USA Wrestling #WomensWednesday: 14...

#WomensWednesday: 14 elite rising junior stars heading into the high school season

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Aug. 12, 2020, 2:22 p.m. (ET)

Kylie Welker of Wisconsin competing at the Cadet World Championships. Welker is among the 14 rising juniors who come into the new high school year as an elite talent. Photo by Kadir Caliskan, United World Wrestling.

For the second straight week, we look at top high school girls who are returning for the upcoming season. This time, we take a peek at the rising juniors, those who made big news last season as sophomores.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation and postponement of so many important wrestling tournaments, including numerous USA Wrestling age-group national events. Many states have yet to determine when they will hold high school wrestling, and others have either pushed back the season or shortened the season. There is a lot of uncertainty.

This group of rising juniors have a body of work that puts them in elite status, with two full seasons left in their high school careers. All 14 of those listed finished last year ranked in the top three in the National Girls High School Rankings, with six of them sitting at the No. 1 spot when wrestling shut down in March.

We list their 2020 weight class and their March 2020 national ranking, understanding that some may grow and move up in weight next season.

No. 1 at 122 pounds - Jennifer Soto, Red Bluff, Calif., Orland High School
A two-time California state champion with a chance to be a four-timer, Soto has piled up numerous national achievements in freestyle and folkstyle as well. She won the 2019 U15 Nationals and the 2019 U16 Folkstyle Nationals, with runner-up finish at the 2019 Junior Nationals and thee 2019 Junior Folkstyle Nationals. Throw in a silver medal at the 2019 U15 World Championships, and a boatload of achievements at other respected tournaments.

No. 1 at 127 pounds - Korina Blades, Broadview, Ill., Wyoming Seminary (PA)
The lighter of the famous Blades sisters from Illinois, who compete at Wyoming Seminary, Korina was a 2019 U15 World champion and a 2018 U15 Pan American champion. National titles include the 2016 16UNationals, the 2019 U15 Nationals. As SEM wrestles often internationally, Blades has won medals in events in Russia and Estonia. A 2018 Super 32 title is on her resume as well.

No. 1 at 132 pounds - Skylar Hattendorf, Hookset, N.H., Bow High School
Hattendorf is one of those rare athletes who have international achievements in two Olympic sports. She has Olympic hopes in both wrestling and judo. A 2019 Cadet World silver medalist, Hattendorf on the 2019 UWW Cadet Nationals to qualify. She has a 2018 Preseason Nationals title, a silver at the 2019 Super 32 and a bronze at the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden. And that is only in wrestling.

No. 1 at 144 pounds - Kylie Welker, Waterford, Wis.,
Due to her achievements and abilities, Welker was able to become a EAP resident athlete at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs last year, where she trained with Senior athletes and focused on her freestyle. She was a 2019 Cadet World bronze medalist, won a gold at the Vorobyeva Cup in Russia and a bronze at the Klippan Lady Open in Sweden. National titles have included 2019 U16 Folkstyle Nationals and 2019 UWW Cadet Nationals. Prior to going to the USOPTC, she won two Wisconsin girls state high school titles. With the EAP program not going on during the pandemic, Welker is back in Wisconsin and setting her plan for the season ahead.

No. 1 at 152 pounds - Amit Elor, Concord, Calif., College Park High School
Elor won the California states as a freshman, but her major focus is freestyle, where she has numerous international medals. She skipped the California high school states as a sophomore. International honors include a 2019 Beach World title, a 2019 Cadet World bronze, a 2020 Klippan Lady Open gold and a 2018 U15 Pan American title. Elor will jump up in weight to battle fellow junior star Kennedy Blades at Who’s #1 in October.

No. 1 at 164 pounds - Kennedy Blades, Broadview, Ill., Wyoming Seminary
Blades was a top star in the IKWF youth program and made her name as an eighth grader by winning the 2018 Cadet Nationals and placing second in the 2018 UWW Cadet Nationals. She chose Wyoming Seminary for high school and has been a freestyler most of the time, except for winning a 2020 Prep National title in folkstyle. She did not medal at the 2019 Cadet Worlds, but has international golds in Sweden, Russia and Estonia. Add in titles at the last two Super 32 events. Who ya got at Who’s #1, Blades or Elor?

