Dominique Parrish photo courtesy of SFU athletics
The 2018-19 Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) season has kicked off, and if this year’s version is anything close to the previous year, fans will once again be in for a delight. The 2017-18 season concluded with its 15th WCWA National Championships in exciting fashion as we witnessed one of the closest team races in the history of the tournament. Coming down to the last two matches of the finals, Campbellsville needed victories by Grace Bullen and Kayla Miracle to secure the program’s first-ever team title as the Tigers held off perennial power Simon Fraser University 196.5-191.5. Miracle’s defeat of Desiree Zavala (Grays Harbor College) in the finals marked her fourth consecutive WCWA title, putting her in an exclusive group of women who have accomplished this feat. Miracle would also go on to win the inaugural Patricia Miranda Medal. This season should prove to be just as exciting, and I would expect another tight team race. The women’s wrestling talent pool continues to grow, as does the number of women’s programs. Last season saw 32 teams compete at the National Championships with 31 scoring points. This season, we should see the addition of 11 new programs as women’s college wrestling continues its rapid expansion.
Before delving into the 2018-19 season, there are a couple of things that need understood by new fans of women’s college wrestling. Unlike men’s college wrestling that consists of hundreds of schools broken out into divisions, each with their own separate championship, women’s college wrestling now includes 45 schools from various college governing bodies and divisions competing under the same umbrella. The other major differences are the rules and schedules for the WCWA. The WCWA follows international freestyle rules, competing seamlessly in many USAW Senior and Junior events throughout the year in addition to various college tournaments and duals. It should also be noted that at the WCWA National Championship, teams can enter multiple wrestlers per weight. However, while they can enter as many as 15 wrestlers, only 12 can score per team and must be declared before the tournament begins.
For the first time in 2018-19, after the WCWA Championships February 8th and 9th, there will be an NAIA Championship. The NAIA schools that sponsor women’s wrestling will also get the opportunity battle for their own national championships The University of Jamestown will host that inaugural event March 15th and 16th.
The initial WCWA team and individual rankings have not been released at this time, however, below is a look at some of the top returning teams this year.
The Lady Tigers of Campbellsville led by head coach Lee Miracle should pick up right where they left off as one of the top teams in the country. After four consecutive top-six finishes, Campbellsville finally got over the hump and ended last season as the top team in the country when they narrowly edged out Simon Fraser to claim the program’s first team championship. This season Campbellsville will have to adjust to life without four-time WCWA National Champion, Kayla Miracle, as well as All-Americans Shelby Hall and Kaitlyn Hill. Additionally, it appears that international sensation and 2017 WCWA National Champion at 130-pounds, Grace Bullen, is no longer on the roster after spending one season at the school. However, Campbellsville will still return six All-Americans from the 2017-18 season as well two other wrestlers who won at least two matches at the national tournament. The team should also see the return of 2017 WCWA National Champion, Andribeth Rivera, who did not compete last season due to personal reasons. Incoming freshman Rory Coscia of California will also bolster an already potent lineup. Coscia was a two-time California state champion that finished in the top four of the state tournament all four years of high school.
Campbellsville’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Andribeth Rivera (2017 – 1st), Koral Sugiyama (2018 – 5th, 2017 – 3rd), Charlotte Fowler (2018 – 3rd, 2017 – 5th), Mariah Harris (2018 – 2nd, 2017 – 7th), Mckayla Campbell (2018 – 4th), Alexia Foca (2018 – 4th), and Morgan Becker (2018 – 8th).
After finishing 19th in 2016 and 12th in 2017, Emmanuel College continued their steady improvement with a fourth-place finish at the 2018 WCWA National Championships to solidify themselves as one of the top programs in the country. This season Kristie Davis (Marano) assumes sole possession of head coaching duties with Link Davis taking over the men’s wrestling program. With a strong core of returning competitors, that includes four returning All-Americans and another three wrestlers who won at least two matches at the national tournament, the Lions will be poised to challenge for a top-three finish in 2018-19. The program will also welcome a strong recruiting class, headlined by top-ranked recruit Angelina Gomez. The team is led by returning third-place finishers, Kayla Marano and Abby Nette.
Emmanuel’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Abby Nette (2018 – 3rd), Kayla Marano (2018 – 3rd), Ali Encinas (2018 – 4th), and Iesha Washington (2018 – 5th).
