No. 11 Life knocks off No. 6 Emmanuel as in-state rivalry unfolds

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Dec. 07, 2017, 3:25 p.m. (ET)

MARIETTA, Ga. – Earlier this week, No. 11 Life University women’s wrestling, which is in its fourth year as a program, picked up its first dual win on Senior Day, upsetting No. 6 Emmanuel College with a 26-20 finish.

"To get a team win on our first ever Senior Night is a great milestone for the team," Life head coach Ashley Sword said. "At the beginning of season we asked the ladies to each come up with a team goal. Without fail, every athlete stated that they wanted to bring home a team win on Senior Night. To be able to meet that goal is a great thing for the team. The team and the crowd continued to build each other up throughout the entire dual, and we fed off of that energy every moment.”

Life now owns a 4-1 record against the three-year-old Emmanuel Lions, but as both programs continue to build, their in-state rivalry starts to take shape. Emmanuel is in Franklin, Ga., about 80 miles southwest of Marietta, Ga., the home of the Running Eagles.

Between the two teams, there are nine wrestlers ranked in the top-eight in the country in their respective weight classes. Of those, six wrestled in Tuesday night’s dual.

Life won six of the 10 bouts, all with bonus points. Picking up wins for the Running Eagles were Alanda Nguyen at 101 pounds, No. 4 Jennifer Juarez at 123 pounds, No. 8 Aysia Cortez at 136 pounds, Zoe Wright at 155 pounds, Jordan Nelson at 170 pounds and Stephanie Pantoja at 191 pounds.

Their win at 101 pounds came by forfeit.

In a top-10 matchup at 123 pounds, fourth-ranked Juarez recorded a pin in 2:22 over No. 7 Victoria Gutierrez to get the bonus-point train rolling.

Life won four of the last five matches with Cortez, Wright, Nelson and Pantoja each picking up technical falls, to lift the Eagles over the Lions.    

In Emmanuel’s wins, two came by technical fall, one came by fall and one came by forfeit.

2015 Cadet World bronze medalist and No. 4 Kayla Marano snagged a first-period fall over Christina Font at 143 pounds.

No. 3 Maria Vidales and Alexis Encinas both tabbed wins by tech fall at 109 and 116 pounds, respectively.

At 130 pounds, No. 6 Abigail Nette had her hand raised in a win by forfeit.

The head coaches have both brought their programs to national prominence in such a short time. Life’s Ashley Sword is in her first year as the head coach of the program, while Emmanuel’s co-head coach Link Davis has been with the Lions since the inception of the team in 2015-16. Sharing head coaching duties with Link is Kristie Davis, formerly Kristie Marano, who is now married to Link.

Sword was a well-known figure in the wrestling world during her competition days. She was a 2005 U.S. World Team member and later claimed a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Championships. Prior to her head coaching position, Sword was an assistant coach at Life.

Link Davis is a successful coach, who was previously an assistant coach at Oklahoma City University, where he helped the Stars to four WCWA national team titles. During his wrestling days, he was a part of Central Oklahoma’s 1996 NCAA Division II runner-up finish.

Kristie Davis, a two-time World champion, holds the U.S. record for most World medals in women’s wrestling with nine. She owns two gold (2003, 2005), five silver (1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2007) and two bronze (2002, 2006). In 2003, her gold-medal performance helped the U.S. to a first-place team finish, tied with Japan. As a coach, she has led Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, and the Oklahoma Women's National Teams and also served as a volunteer coach at OCU and Emmanuel. This is her first year as co-head coach for the Lions.

With the programs in good hands, we can expect to see these teams continue to develop and grow, bringing about even more entertaining performances in this young rivalry.

at Life University (Marietta, Ga.), Dec. 5, 2017

101 - Alanda Nguyen (LU) win by forfeit
109 – No. 3 Maria Vidales (EC) tech. fall Alyssa Martinez (LU), 12-0
116 - Alexis Encinas (EC) tech. fall Tyesha Topps (LU), 10-0
123 – No. 4 Jennifer Juarez (LU) fall No. 7 Victoria Gutierrez (EC), 2:22
130 – No. 6 Abigail Nette (EC) win by forfeit
136 – No. 8 Aysia Cortez (LU) tech. fall Jazlynn Jackson (EC), 10-0
143 – No. 4 Kayla Marano (EC) fall Christina Font (LU), 1:08         
155 - Zoe Wright (LU) tech. fall Felicity Bryant (EC), 14-4
170 - Jordan Nelson (LU) tech. fall Ophelia Lara (EC), 12-2
191 - Stephanie Pantoja (LU) tech. fall Briana Jordan (EC), 5:25