. The athletes come from a variety of local colleges, and train together for the major USA Wrestling events. His group is called W.O.W. (Women Only Wrestling), and four athletes from last year are coming back and looking to improve their performance.

The top returning athlete is Jen Chu, a junior at Haverford College, who has held national rankings on the college and Senior levels. Chu has earned placements in events in both the U.S. and Canada in recent seasons. She was third at USA Wrestling's Body Bar University Nationals last year at 130 pounds, the top performance of the athletes from her club.

A few other W.O.W. wrestlers were also able to earn placements at the Body Bar University Nationals last spring. Jess Lamina of Ursinus College was fifth at 121 pounds and Maya Bass of Wesleyan University was fifth at 130 pounds. Both of these athletes return with the goal of improvement. Lamina is a multi-sport athlete, one of the nation's best goalies in field hockey in Div. III, so her season could be delayed a bit because of her fall sport.

The other returning athlete is junior Kristen Condello of the Univ. of Pennsylvania, who competes at 112 pounds. Coach Tirpak expects that there might be some other college women wrestlers who decide to join the club later in the fall, but those athletes will not be identified until the season moves along.

W.O.W. club projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '05 U.S. college ranking)

112 - Kristen Condello, Univ. of Pennsylvania (PA, jr)
121 - Jess Lamina, Ursinus College (PA, soph.)
130 - Jen Chu, Haverford College (PA, jr.) and Maya Bass, Wesleyan Univ. (PA, soph.)

Cal-State Bakersfield

Coach T.J. Kerr has two very active women wrestlers in the programs, both who are juniors and both who compete at the same weight class, 105.5 pounds.

Laura Felix comes off a very successful season, where she was No. 2 in the college rankings behind Sara Fulp-Allen of Menlo College but was able to stay ahead of all of the other athletes in this loaded division. She was the Body Bar University Nationals champion and Outstanding Wrestler last year, and placed fifth at the U.S. Nationals on the Senior level. Felix has trained with the U.S. national team and is willing to compete anywhere in order to get better.

Amantha Hordagoda has also been able to hold national rankings on the college and age-group levels, and continues to have a commitment to her wrestling. She and Felix are natural workout partners, and they push each other to get better each season.

During the beginning of women's college wrestling almost a decade ago, it was Cal-State Bakersfield that had a strong program and set an example for other teams. Now, with two athletes, the tradition has continued but there needs to be new people coming into the program or the tradition will go away when Felix and Hordagoda graduate.

Cal-State Bakersfield projected started lineup
(with state, year and final '04 U.S. college ranking)

105 - Laura Felix (CA, jr., No. 2), Amantha Hordagoda (CA, jr., No. 8)

The other program that was active last year with women wrestlers was MacMurray College in Illinois. However, according to the wrestling coach there, Jerry Kelly, the university has made changes that will eliminate the women's wrestling club this year. A new athletic director has come in and eliminated all club programs, which included the women's wrestling squad. Only teams that come back as varsities will receive support in the future. One athlete remains with the team, Andrea Whitney, a sophomore at 130 pounds. She will transfer out at the end of the semester, and may join the team at the University of the Cumberlands. A possibility exists for women's wrestling to be revived there, but coach Kelly does not expect it in the near future.

There are also some athletes who are competing or training with men's college teams who will be considered for national individual rankings if the compete at the college events or USA Wrestling events during the season. The basic core of the women's college wrestling world are the five varsity programs that have moved forward. Those interested in growing college wrestling for women are being challenged to find new colleges willing to give the sport a chance. Meanwhile, the teams that have made the commitment are building bigger rosters. Some of the best action in the sport are the wrestle-offs at some of these university teams that have considerable depth and talent in the room.