USA Wrestling King chased by McKen...

King chased by McKendree, Simon Fraser, Oklahoma City, Campbellsville as WCWA season reaches final week

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Feb. 06, 2017, 7:10 p.m. (ET)

Forrest Molinari of King University, shown at the 2016 Olympic Trials, is one of the stars that will try to lead King to a fourth straight WCWA Nationals title. Photo courtesy of

The women’s college wrestling season has hit the backstretch, and No. 1 ranked and defending champion King University is being pushed by a number of strong teams who wish to knock the Tornado off the top of the podium this year.

The WCWA Women’s College Nationals are set for Friday, February 10 and Saturday, February 11 on the campus of Oklahoma City University.

Although the regular season is a very important indicator for success at the WCWA Nationals, many teams have been known to switch up their lineups just for the nationals.

King has won the last three WCWA team titles, and has held down the No. 1 ranking all season. Jason Moorman’s Tornado is fresh off the NWCA National Duals title, where it defeated McKendree in the championship dual meet, 24-19. It was their fourth straight NWCA National Duals team trophy.

King also had a big win at the Patriot Duals in November, where it defeated Simon Fraser in the championship final, 26-18. King won eight dual meets in that event, including many of the top teams in the WCWA. When King hosted its Tornado Open on campus in mid-January, it had five individual champions and had other good efforts.

King’s lineup features some top stars, including 2016 U.S. Olympian and two-time WCWA national champion Haley Augello at 116 pounds and 2016 WCWA national champion and past Junior World medalist Marina Doi at 101 pounds. Augello actually jumped all the way up to 130 pounds for the final match at National Duals, where she was pinned by Megan Black. 2016 WCWA national champion Forrest Molinari (155) is also have a strong season.

Other top King athletes include Regina Doi (101), Breonnah Neal (109), Hanna Grisewood (123) and Jessi Kee (143). Top freshmen have included Nicole Joseph (130), Gabby Garcia (136) and Alexis Bleau (155). King does not have a deep roster this year, and does not have athletes in the upper weight classes, so what weight Moorman deploys his individual troops could make a difference in the outcome at the WCWA Nationals.

McKendree had its best finish ever at the National Duals with its runner-up trophy, and won three individual matches against King plus a forfeit in the championship dual meet. To make the National Duals finals, McKendree beat perennial power Oklahoma City.

Sam Schmitz’ team finished their dual meet schedule with an impressive 11-1 record. Included was a win over Simon Fraser in the dual meet finals of the Oregon Classic in January, 31-18. McKendree also won the team title at the Oklahoma City Open in October, with three champions and 11 athletes placing in the top three of the tournament. The Bearcats also had an individual champion and eight in the top three places at the respected Missouri Valley Open in November.

McKendree is a strong dual meet team, because they have a competitive wrestler in all of their weight classes. Their tournament performance will be led by their heavy hitters, Megan Black at 130 and Brandy Lowe at 170, both who are past WCWA National runners-ups. Experienced talent includes Alyssa Gonzalez (116), Hailee Lilly (123), Olivia Seppinni (143), Jasmine Bailey (143), and Alexandria Glaude (155). Freshmen who are contributors include Theresa Rankin (116) and Janelle Fuamatu (191).

The team hosted the Bearcat Open at the end of January, a tournament where two unattached Bearcat wrestlers not competing at the WCWA Nationals won gold medals. The other eight individual champions all came from different universities, which shows the increasing depth and talent with women’s college wrestling nationwide.

As always, Simon Fraser is a bit of an unknown to many of the top teams going into the WCWA Nationals. Mike Jones’ team competes mostly against West Coast teams and some opponents in Canada. The Clan showed it will be a big contender with its runner-up finish at the Patriot Duals in November, where it went 7-1. SFU did not have two of its top stars, Mallory Velte (143) and Francesca Giorgio (136) in the lineup in their dual against King.

Simon Fraser did not enter the National Duals this year, but did run into National Duals runners-up McKendree at the Oregon Classic in January, giving up three forfeits in the dual meet. Giorgio wrestled in that dual meet, but Velte was not in the lineup. Simon Fraser had six champions at the Menlo Open.

Their final tune-up before the WCWA Nationals was the Cascades Classic at the University of Fraser Valley in Canada on January 29, which featured some major Western Canadian teams that compete in the CIS. The Clan had four individual champions and three other Clan wrestlers won medals.

The full team has not yet been together all at once, but if assembled for the WCWAs, SFU could make a strong run. Returning WCWA champion Velte is joined by last year’s runners-up Abby Lloyd (116), Nicole Depa (136) and Payton Smith (191). Dominique Parrish (123) is a gold-medal contender and Giorgio and Jennifer Anderson (130) are having a strong year. Also making a big contribution is freshman Ciera McCray (109).

Traditional power Oklahoma City, which placed second at last year’s WCWA Nationals, has remained in the thick of the race this year under first-year head coach Matt Stevens. The Stars were fourth at the National Duals, falling to McKendree in the semifinals, then losing to Campbellsville in the third-place match, 31-14. Their two returning WCWA champions from last year will not be in the post-season lineup, as Becka Leathers has gone to the Olympic Training Center to focus on her international goals, while Natalia Hinojo has been unable to overcome a season with injuries. However, opponents really should never underestimate OCU because of the team’s depth and talent.

Returning WCWA runner-up Maggie Douma (143) is joined by veteran stars Cassidy Jasperson (109), Rachel Archer (123), Carla Ponce (130), Hailey Garcia (136) and Monica Mason (191). Freshman Rachel Waters (155) is making a big impact.

Campbellsville has one of the top individual stars in women’s college wrestling, two-time WCWA champion and two-time Junior World medalist Kayla Miracle (136). Going into the WCWA Nationals, what weight class she will wrestle is always up in the air. She has won the nationals wrestling up from her normal Senior-level weight class the past two years. Miracle will wrestle where she makes the biggest impact and makes the Tiger’s team strongest.

Lee Miracle’s team was third at National Duals this year, with a loss to King and a win over Oklahoma City. In addition, The Tigers won the team title at the 2nd Annual NAIA Women’s Invitational, which they hosted in December. They were third in the Bearcat Open at McKendree.

The Tigers feature some other top stars, including two-time WCWA champion Tiaira Scott (191) and runner-up Hanna Hall (170). Veterans Shelby Hall, Rosemary Flores and Koral Sugiyama compete all around the 130-weight class, but can be moved around for nationals. Freshman Andribeth Rivera, who competes for Puerto Rico internationally, has been strong at 123. Other freshmen McKenzie Bacich (109) and Charlotte Fowler (116) are also making an impact.

There were some college teams which brought athletes to the Dave Schultz Memorial International over the weekend as a final tuneup for the WCWA Nationals. Kayla Miracle of Campbellsville and Chloe Spencer of Grays Harbor CC won silver medals at the tournament.

One of the big questions for this year’s WCWA Nationals will be the performance of teams from the Western United States. Simon Fraser has been the top performer from out West, with teams such as Menlo College and Pacific University having a long history on the women’s college scene. However, within the last few years, the number of colleges from the Left Coast has exploded. Add in Warner Pacific University, Southwest Oregon CC, Southern Oregon University, Grays Harbor College and Eastern Oregon University, and you have a whole new set of women wrestlers competing at the college level. It could be this year, or in the future, that the Western colleges make a dent into the success of the traditional programs from the Midwest and East. will provide a weight-by-weight preview of the WCWA Nationals later this week. The WCWA Nationals will be webcast live by Flowrestling again this year.