No. 2 at 106 pounds - Jenavi Alejandro, Las Vegas Nev., Centennial High School
Alejandro has been consistent during her high school year, winnng Nevada state titles the last two years. She was fourth at the 2019 Junior Nationals, fifth at the 2019 Junior Folkstyle Nationals and sixth at the 2019 U16 Folkstyle Nationals. Add in titles at the Gotham City tournament and the FreakShow to boot.

No. 2 at 112 pounds - Cristelle Rodriguez, Fresno, Calif., Buchanan High School
A two-time California state champion, with a chance to shoot for four, Rodriguez has mixed in a bunch of freestyle achievements including a silver medal at the 2019 Cadet World Championships. National titles include a 2019 UWW Cadet Nationals title and a 2019 U16 Folkstyle Nationals title, plus some other USA Wrestling national medals.

No. 2 at 152 pounds - Lillian Freitas, Modesto, Calif., Pitman High School
Another talented rising junior from California, Freitas also has two California state titles with a chance to shoot for four. Freitas was a member of the 2019 Cadet World team and won a 2018 U15 Pan American gold medal. She was a medalist at the Klippan Lady Open in 2020 as well.

No. 2 at 200 pounds - Riley Dempewolf, Lafayette, Ind., McCutcheon High School
Winner of two Indiana state high school titles, Dempewolf was third in the 2019 Super 32, placed fourth at the 2019 U16 Folkstyle Nationals and sixth at the 2019 16U Nationals. She has also won a number of tournaments during the offseason in folkstyle and freestyle.

No. 3 at 100 pounds - Sterling Dias, Las Vegas, Nev., SLAM Academy
A 2019 Cadet World silver medalist and 2018 Cadet World bronze medalist, Dias has won the last two Nevada state high school titles. Her national titles include 2018 and 2019 16U Nationals golds, 2018 and 2019 UWW Cadet National titles, 2019 Folkstyle National titles in both the Junior and 16U division. A bit undersized at 100 pounds, a weight she wrestles often, Dias has shown toughness to go with exquisite technical skills.

No. 3 at 106 pounds - Isabella Morales, Toppenish, Wash. Toppenish High School
A 2020 Washington state champion and 2019 Washington state runner-up, Morales was second at the 2019 16U Nationals and fifth at the 2019 UWW Cadet Nationals. She also has had strong performances at USA Wrestling’s National Duals. Add in numerous high school tournament titles in very competitive Washington and the Northwest.

No. 3 at 112 pounds - Faith Cole, Pacific, Mo., Wildwood High School
Winner in the Missouri state championships the last two years, Cole is active and successful on the USA Wrestling National circuit, with a 2019 16U Nationals title to her credit. She was second at the 2019 U15 Nationals, second in the 2019 Preseason Nationals and fourth in the 2019 UWW Cadet Nationals. She has wins over numerous other high school girls with high national rankings.

No. 3 at 138 pounds - Esther Han, Wentzville, Mo., Holt Wentzville High School

A two-time Missouri state champion, Han was third at the 2019 16U Nationals and fifth at the 2019 Junior Nationals. She has also had a good performance at the National Duals.

Other rising juniors to watch, based upon the National High School Rankings of March 2020.

