Photo: Campbellsville won its first NWCA Nationals Duals team title this season. Photo courtesy of Campbellsville.
WCWA Pre-Championships rankings
This weekend’s WCWA Nationals team race is shaping up to be an exciting one, with three teams projected to be the frontrunners.
Leading the way in the WCWA pre-Nationals rankings is Campbellsville, who, in this week’s WCWA rankings, took over the top spot that was held Simon Fraser for most of the season. It marks Campbellsville first No. 1 ranking as a team.
The CU Tigers are projected to score 110 points, while Simon Fraser and McKendree close in with 85 and 79 points, respectively.
Of the three, Simon Fraser is the only school to own a WCWA National team title. The Clan won it under legendary coach Mike Jones in 2013.
Heading into this weekend’s tournament, SFU has four top-ranked women, including Abby Lloyd at 116 pounds, Dominique Parrish at 123 pounds, Mallory Velte at 143 pounds and Payten Smith at 191 pounds.
Both Velte and Smith won WCWA titles for the Clan last year, and Parrish and Lloyd took second and third. This week, Velte, a 2017 U.S. World Team member, will go for her third WCWA championship.
Other potential point scorers include 2017 runner-up Nicole Depa, who is ranked fifth at 130, Fran Giorgio, who is third at 136 and Lauren Mason, who is seventh at 116.
Since the women’s wrestling college nationals began in 2004, only five schools have claimed the team crown: Missouri Valley College, University of the Cumberlands, Oklahoma City University, SFU and King University.
Campbellsville and McKendree look to add their names to that list with competitive and talented lineups.
Campbellsville is coming off a strong season as a team, winning its first National Duals championship in its young history and posting an incredible 15-0 dual meet record.
Among CU’s stars is Kayla Miracle, who aims to become only the fourth WCWA wrestler to win four national titles.
The Tigers boast 12 other top-10 wrestlers with three predicted to finish as runners-up, including All-American Charlotte Fowler at 109, All-American and U.S. National Teamer Koral Sugiyama at 123 and Junior World bronze medalist for Norway and freshman Grace Bullen at 130.
Other former All-Americans expected to compete for CU are Shelby Hall at 130, Mariah Harris at 170 and Jessi Grubbs at 191. Crucial team points can also come from Steffanie Hampton at 123, Alexia Foca at 143, Courtney Gray at 143, Morgan Becker at 155 and Kaitlyn Hill at 191.
Not expected to enter is 2017 WCWA champion at 123 pounds, Andribeth Rivera, a sophomore at CU.
McKendree leads the way in ranked wrestlers, trotting in 15 women who appear in the most recent WCWA rankings. While only 12 can be designated point scorers at the tournament, McKendree poses serious All-American threats at every weight class.
U23 World Team member Megan Black holds the No. 1 spot at 130 pounds. She was a runner-up at the weight in 2017. Another projected finalist for the Bearcats is No. 2 Alexis Porter at 143 pounds. Porter is a two-time All-American, who redshirted last season.
Five others are predicted to finish in the top five, including Genae Sampract at 101, Vanessa Ramirez at 109, Tayler Resuriz at 116, Brenda Reyna at 123, Andrea Sennett at 155 and Brandy Lowe at 191.
Resuriz, Lowe and Janelle Fuamatu are past All-Americans that will compete for the Bearcats.
According to the rankings, it looks like the WCWA will have a new WCWA champion after a four-year run by King University, who won championships from 2014 to 2017.
Don’t count the Tornado out. Despite losing several key seniors last season, King’s nine ranked wrestlers project the Tornado to finish in fourth place.
King’s top potential placers include two-time WCWA champion Marina Doi at 101 and 2017 WCWA runner-up at 101 pounds Regina Doi. King also returns three 2017 All-Americans to the event, including Cassidy Ferrell at 101, Alleah Gould at 109 and WCWA runner-up Jessi Kee at 155. Last year, Kee took second at 143 pounds.
Other schools predicted to crack the top-10 are Emmanuel College, Wayland Baptist, Menlo College, Grays Harbor, Oklahoma City University and Lindenwood-Belleville.
Emmanuel, OCU and Lindenwood-Belleville all enter the tournament with top seeded wrestlers. The EC Lions have two-time WCWA champion and senior transfer Cody Pfau at 109 pounds. Pfau won her titles at OCU in 2015 and 2016. OCU brings sophomore and four-time age-group World Team member Rachel Watters at 170 and Lindenwood-Belleville boasts 2017 runner-up and U.S. National Team member Niauni Hill.
We’re starting to see a new trend and parity among the WCWA as more and more teams are added. Coaches are able to bring their young squads to national prominence in short amounts of time.
For example, Campbellsville and McKendree are four and five-year-old programs, respectively, and already seriously in the hunt for a national team title. For squads like Grays Harbor and Emmanuel, which have been around for two and three years, they are quickly climbing up the ranks and posing threats across the board.
It should be exciting to see what these younger programs will do this weekend.
USA Wrestling and FloWrestling will continue to preview the WCWA Championships throughout the week.
The tournament is set for Feb. 9-10 at Abe Lemons Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. Fans can follow the action live on FloWrestling.org and find updates on USA Wrestling’s website and social media channels (@USAWrestling).
Past WCWA team champions
2017 – King University
2016 – King University
2015 – King University
2014 – King University
2013 – Simon Fraser University
2012 – Oklahoma City University
2011 – Oklahoma City University
2010 – Oklahoma City University
2009 – Oklahoma City University
2008 – University of the Cumberlands
2007 – University of the Cumberlands
2006 – University of the Cumberlands
2005 – Missouri Valley College
2004 – Missouri Valley College
Friday, Feb. 9
10 a.m. – Session I (preliminary rounds)
4 p.m. – Session II (championship and consolation to AA rounds)
7 p.m. – Session III (championship semis and consolation quarters)
Saturday, Feb. 10
10 a.m. – Session IV (3rd, 5th and 7th-place matches)
5 p.m. – Session V (finals)