Kristie Davis of Oklahoma City was a WCWA national champion last year, and has won nine career Senior World medals. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma City University
OCU, King among top teams at WCWA Women's College Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., Jan. 28
Oklahoma City University, which is seeking its fourth straight team title, and host King College are the top favorites for the 2012 WCWA Women's College Nationals, which will be held in Bristol, Tenn. on Saturday, January 28.
This is the annual national championships for women's college wrestling, and an event which continues to grow in size and competitiveness each year. In addition, the tournament is a qualifying event for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City, Iowa, April 21-22.
OCU had another dominant regular season, going undefeated in dual meets and winning its fifth straight NWCA National Duals title. The Stars have also had six or seven athletes holding No. 1 individual rankings at a time during the season, making them a strong favorite to repeat as national champions.
"Tournaments and duals are different animals" said Randall. "Going into the tournament, we have six wrestlers who should be No. 1 seeds. At this tournament, we do team standings on placement points, rather than on how every athlete competes. When you have 160 athletes wrestling, that makes it interesting. We get to score with 10 athletes. OCU will score in every weight, but so will King. Wrestling is a sport where those who have a good day can make a difference for the team."
In the individual WCWA rankings released in early January, OCU had six athletes ranked No. 1: freshman Emily Webster (101), junior Joey Miller (116), senior Michaela Hutchison (123), junior Audrey Morehouse (130), senior Kristie Davis (155) and senior Brittany Delgado (191). There were two others ranked at No. 2, freshman Jennifer Page (143) and junior Brittney Roberts (170)
The championship dual meet between OCU and King at the National Duals ended at 25-14, with OCU winning seven and King winning four. This was much closer than their meeting earlier in the season which OCU dominated. Page was named Outstanding Wrestler at the National Duals, after defeating King's top ranked Alli Ragan and winning all her other matches.
Davis, a two-time World champion and nine-time World medalist, is one of the greatest U.S. wrestlers of all time. Randall is very high on Page's performance this year, but also praised many others on the team
"Emily Webster has had a tremendous year at 101. Michaela Hutchison is always tough. Audrey Morehouse had an incredible year. She has beaten everybody at 130. Brieana Delgado has improved and has looked very tough for a freshman. Stephany Geltmacher has had a great season. Brittany Delgado is undefeated at her weight class. They are wrestling well and practices are looking good" said Randall.
Michaela Hutchison and Brittany Delgado will be seeking their third WCWA individual title, while Davis will be looking to repeat as champion.
King College, which is only in its third year as a program, finished fourth at last year's WCWA Nationals. King has held the No. 2 team ranking throughout the season, emerging as the top challenger to OCU. Although the team has made great progress, the Tornado seek their first individual WCWA national champion.
Those with the best chance to win a gold may be the No. 1 ranked athletes, Ragan at 143, plus senior Emily Martin (109) and freshman Julia Salata (170). King also has many other highly ranked individuals, including No. 2 ranked sophomore Shannon Constantine (101) and freshman Krista Revelle (136).
"I think our chances are good. OCU is clearly the best team now. Our goal is for each individual to perform at their best and hopefully that allows us to win the team title. We are improving. At National Duals, we were competitive in the finals. If we had won a few matches we could have won, it might have gone down to the last match. We are heading in the right direction" said Moorman.
Ragan, a 2011 Junior World bronze medalist, has been the top star for the team, winning big matches against many of the nation's top Senior level athletes. However, others on the team have shown rapid progress on the national scene.
"Emily Martin has had a good year. She has not lost to anybody on the college level. Samantha Klingel at 116 has improved dramatically. She has lost to some top girls, but has come back later and beaten them. We have Alli Ragan, who has been outstanding. Julia Salata is also improving quickly. She beat Kendra Lewis of Lindenwood at the U.S. Open and is 2-2 with OCU's Britteny Roberts. Krista Revelle just joined us. She is 4-0 and should be in the running at her weight" said Moorman.
King has quickly risen within women's college wrestling, through a combination of effective recruiting and a commitment to providing top competition for the athletes.
"With a new program at the beginning, you are not known at all. You have to explain your philosophy and vision. Some of our goals have matched the goals and dreams of our recruits. We have the environment to let them get better and to achieve. We also provide USA Wrestling opportunities, which is a priority for us" said Moorman.
Simon Fraser was the WCWA runner-up last year, but all three of their 2011 champions did not go to school this season in order to pursue their dreams to make the 2012 Olympic Games. Junior World champion Danielle Lappage did not make the Canadian Olympic team, and U.S. stars Helen Maroulis and Victoria Anthony, both multiple Junior World medalists, are among the favorites at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials. Their departure for the year left Mike Jones' team depleted.