100 pounds
13. Kayla McKinley-Johnson, Des Moines, Wash., Federal Way High School
15. Avery Kibelbek, Limestone, Tenn, David Crockett High School
17. Eva Diaz, Miami, Fla. homeschooled
18. Brianna Gonzalez, Baldwin Park, Calif., Arroyo High School
22. Olivia DeGeorgio, Conroe, Texas, Woodlands College Park High School

106 pounds
4. Nyla Valencia, Morgan Hill, Calif., Ann Sobrato High School
8. Abbygale Duke, Patterson, N.Y., Wyoming Seminary (PA)
12. Avery Ashley, Lucas Lovejoy High School, Texas
13. Torie Buchanan, West Terre Haute, Ind. West Vigo High School
21. Ella Schmit, LeClare, Iowa, Bettendorf High School

112 pounds
12. Lexy Beadles, Riverbank, Calif., Calaveras High School
13. Shea Reisel, Somonauk, Ill. Somonauk High School
15. Leah Gaitan,  Yucaipa, Calif., Yucaipa High School
21. Israel Resendez, Aurora, Colo., Denver East High School

117 pounds
15. Nicole Koch, sophomore, Delta, Colo., Delta High School
16. Liana Carney, sophomore, Wrangell, Alaska, Wrangell High School
18. Kaila Del Toro, sophomore, Chicago, Ill., Chicago Taft High School
19. Juliana Diaz, sophomore, Orlando, Fla., Dr. Phillips High School
24. Maya Vincent, sophomore, Columia, S.C., Irmo High School
25. Annalyn Rakett, sophomore, Clarksville, Tenn., Clarksville Academy

122 pounds
4. Sofia Macaluso, Minisink, N.Y., Minisink Valley High School
6. Alexis Janiak, Plainfield, Ill., Plainfield South High School
7. Ava Bayless, Greenville, Pa. Wyoming Seminary (PA)
8. Katie Gomez, Van Nuys, Calif., Birmingham High School
22. Cailin Campbell, Crawfordsville, Ind., North Montgomery High School

127 pounds
14. Sofia Brynman-Metcalf, Sullivan, Wis., Jefferson High School
15. Sydney Park, Davenport, Iowa, Davenport Central High School

132 pounds
21. Grace Stem, Snow Shoe, Pa., Bald Eagle Area High School
22. Madyson Gray, Lawrence Free State High School

138 pounds
13. Elleni Johnson, West Jordan, Utah, Wyoming Seminary (PA)
23. Marissa Jimenez, Caldwell, Idaho, Caldwell High School

144 pounds
6. Reese Larramendy, Reno, Nev., Wyoming Seminary (PA)
12. Ella Nichols, Bristol, Conn., Bristol Eastern High School
15. Logan Ryan, Sandusky, Mich., Sandusky High School
19. Isabella Mir, Las Vegas, Nev., Bishop Gorman High School
21. Kaylie Upson, Phillips, Wis., Phillips High School
24. Sidney Sullens, Cleveland, Ga., White County High School

152 pounds
8. Katelyn Lewis, Peshtigo, Wis., Peshtigo High School
9. Alexandra Nelson, Charlestown, R.I., Chariho High School
10. Dakota-Marie Dinielli, Plainville, Conn., Wyoming Seminary
17. Ayanna Asselin, Kennewick, Wash., Kennewick High School
22. Shannon Workinger,  Quincy, Wash., Quincy High School
23. Alaina Schmidt,Dubuque, Iowa, Wahlert Dubuque High School

164 pounds
8. Dasia Yearby, Wellford, S.C., Christ Church Episcopal School
22. Brittney Reed, Richmond, Va., Highland Springs High School

180 pounds
10. Kerly Borbor Ordonez, New Brunswick, N.J., New Brunswick High School
14. Kailyn Garrett, South Lyon, Mich., South Lyon High School
25. Caroline McKeown, Manassas, Va., Colgan High School

200 pounds
5. Eliana Bommarito, Brighton Mich. Hartland High School
10. Andrea Smith, Middleburg, Fla., Orange Park High School
13. Ariyanna Anderson, Charlotte, Tenn. Creek Wood High School
17. Ella Beam, Lawndale, N.C., Burns High School
19. Cheyenne Meade, Troy, Ohio, Troy High School
23. Abigail Osei, Ontario, Ore., Ontario High School
24. Katlin Johnson, Paris, Ky., Bourbon County High School

225 pounds
7. Debranna Bealer, North Pole, Alaska, Eielson High School
11. Valerie Smith, Nashville, Tenn., McGavock High School