King looks to get back on top after a sixth-place team finish in 2017-18. It was unfamiliar territory for the previously four-time defending champions, and I would bet they will be very hungry this year to get back in the mix as the top team in the country. They will have big voids to fill at 101-pounds and 109-pounds after the graduation of the Doi twins. The sisters were fixtures in the Tornado lineup all four years of college and captured a combined eight All-American honors, including three national championships. However, the team will feature four All-Americans from last year’s squad as well as two additional wrestlers who won at least two matches at nationals. In addition, the lineup will receive a boost from transfer Clarc Walker, who was a two-time All-American at the University of the Cumberlands. King will also welcome a solid recruiting class headlined by Ashlynn Ortega. Ortega has had a lot of success in Fargo and was one of the first girls to come out of the Wyoming Seminary girl’s high school team.
King’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Nicole Joseph (2018 – 4th), Aleeah Gould (2018 – 5th , 2017 – 7th), Allison Petix (2018 – 7th), Victoria Espinoza (2018 – 8th) and Clarc Walker (2016 – 8th, 2015 – 5th).
The Bearcats were optimistic heading into last year’s national tournament after a narrow loss to Campbellsville at the NWCA National Duals but saw themselves finish in third-place behind Campbellsville and Simon Fraser. Three-time All-American, 2017 WCWA runner-up and Junior World medalist, Alexis Porter, will lead the team a deep lineup that should feature six returning All-Americans and an additional four wrestlers who won at least two matches at nationals. McKendree will also welcome a solid recruiting class headlined by Felicity Taylor, the most outstanding wrestler at the 2018 Junior tournament in Fargo.
McKendree’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Alexis Porter (2018 – 2nd, 2016 – 5th, 2015 – 4th), Brandy Lowe (2018 – 3rd, 2017 – 3rd, 2015 – 2nd), Brenda Reyna (2018 – 4th), Destane Garrick (2018 – 5th), Genae Sampract (2018 – 6th), and Korinahe Bullock (2018 – 8th).
Menlo College returns what could be a very sneaky-good team this year after grinding out a fifth-place team finish in 2017-18 on the heels of four All-Americans. One of the very first schools to offer women’s wrestling should return all four All-Americans from last season as well as an astonishing six other wrestlers who won at least three matches at nationals. Additionally, Menlo welcomes a powerful recruiting class headlined by high school teammates Gracie Figueroa and Alleida Martinez. Both were four-time California state champions and own several world medals between the two of them.
Menlo’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Evonne Evien (2018 – 4th), Precious Bell (2018 – 5th), Angela Peralta (2018 – 5th), Solin Piearcy (2018 – 5th, 2017 – 5th), and Hiba Salem (2017 – 4th, 2016 – 6th).
Perennial power Simon Fraser took Campbellsville to the wire at the 2017-18 WCWA National Championships, ultimately falling by five points to finish runner-up. Amazing considering they had five girls in the finals, three of which won titles. One of five programs to win a WCWA team title, they are well coached and are led by a pair three-time All-Americans in Dominique Parrish and Nicole Depa. Parrish claimed the 123-pound title after a runner-up finish in 2017, while Depa was runner-up for the third consecutive season. In addition, they should return three other All-Americans and another four wrestlers who won at least two matches at nationals. Fans do not see Simon Fraser much during the regular season considering they are located in Canada, but you can bet they will be ready to challenge in February.
Simon Fraser’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Dominique Parrish (2018 – 1st, 2017 – 2nd, 2016 – 3rd), Nicole Depa (2018 – 2nd, 2017 – 2nd, 2016 – 2nd), Alex Hedrick (2018 – 2nd), Sunita Sewak (2018 – 7th), and Lauren Mason (2018 – 8th).
Wayland Baptist University
After an eighth-place finish last year, Wayland Baptist enters this season with a lot of promise and intrigue. Always a tough team, this year’s version returns all four All-Americans from the 2017-18 season including 170-pound national champion Brittany Marshall. Also returning from last year’s squad are five other wrestlers who won at least two matches at nationals. This alone would make them a contender along with the other teams mentioned, however, in May the lineup received a big boost when a trio of All-Americans transferred from Grays Harbor College. Paige Baynes, Desiree Zavala, and Nina Pham will begin competing for the Pioneers this season and will help give the team one of the toughest lineups in the country. Baynes was runner-up in 2017 before capturing a title last season; Zavala was third in 2017 and was a runner-up last season; Pham finished seventh last season as a freshman.
Wayland Baptist’s returning All-American wrestlers who are expected to compete this season include Brittany Marshall (2018 – 1st, 2017 – 4th, 2016 – 4th), Asia Ray (2018 – 3rd), Gabriela Ramos-Diaz (2018 – 3rd), Marina Briceno (2018 – 8th, 2016 – 8th), Paige Baynes (2018 – 1st, 2017 – 2nd, 2016 – 6th), Desiree Zavala (2018 – 2nd, 2017 – 3rd), and Nina Pham (2018 – 7th)