However, Simon Fraser has remained very competitive, placing third at the National Duals and featuring some gold-medal hopefuls among their individuals. Entering the post-season with No. 2 rankings are Chloe Ivanoff (116), Jenny McLatchy (155) and Hillary Greening (191). Greening was a WCWA national champion in 2010. Another title hopeful is 2010 WCWA runner-up Daphne-Ann Hodgson, who is ranked No. 3 at 101 pounds,
Lindenwood was fourth at the National Duals for coach Toccara Montgomery. The highest ranked individual is No. 2 India Walker (109), and there are three ranked at No. 3, Shauna Isbel (123), Tanya Kusse (143) and Brittany David (155).
The Univ. of the Cumberlands was the last team to win the WCWA Nationals before Oklahoma City's current run, claiming the team title back in 2008. Under coach Alaina Berube, the top Patriot hopefuls are No. 1 ranked Kerstin Harmon (136) and No. 2 ranked Cianah Hee (130). Hee was second in last year's WCWA Nationals. If she enters, defending WCWA national champion Gabrielle Henry will be among the favorites at 116.
Each of the other teams in the competition feature some strong individuals capable of placing high in the standings. Perhaps the most improved team is Wayland Baptist, which placed at the bottom of the standings with no points in their first WCWA Nationals last year, but was ranked No. 6 as a team in the January rankings this year.
Also at stake are spots in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials in Iowa City. In four of the weight classes, which were selected by the WCWA to match up with the Olympic weight classes, the top two U.S. athletes at 109 pounds, 123 pounds, 136 pounds and 155 pounds will punch their ticket for the Trials. In the other six weight classes, the top U.S. athlete will also qualify. That will give the WCWA a total of 14 Olympic Trials qualifying spots, but the number could be fewer if some of those athletes have already qualified.
Randall does not expect the teams to change their lineups based upon the weight classes with two Olympic qualifying spots. However, in the past, Randall has shifted athletes around for the WCWA Nationals in order to score more team points.
"I have already made some adjustments. The whole strategy of the national tournament is to place higher than your opponents. We make adjustments, but so will everybody else. Everybody juggles people around to try to get the highest placing All-Americans" said Randall.
Moorman is very excited that King College is serving as hosts for the event this year.
"I am pretty excited and our president is excited. I am hoping for a good fan turnout. I have heard a buzz from students on our campus, and we are getting covered in the local media. Plus, nothing beats not having to travel" said Moorman.
Randall expects King to get a boost from hosting the championships.
"It should be close between OCU and King. Simon Fraser, Cumberland and Lindenwood will have something to say about things also. It will be tight, and a great event. King will be wrestling at home and will be relaxed. Everybody else will have to travel. We expect to win. You have to believe that or you won't win" said Randall.
The level of competition is expected to be at an all-time high, with more teams in the field and a larger number of athletes entered.
"The tournament is one that people should go watch. It is intense. There are four or five girls who could win at most of the weight classes. It's a neat thing how this event has improved" said Randall.
For those who can not attend, King College will be providing a live webstream from the event. TheMat.com will be in attendance, and will be posting matches and interview after the tournament concludes.
At King College, Bristol, Tenn., January 28
2012 Event Schedule
Saturday January 28
9:00 a.m. - Pigtails & Championship Round 1
11:00 a.m. - Championship Quarters & Consolation Rounds
2: 00 p.m. - Championship Semi Finals & Consolation Rounds
5:00 p.m. - Third through Eighth Place Matches
7:00 p.m. - Championship Finals
2011 WCWA Women's College Nationals
At Atherton, Calif., January 29, 2011
44 kg/97 lbs. - Nicole Woody (Oklahoma City)
48 kg/105.5 lbs. - Victoria Anthony (Simon Fraser)
51 kg/112.25 lbs. - Gabrielle Henry (Univ. of Cumberlands)
55 kg/121 lbs. - Helen Maroulis (Simon Fraser)
59 kg/130 lbs. - Ashley Hudson (Oklahoma City)
63 kg/138.75 lbs. - Danielle Lappage (Simon Fraser)
67 kg/147.5 lbs. - Kristie Davis (Oklahoma City)
72 kg/158.5 lbs. - Mei Ling Keiki (Missouri Baptist)
80 kg/176 lbs. - Brittany Delgado (Oklahoma City)
90 kg/198 lbs. - Marina Lambert (King College)
2011 Team Standings
1. Oklahoma City, 117; 2. Simon Fraser, 96; 3. Univ. of Cumberlands, 66; 4. King College, 57; 5. Jamestown College, 40; 6. Lindenwood, 30; 7. Missouri Valley, 22; 8. Menlo College, 16; 9. Missouri Baptist, 16; 10. Northern Michigan USEOEC, 12; 11. Yakima Valley, 3; 12. San Jose State, 0; 13. University of Regina, 0; 14. Wayland Baptist, 0