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Not looking back, 2016 WCWA champion Marina Doi is in pursuit of a second national title

By Taylor Miller, USA Wrestling | Feb. 08, 2017, 1:41 p.m. (ET)

 Marina Doi (right) seeks a second national championship.
Photo: Austin Bernard, Oklahoma Wrestling
King University junior Marina Doi looks unmatched in her quest for her second WCWA national title this weekend in Oklahoma City.

“I think the biggest part of going into this week is the mental game, the mental aspect of wrestling, which is huge,” Doi said. “Wrestling is 80 percent mental and 20 percent physical. I’m just trying to get my head on straight and stay focused to win another national title.”

In 2016, Doi, a product of Kingsburg, Calif., entered the women’s college national tournament as the No. 2-seed and secured her first national championship, running through the 101-pound bracket without surrendering a single point.

In fact, Doi hasn’t been scored on at the tournament since Feb. 14, 2015, when she fell to four-time WCWA champion Emily Webster of Oklahoma City University in the WCWA finals.

This season, the two-time All-American boasts a 12-0 record with all of her wins coming by technical fall or pin.

Only two of Doi’s matches made it out of the first period, both of which were wrestled up a weight at 109 pounds. Despite identifying those two matches as her biggest tests of the season, Doi went on to tech both opponents.

Her dominance has been proven and she enters this week’s WCWA Women’s College Nationals as the favorite, sitting atop the 101-pound rankings.

Having a 2016 WCWA title under her belt isn’t what gives her the confidence to repeat as a national champion. It’s her overall improvement and the skills she’s added to her arsenal.

“Coach (Jason) Moorman always says ‘we’re never defending anything. We’re always in pursuit.’ I’ve never won a 2017 national title, so I’m in the hunt for that,” she said. “Since I’ve been at King, I feel like JM has really encouraged me to add things to my wrestling and has shown me things that I have taken advantage of and been able to use in my style. I had never shot a double-leg before. My go-to was a low single, and now my go-to is a double-leg or front headlock, so it’s cool to see how my wrestling has changed. I feel like this is best I’ve ever wrestled.”

Not only have the coaches made a difference in Doi’s wrestling but also her teammates, which includes 2016 Olympian Haley Augello.

“I like having Haley in the room when we go live because she’s really good at motivating you,” she said. “It’s really cool to be able to say that we have an Olympic athlete not only in the room but also as a teammate. She shares her knowledge and technique with us, and it’s cool to get a whole other view on things because she’s been there and she’s done it.”

Perhaps Doi’s biggest motivator in the room is her identical twin sister, Regina, who also wrestles at 101 pounds and checks in at No. 2 in the rankings.

“My sister is the best training partner I could ever have, but wrestling her is difficult because it’s like I’m wrestling myself,” Doi said. “I know everything that she’s capable of doing and she knows everything that I can do. We don’t like wrestling each other at all. We do go live in practice sometimes and we make each other better and push each other harder than anyone else can.”

The Doi twins have met up in the finals twice this year at the Emmanuel Open and Tornado Open, forfeiting to each other to be named co-champs. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. The sisters have a history of forfeiting to each other in other national tournaments like USA Wrestling’s Junior National Championships, and they plan to do the same should they meet up in the WCWA national finals.

“I’m not sure if WCWA will allow it, but that’s been the goal for both of us this year,” Doi said. “Regina said she feels like she’s wrestling better this year than she has in the past, so it is our goal this year to try to make it to the finals and be co-champs.”

With an impressive amount of college and age-group success on her resume, Doi is also trying her hand at Senior-level action.

Doi was a 2012 Cadet World champion and owns a 2011 Cadet World silver as well as a 2013 Cadet World bronze. In 2014, she stepped up to the Junior World Championships, where she claimed bronze. She also represented the U.S. on the Junior World Team in 2015 and 2016.

She also saw a fair amount of Senior competition in 2016, wrestling in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and Women’s University Nationals.

Recently, she wrestled at the U.S. Women’s Freestyle Senior Nationals in December, where she earned herself a bid in the U.S. World Team Trials later in April, taking third and improving on her fifth-place finish in 2015.

Walking around at 96 pounds, her biggest obstacle is being undersized but it’s one that she has learned to adjust to and use to her advantage.

“I wouldn’t say that I have to change my style much because I’ve been wrestling people bigger my whole life,” Doi said. “I do have to be careful of them hitting what me and my sister call ‘big-people moves.’ I know I have to use my technique and my speed against them. I try not to get caught underneath because you can waste a lot of energy down there. I’ve been undersized my whole life so that’s nothing new.”

With her recent experiences with older and bigger athletes, Senior-level competition has become both an honor and a learning experience for Doi.

“It’s difficult at the Senior level because the smallest weight is 105 pounds so I’m about 10 pounds under for that weight class. Wrestling Senior-level athletes exposes more of my weaknesses, so that helps me realize what I need to work on more and where I can get better,” Doi said. “It’s also really an honor wrestling some of those girls. I wrestled Victoria Anthony at Senior Nationals and she teched me. It wasn’t even close, but it was such an honor to wrestle her because growing up, she was my idol. It’s pretty crazy getting to that point where your idol becomes your rival.”

Success is sure to come with experience for Doi, but for now, she’s focused on the next wrestler who steps on the mat to challenge her as she sets out to repeat as WCWA national champion.

“Anything can change so I’m just going to treat everyone who steps on that mat the same, whether they’re ranked or not,” she said. “They’re just a person in front of me, who is trying to stop me from getting to my goals. I’m just going to try to go in there and dominate, keep my technique and keep my focus.”

This weekend’s WCWA Women’s College Nationals kicks off USA Wrestling’s third-annual Women’s Wrestling Week.

The focus of this year’s celebration will include the history of women’s college wrestling as well as the history of official state high school championships in girls’ wrestling.

To join in on the celebration on social media, use the hashtag #GirlsWrestle with any posts, photos or videos of your favorite girls or women involved in wrestling.