photo courtesy of Lakeland athletics
If you have been following the women’s college wrestling season this year (and why would you not), you may have noticed quite the youth movement that has occurred. Many extremely talented, freshman lady-grapplers have burst onto the scene this year in dominating fashion, and it has shown in the results and the rankings. In the final rankings released before the 2019 WCWA National Championships, there is an astonishing 34 freshman ranked in the top-10 of their respective weight classes, including three weights with a freshman leading the charge atop the rankings. To put this in perspective, there were only 20 ranked in the top-10 in 2018 with zero freshmen ranked number one. This year’s crop of young talent is not only capable of getting on the podium, but it also would not be a surprise to see as many as three or four freshman national champions at the conclusion of this year’s tournament. Below is a look at five who could have the biggest impact.
Alleida Martinez, Menlo College, 109-pounds, #1
Martinez has done nothing but dominate all year as she has risen to the top spot in the rankings at 109-pounds. She is undefeated against collegiate competition on the season, including titles at the Cliff Keen Invite, Menlo Open, and the Oregon Classic Open. Alleida has shown a propensity to rack up bonus-point victories, even against top competition such as when she pinned 2018 WCWA runner-up Maria Vidales (Emmanuel). Martinez has been on multiple age-level world teams and is a two-time Cadet World Championships medalist. She is considered a heavy favorite to capture a title at the WCWA National Championships.
Gracie Figueroa, Menlo College, 116-pounds, #1
Figueroa has not missed a beat since kicking off her collegiate career, quickly establishing herself as a dominant force in women’s college wrestling. I doubt many are surprised by this considering her dominance at Fargo, winning five times, and competing on four age-level world teams. Like her teammate Martinez, Figueroa is also undefeated against collegiate competition. She has also won every match via pin or technical fall, including multiple wins over nationally rank opponents. She too is considered a heavy favorite to bring home a title from the WCWA National Championships.
Jayden Laurent, Lakeland University, 143-pounds, #1
Laurent surprised many when she decided to stay close to home and wrestle for the newly formed Lakeland University women’s wrestling team. Based on her results this year, it is safe to say she made the right choice. Jayden is undefeated on the season with titles at the Adrian Open, Bob Kellogg Open, Waldorf University Open, and the McKendree Bearcat Open. She has seen herself rise to the top-ranked wrestler at 143-pounds, which now has freshman ranked in four out of the top five spots. Laurent is just as good a bet as anyone at that weight to take home the title.
Ashlynn Ortega, King University, 143-pounds, #2
Ortega is another freshman dominating at 143-pounds this season. She is currently the second-ranked wrestler at 143-pounds, behind the aforementioned Jayden Laurent. She is now 17-1 on the season including a title at the Emmanuel Open and a runner-up finish at the Missouri Valley Open. She also owns wins over Alexis Porter (McKendree) and Kayla Marano (Emmanuel) who finished second and third respectively at this weight in 2018 but have both dropped to 136-pounds for the 2019 tournament. At this point, 143-pounds is wide open and Ortega is definitely in the mix to capture the top spot on the podium.
Serena Woldring, Simon Fraser University, 191-pounds, #2
Woldring has done nothing but impress all season long and could be on a collision course with returning WCWA National Champion, Paige Baynes (Wayland Baptist). Woldring ascended to the number two spot in rankings early in the season and has not let up since. Woldring has brought home individual titles from the SFU International Open, Mike Clock Open, Spokane Open, Menlo Open, Oregon Classic Open, and the Cascades Classic. She has also scored a win over 2018 U23 World bronze medalist, Kori Bullock (McKendree). Serena has shown the ability to end matches early including in her many wins over ranked opponents. She is definitely in the mix for a spot in the finals this weekend and could even come away a national champion, however, will face stiff competition from Baynes and three-time All-American Brandy Lowe (McKendree).