USA Wrestling Women’s Freestyle Wo...

Women’s Freestyle World Team Trials Challenge Tournament preview

By Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling | May 20, 2022, 11:48 a.m. (ET)

Erin Golston competing at the 2022 U.S. Open. Photo by AJ Grieves.

Here is a weight-by-weight review of the women’s freestyle field at the 2022 World Team Trials Challenge Tournament, set for Saturday and Sunday in Coralville, Iowa.

In six weight classes, only the winner advances to Final X, because a 2021 World medalist in their weight class has already qualified to compete. In three weight classes (53 kg, 59 kg, 72 kg and 76 kg), the semifinals winners both advance to Final X, as no wrestler is in Final X this year. At 76 kg, six-time World champion Adeline Gray declined her spot, moving this weight into the group with two advancing from Coralville.

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50 kg
Champion advances to Final X New York against Sarah Hildebrandt


The top seed is U.S. Open champion and longtime National Team member Erin Golston, who is perhaps the most experienced of the entries in this weight class. A three-time Junior World medalist, Golston has won the last two U.S. Open titles. No. 2 seed went to two-time World bronze medalist Alyssa Lampe, who was second at the 2022 U.S. Open up at 53 kg. Lampe made a comeback from retirement in late 2019 and has been a top challenger at every event since. Sage Mortimer, an NCWWC All-American for King, won the 2022 Bill Farrell International to qualify, reached a bronze bout at the U.S. Open and was second at the U20 Nationals. California high school star Nyla Valencia made a big jump at the U23 Nationals, beating college star Emily Shilson in the semifinals. Shilson has won age-group World titles at the U23, U20 and U17 levels, and is a three-time NCWWC champion for Augsburg. Valencia qualified for Coralville at the Last Chance Qualifier.

Nina Pham, a two-time NAIA national champion for Wayland Baptist, was second in the 2022 U.S. Open, then was second to Valencia at the U23 Nationals. Most of the rest of the field is either in college or are recent graduates who continued their careers. Two college assistant coaches qualified with U.S. Open placements, Charlotte Fowler, who is now coaching at the University of the Ozarks, and Arelys Valles, a coach at Grand View. Caitlyn Walker, a Columbia student with the NYC RTC, also placed at the Open. Danielle Garcia of King, third in the U.S. Open at 53 kg, dropped down for Coralville. Other competitors are Mariah Anderson of the Air Force RTC, Sydney Petzinger of North Central, and Natalie Reyna-Rodriguez of McKendree.

53 kg
Both semifinal winners advance to Final X New York


There will be a brand-new Senior World Team member at 53 kg, as none of the entries have made a World Team in the past. The top seed is 2022 U.S. Open champion Felicity Taylor, who has been a college star for McKendree. Taylor also won the U23 Nationals this spring. Expected to push Taylor hard is Ronna Heaton, who lost to Jacarra Winchester in the U.S. Open finals at 55 kg. Heaton was second last year at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials, as well as second at the World Team Trials. She is a past Cadet World champion. Army star Arena Villaescusa secured the No. 3 seed. She is a two-time U.S. Open runner-up and was third at the 2021 World Team Trials.

Nobody should overlook No. 4 seed Dominique Parrish, who has been on the Senior National Team and has a long list of achievements. Parrish was third in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials and was a 2019 U.S. Open champion. She was a college champion for Simon Fraser. Estrella Dorado Marin of the Army and Haley Franich of the Air Force RTC qualified for Coralville as place winners at the U.S. Open.

55 kg
Champion advances to Final X Stillwater against Jenna Burkert


One of the most accomplished athletes in the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament is 2019 World champion Jacarra Winchester, who was also a 2020 Olympian. She was the 2022 U.S. Open champion, and this is the weight class where she won her World title. Winchester competed in the Tokyo Games down at 53 kg. She was second to Jenna Burkert at the 2021 World Team Trials, and Burkert went on to win a World bronze medal, giving her the Final X berth. Winchester is a favorite to win in Coralville for another battle with Burkert in Stillwater.

Hoping to knock off Winchester is Colorado Mesa star Marissa Gallegos, who was third at the 2021 World Team Trials. Gallegos was third at the 2022 NCWWC Nationals and fourth at the U.S. Open, which helped her to the No. 2 seed. Lauren Mason, the former Simon Fraser star, placed third at the U.S. Open this year. Alisha Howk, the 2022 Bill Farrell champion at this weight, had initially intended to drop to 53 kg, but will battle at 55 kg this weekend. Indiana high school star Torieonna Buchanan made the Trials by winning the Last Chance Qualifier. Victoria Smith of Grand View was seventh at the U.S. Open.

