photo courtesy of Simon Fraser Athletics
With the 2019 Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) National Championships less than two weeks away, we have identified five seniors who have had outstanding collegiate wrestling careers but have yet to win a national title. All five grapplers have been mainstays for their respective programs and have had a tremendous amounts of success. These young women have all reached the podium three times and four of the five have even made the finals at least once only to see their hopes dashed. While they all aspire to win a national title, it is not an easy task and odds are good that not all five will.
5) Koral Sugiyama, Campbellsville University, 123-pounds
Koral Sugiyama has been a staple in the Campbellsville lineup since she stepped on to the campus in 2015. She is a three-time All-American and has done so at three different weights. As a freshman, she entered the WCWA national tournament as the five-seed at 130-pounds. After making it to the quarterfinals where she would lose to her teammate, Shelby Hall, Sugiyama would ultimately finish seventh on the podium. Then, as a sophomore, she came into the tournament unseeded at 136-pounds however would battle her way to a third-place finish. At the 2018 tournament, she was the two-seed after an impressive regular season. She cruised to the semi-finals after four commanding victories, where she would meet up with unseeded freshman, Alex Hedrick (Simon Fraser). Sugiyama would have no answer for Hedrick and would eventually fall to fifth-place. This season she is currently ranked ninth at 123-pounds and is on a 15-match winning streak after recently winning the McKendree Bearcat Open and the King University Tornado Open. Assuming we see her compete at 123-pounds at the national championships, her quest for the elusive title will not be easy as both of last year’s finalists are back this year.
4) Tatum Sparks, University of Providence, 155-pounds
Tatum Sparks spent the first two years of her collegiate wrestling career at Southwestern Oregon Community College where she earned two All-American finishes before transferring to Providence. As an unseeded freshman at the 2016 tournament, Sparks fought her way to a sixth-place finish at 155-pounds. She followed that up her sophomore year with an eighth-place finish, again at 155-pounds. At the 2018 WCWA National Championships, Sparks entered the tournament as the two-seed. Not only did she become the first All-American ever for the University of Providence women’s wrestling team, but she also found herself in the 155-pound finals with a shot at becoming a national champion. She was pitted against top-seed, Niauni Hill (Lindenwood Belleville). Sparks would jump out to a 3-0 lead but would surrender a takedown at the end of the first period to Hill allowing her to pull within one point. After a controversial flurry of action in the second period, Sparks found herself trailing 7-5 with a less than a minute to go and that is how the match would end. This year, she is currently the second-ranked wrestler at 155-pounds in a weight class that many believe is wide open.
3) Alexis Porter, McKendree University, 143-pounds
The wrestling career of Alexis Porter has been nothing short of spectacular since arriving at McKendree University. In addition to already capturing three All-American finishes, Porter also claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 Junior World Championships. However, she is still searching for that elusive WCWA national title. As a freshman, seeded third at 155-pounds, Porter lost a close match in the semi-finals and would go on to finish fourth. The following year she would again enter as the three seed, this time at 143-pounds, and would again fall in the semi-finals before ultimately taking home fifth-place hardware. Last year as a junior, Porter entered the tournament as the two-seed and this time would finally reach the finals after yielding just a single point on the way. However, her finals opponent just happened to be one of the all-time WCWA greats in Mallory Velte (Simon Fraser). Porter would finish as runner-up after being shut down by Velte. Porter is currently ranked fourth at 143-pounds heading into the WCWA National Championships.
2) Brandy Lowe, McKendree University, 191-pounds
Brandy Lowe burst onto the women’s collegiate wrestling scene as a freshman in the 2014-15 season for Ottawa University in Kansas. She entered the national tournament as the two-seed and wrestled to her seed, finishing as runner-up at 191-pounds. Lowe transferred to McKendree after her freshman season at Ottawa. In her first trip back to nationals wrestling for McKendree, Lowe made the drop to 170-pounds and was five-seed. After a loss in the quarterfinals to Brittany Marshall (Wayland Baptist), Lowe battled back to the third-place match, a rematch with Marshall. This time she was victorious, pinning Marshall at the three-minute mark. Last year, Lowe moved back up to 191-pounds and would reach the semi-finals before falling to the top-seed and eventual champion, Paige Baynes (Grays Harbor). Again, Lowe would battle back for third-place and her third All-American finish. She is currently ranked third at 191-pounds and will most likely have to go through 2018 national champion, Paige Baynes, if she wants to end her career on top.
1) Nicole Depa, Simon Fraser, 136-pounds
Nicole Depa has wrestled in the WCWA National Championships three times and three times, she has made the finals. Unfortunately, she has walked away as the runner-up each time. Unseeded as a freshman in 2016, Depa fought her way to the 130-pound finals before falling to top-seed Natalia Hinojo (Oklahoma City). The following year, she overcame having to re-wrestle the 2nd period of her semifinals match from the previous day before falling to eventual four-time WCWA national champion, Kayla Miracle (Campbellsville), in the finals. In 2018, Depa entered the tournament in a loaded 130-pound bracket undefeated as the three-seed. Outscoring her opponents 44-4 on her way to the finals where she would again lose to a Campbellsville opponent, this time Grace Bullen. She is a gritty competitor and should be considered the favorite to claim the top spot in her final showing at the national championships. She is currently the top-ranked wrestler at 136-pounds and should enter the tournament as the top-seed as well.