For the second consecutive year, California and Washington met in the 2017 Junior Women’s Freestyle Duals final. California had won the past two titles, topping their west coast rivals 32-23 a year ago, and four of the last six. The owners of the last eight Junior women’s freestyle team titles from the individual tournament are largely considered the power in women’s wrestling, but they haven’t been as dominant in the dual format. In 2014, Washington took them down, 32-27, to win the crown. On Saturday, Team Washington was out to repeat that performance.
In a pulsating final that hinged on a rematch of yesterday’s Junior women’s final at 117 pounds, Washington refused to give an inch. In fact, they leaped out to a 9-0 lead behind a shutout tech from newly crowned national champion Emma Bruntil at 144 and a fall from Lena Flanagan at 152. California answered the challenge, running off four straight wins from 164 through 225 to take an 18-10 lead as the weights turned over.
The 100-pound clash between Nina Pham (California) and Kenzie Cormier (Washington) proved pivotal as Pham built a big lead but was unable to secure the final points to finish the tech despite a couple of opportunities to do so. Those misses haunted her when Cormier slowly levered Pham onto her shoulders in a crotch lift and earned a crucial fall, cutting California’s lead to 18-15. Next up, Leah Olsen (Washington) gamely gutted out her match with Angelina Gomez (California) despite appearing to sustain a painful injury. Though Gomez would get the 12-2 win, those saved team points would be huge later in the dual.
After a 14-4 win from Viktorya Torres at 112, Washington trailed 23-20 with the match of the night taking center stage. Cam Guerin (Washington) knocked off California’s Alleida Martinez at Women’s Nationals earlier this year en route to earning a world team spot. Martinez turned the tables in yesterday’s Junior final, 6-5. With a tight dual as the back drop, the two rivals met in the rubber match that could very well decide the national title. Guerin controlled a tactical match and never let Martinez get to her offense, earning a 5-2 victory that put Washington in the driver’s seat despite still trailing by a point, 24-23.
Payton Stroud scored a shutout tech for Washington at 122, giving her team their first lead since early in the match. Brenda Reyna, who finished third in the loaded 127-pound bracket yesterday, followed with a fall in just 33 seconds to push Washington to the verge of clinching, leading by eight with just two matches left. When Joessie Gonzales (Washington) hung tough against Jenna Garcia (California) at 132, eventually falling 7-2, it was enough to ensure Washington would lift the team trophy. Though McKenna Hutchison (California) would end the proceedings with a fall of her own, Washington claimed the 2017 Junior Duals in women’s freestyle, 33-32!
After the match, we caught up with Cam Guerin and head coach Andy Cook to talk about the incredible battle.