57 kg
Champion advances to Final X New York against Helen Maroulis


The winner at this weight class draws Olympic champion and three-time World champion Helen Maroulis in Final X New York. One of the exciting new stars on the women’ scene is Adriana Dorado Marin of Army WCAP. A Colorado high school wrestler, Dorado Marin chose the military option instead of college, and blasted onto the national scene this month. Dorado Marin won the U.S. Senior Open, beating top talent Cameron Guerin in the finals. A week later, she won the U20 Nationals to earn an age-group World Team berth. Guerin, a two-time NCWWC champion for McKendree, has competed on two U.S. age-group World Teams. The No. 3 seed is Alexandria Hedrick, a NCWWC champion for Simon Fraser, who was a 2021 Senior Nationals champion and was second on the Senior National Team in 2018. Amanda Martinez, a college star for North Central, was fourth in the U.S. Open and fourth at the 2021 World Team Trials.

The rest of the field are rising young athletes. Ngao Shoua Whitethorm qualified with her third place at the 2022 Bill Farrell Memorial. Tateum Park of Augsburg and Elvie Villa of McKendree qualified with their placements at the 2022 U.S. Open. Genesis Ramirez punched her ticket at the Last Chance Qualifier.

59 kg
Both semifinal winners advance to Final X Stillwater


The semifinal winners at this weight both advance to Final X Stillwater, and none of the entries are previous Senior World Team members. The No. 1 seed goes to U.S. Open champion Nanea Estrella, a 2022 NAIA runner-up for Menlo College who has transferred to the University of Iowa. Estrella is no lock, as she was second the next week at the U20 Nationals, falling to Savannah Cosme who is not in this event. The No. 2 seed is a veteran star, Abigail Nette, a 2019 U.S. Open champion who was third in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Nette won two WCWA college titles, one for Campbellsville and another for Emmanuel. Veteran Michaela Beck, a two-time age-group World Team member and 2018 U.S. Open runner-up, secured the No. 3 seed. Lexie Basham of Texas Wesleyan won the 2022 NAIA Championships, beating Estrella in the finals. She was also third at the U23 Women’s Nationals.

Some talented college wrestlers are among the other contenders. Niya Teresita Gaines of North Central was second in the NCWWC Nationals this year and also second at the U23 Nationals. Claire DiCugno of Colorado Mesa placed a strong third at the U.S. Open, and was second in the U20 Nationals. Bridgette Duty, a 2021 NAIA champion for the Cumberlands, is now in the Army and was fourth in the U.S. Open. King University freshman Montana Delawder joined the field through the Last Chance Qualifier. Utah high school star Esther Han was a U.S. Open placewinner, as was Hailey Corona of the Brunson UVRTC.

62 kg
Champion advances to Final X New York against Kayla Miracle


2022 U.S. Open runner-up Jennifer Rogers gets the No. 1 seed here. You may remember her under her maiden name, Jen Page, a three-time U.S. Open champion who has been on multiple National Teams. Rogers lost in the U.S. Open finals to 2021 World medalist Kayla Miracle, who had already qualified for Final X. Rogers will have to win in Coralville to get a rematch. The top challenger for Rogers could be Macey Kilty, who was injured in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials finals against Miracle. She returned to the mat this winter, winning two international medals and the U23 Nationals title. Kilty has won five age-group World medals for the USA, including a Cadet World title.

The rest of the field is a mix of college athletes and other young talents. No. 3 seed goes to Grand View’s Andrea Schlabach, who won the Bill Farrell Memorial, was fourth at the U.S. Open and placed third at the 2022 NAIA Nationals. Cierra Foster, a multiple NAIA All-American for Oklahoma City, placed seventh at the U.S. Open. Emmily Patneaud of McKendree, who was fifth at the NCWWC Nationals, has placed in three recent women’s events. She was fifth at the U.S. Open, seventh at the U20 Nationals and eighth at the U23 Nationals. Alexandria Liles, a high school star in Texas, is in the Army now. Liles was eighth at the U.S. Open, which did not qualify her, but won the Last Chance Qualifier, and added a third place at the U23 Nationals. Also in the mix is Sierra Brown Ton, who has wrestled at Augsburg and Colorado Mesa. She won the Last Chance Qualifier at 65 kg and is moving down for the Trials.

65 kg
Champion advances to Final X Stillwater against Forrest Molinari


There is a little rivalry brewing recently at this weight class, between 2021 World bronze medalist Forrest Molinari, who is already in Final X, and Emma Bruntil and Mallory Velte who are trying to qualify for Final X. Bruntil received the No. 1 seed in the Challenge Tournament after winning the U.S. Open, beating Velte in the finals. Bruntil also had a close win over Velte at the Dan Kolov in Russia. In January, Bruntil won the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Russia, beating Molinari in the finals. However, Molinari pinned Bruntil in the Yasar Dogu in Turkey. Bruntil, who won two NCWWC titles for McKendree before focusing full-time on the Senior level, and Velte, a 2018 World bronze medalist with a long international resume, are both capable of making the Senior World Team.

