USA Wrestling #WomensWednesday: A ...

#WomensWednesday: A preview of tonight’s WRTC Underground 3 card, which features seven women’s bouts

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | Jan. 20, 2021, 4:13 p.m. (ET)

Wisconsin RTC star Ronna Heaton of the Sunkist Kids competing in the 2020 U23 Nationals finals. Photo by Tony Rotundo, Wrestlers Are Warriors.

Since the development of RTC competition cards and special broadcast events developed since the start of the pandemic, a number of women wrestlers have been showcased for a national and international audience.

Tonight’s Wisconsin RTC Underground 3 card on Rokfin sets a new level of involvement for female wrestlers on one of these all-star cards. There are seven (exactly half) of the 14 matches on the main card reserved for women.

Wisconsin RTC has been very supportive of women’s wrestling. There are two current Senior-level stars who are training with the WRTC leading into the Olympic year, past Cadet World champion Ronna Heaton and three-time Junior World medalist Erin Golston. Both have matches tonight.

McKendree University, the top ranked NCAA women’s wrestling college team, is travelling up to Wisconsin with five of their top wrestlers to compete in the card. In addition, the Wisconsin RTC has added two girls high school matches on the main card. This gives us a chance to enjoy women athletes from the Senior, college and high school levels all at the same time.

It is hard to say which of these matches will be the best ones, so we will do a short preview of each, based upon the bout order tonight. The main card begins at 7:00 p.m. Central time.

Bout Two - Sophie Smith vs. Payton Stroud

Stroud will be the first of five McKendree wrestlers stepping on the mat. She was eighth in the 2020 NCWWC nationals (for NCAA-teams) at 123 pound as a freshman. Her opponent Smith is coming fresh off competing at the U23 Nationals, where she was fourth, as well as at the UWW Junior Nationals, where she did not medal.

Bout Three - Jayden Laurent vs. Joye Levendusky

Jayden Laurent has strong local ties, as a native of Wisconsin and a past WCWA national champion for Lakeland University. Laurent was fifth in the 2019 Junior World Championships and also competed on the 2018 Junior World Team. She has also made the Senior National Team. She will be favored over college wrestler Joye Levendusky of McKendree. Levendusky was fourth in the 2020 NCWWC Nationals and also was seventh in the 2019 WCWA Nationals. She won two USA Wrestling age-group medals this fall, with a silver at the UWW Junior Nationals and a bronze at the U23 Nationals.

Bout Four - Kylie Welker vs. Rose Cassioppi

Kylie Welker of Wisconsin, No. 1 in the high school national rankings at 144 pounds is competing on a WRTC card for the second straight time, after beating Minnesota star Amor Tuttle in December. Welker, a 2019 Cadet World bronze medalist who trained at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in the EAP program, will battle Rose Cassioppi, a sophomore from Hononegah High in Illinois, who is currently No.5 at 152 pounds. Cassioppi made a big jump this summer and fall, including a title at the USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals in October.

Bout Six - Michaela Beck vs. Brenda Reyna

This will be an intriguing battle, as McKendree brings senior Brenda Reyna to battle Michaela Beck, who has significant success on the age-group and Senior levels. Beck was a 2018 Senior Nationals runner-up and most recently placed second at the 2020 U23 Nationals at 59 kg. Both have significant international experience, with Reyna on the 2016 and 2018 Junior World Team, and Beck on the 2019 U23 World Team. Reyna was a WCWA Nationals All-American twice, placing second in 2019 and fourth in 2018. Reyna sat out the 2020 season on a medical redshirt.

Bout Eight - Ronna Heaton vs. Felicity Taylor

A past Cadet World champion, Ronna Heaton will be on her second straight WRTC card. In December, she defeated Koral Sugiyama, 10-7, and received women’s Outstanding Wrestler award for that card. This time, she draws McKendree University star Felicity Taylor, who was,a 2020 NCWWC runner-up (for NCAA schools) and a 2019 WCWA National champion. Taylor was also ninth in the 2019 U23 World Championships. At the 2020 U23 Nationals, Heaton won the 53 kg gold, while Taylor placed fourth. While they did not meet at U23s, Taylor lost to Cheyenne Sisenstein, who Heaton beat in the finals.

Bout Ten - Erin Golston vs. Pauline Granados

Golston has been one of the most active women getting matches on RTC cards and special events. This year, she moved to Wisconsin to join up with the Wisconsin RTC and train alongside Heaton. She won her bout on WRTC Underground 2, a 7-1 win over Maria Vidales of Emmanuel College. She draws another college opponent tonight, McKendree’s Paula Granados, a NWCWC national champion in 2020 at 101 pounds. There is a big disparity in experience here, with Golston winning three Junior World medals, making a number of Senior National teams, and taking numerous international tours, while Granados does not have any of that background.

Bout Eleven -- Mia Palumbo vs. Chloe Ayres

This bout features the No. 2 ranked high school star at 112 pounds, senior Mia Palumbo of Richards High in Illinois, against the No 3 ranked wrestler at 117 pounds, senior Chloe Ayres of Princeton High School in New Jersey. Palumbo is competing in her third major card right now, after winning on both an Illinois RTC card and a FloWrestling card. Palumbo made news by signing with NCAA program Iowa Wesleyan, which starts its program next year. Palumbo has multiple national titles, while Ayres was a 2019 Super 32 champ and a two-time New Jersey state champion.

The 14-match Main Card that will begin at 7:00 p.m. Central time on Rokfin. A seven-match youth undercard opens the show at 6:30 p.m. CT.