The No. 3 seed goes to Maya Letona of the NYC RTC, who attends Columbia. Letona was third in the U.S. Open, third in the U23 Nationals and fourth in the U20 Nationals. Returning from missing a few seasons to injury is Amanda Hendey, now coaching at Colorado Mesa. Hendey was fourth at the U.S. Open, losing to Letona in the bronze bout. Ashlynn Ortega, a 2022 NCWWC champion for King, won the recent U23 Nationals at this weight class. Emily Se qualified for Coralville by placing fifth at the U.S. Open. Dalia Garibay of Colorado Mesa was fourth in the 2022 U.S. Open at 68 kg and drops down a weight. Garibay was a 2020 NCWWC runner-up. Also in the draw is Destiny Lyng, sixth in the U.S. Open, and a 2022 NAIA champion for Oklahoma City.

68 kg
Champion advances to Final X Stillwater against Tamyra Mensah Stock


One of the best young college stars who have emerged this year is Sienna Ramirez of Southern Oregon, the 2022 U.S. Open champion. Ramirez was a 2021 NAIA national champion and placed third at the NAIA Nationals this season. Getting the No. 2 seed is Nahiela Magee of the Army, who was third at the 2022 U.S. Open. Magee has placed at the U.S. Open six times in her career. Alara Boyd, a 2021 NCWWC champion and 2022 runner-up for McKendree, was third in the 2021 World Team Trials. Boyd has made four age-group World Teams, winning two Cadet medals. Seeded No. 4 was Solin Piearcy, who won NAIA and NCWA national titles for Menlo in 2019, and was fifth in the 2022 U.S. Open.

Rachel Watters, who was seventh at the U.S. Open at 65 kg, moves up for the Trials. Watters was second in the 2018 Final X, has made five age-group World Teams, and was a college star at Oklahoma City. Ana Luciano of King, a three-time NCWWC All-American, qualified at the Last Chance Qualifier, and also won a U23 Nationals title this spring. Kairah Cantillo of Grand View and Olivia Pizano, who wrestled at Southern Oregon, qualified through the U.S. Open. Aury Naylor made the field by winning the Bill Farrell Memorial, and also was sixth at the U.S. Open. Whoever wins this weight will face Olympic and World champion Tamyra Mensah Stock in Final X Stillwater.

72 kg
Both semifinal winners advance to Final X New York


This weight class also has nobody who has made a Senior World Team. Skylar Grote, who has placed many times at the U.S. Open, won the national title in Las Vegas and secured the No. 1 seed here. Grote added a title at the Pan American Championships after the Open and comes in with some momentum. Grote won her college national titles in Canada for Brock University. Another top candidate for Final X is high school super star Amit Elor, who won age-group World titles as at the U17 and U20 levels last year. Elor won the Team Trials for the 2022 U20 and U23 World Teams down in Fort Worth. This is Elor’s first year making a run at the Senior level.

The No. 3 seed went to Marlynne Deede, who was second at the U.S. Open and second at the U23 Nationals. Deede was third at the 2022 NCWWC Nationals for Augsburg. Marilyn Garcia, a 2019 NAIA national champion for Menlo College, placed fifth at the U.S. Open to qualify for Coralville. Qualifying with seventh place at the U.S. Open was Jessica Kemgne. Skie Roulo won the Last Chance Qualifier at this weight.

76 kg
Both semifinal winners advance to Final X Stillwater


When six-time World champion Adeline Gray declined her Final X spot, as she is pregnant at this time, the semifinal winners at 76 kg will advance to Final X. This is a deep and talented young group which is hungry for a chance at the Senior Worlds. The No. 1 seed is Dymond Guilford, the 2022 U.S. Open champion and two-time Open winner. Guilford has won two NAIA titles, one for Missouri Baptist and this year for the University of the Cumberlands. She defeated a regular rival, Precious Bell, in the finals in Las Vegas. Bell has also won two U.S. Open titles, and was a Bill Farrell Memorial champion this season. They will be pushed hard by two-time NCWWC champion Yelena Makoyed of North Central, who was third at the Open this year and also won a U23 Nationals title this spring.

The only entry with past Senior World experience is Victoria Francis, who made two World Teams and placed as high as fifth at the Worlds. Francis took fourth at the U.S. Open this year, which gave her a No. 4 seed. Francis looks to battle Guilford in the semifinals, which should be a classic battle. Coming in as No. 5 seed is Tristan Kelly of the Army, who was fifth at the U.S.. Open, and won the U20 Nationals this year. After high school, Kelly went to Colorado Mesa, but decided this year to enter the military. Jordan Nelson, a 2021 NAIA champion for Life, was seventh in the U.S. Open this year. Two other entries qualified through college nationals, with NAIA runner-up Olivia Robinson of Eastern Oregon, and NCWWC runner-up Joye Levendusky of McKendree in the draw. Melissa Jacobs joined the field through the Last Chance Qualifier, and was second at the 2022 Bill Farrell International.