Left photo by Richard Immel, Right photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
This weekend in Oklahoma City many of the nation’s best will gather to compete in the US Marine Corps Girls Folkstyle National Championships, Junior Women’s Folkstyle Duals, and the Women’s Under 23 World Team Trials at the Cox Convention Center. Friday, March 23rd will see the field assembled in pursuit of Under 23 world team spots begin their quest while the finals are set for Saturday afternoon under the new two-day format. Online registration has closed, but there could be more entries on site. Already this field includes a Senior-level world medalist, WCWA champions, age group world medalists, and high school stars ready to take aim at older competition. You can watch all the action, for all the events, on FloWrestling. Before wrestling begins, here are five things we’ll be keeping an eye on this weekend.
The return of Becka Leathers continues
The 2017 world bronze medalist got two matches under her belt at the World Cup last weekend, her first time competing since the World Championships last August. Leathers still has college eligibility but did not compete in the WCWA during the 2017-18 season. In Japan, she split her bouts, falling to world silver medalist Mayu Mukaida (Japan) after winning against Canada. Team USA finished fourth in the competition. Now, Leathers has her sites set on another world medal, this time in the Under 23 age group. Becka is registered at 57 kg, one weight up from her usual 55, and looks like a heavy favorite based on the online entries.
Kayla Miracle looks to continue long run of success
The wrestling season never really ends. Miracle won her fourth WCWA title, clinching Campbellsville’s first team title in the process, took home the inaugural Patricia Miranda Medal as the year’s top wrestler, then promptly went to Sweden to get in some international work. Kayla won the Klippan Lady Open at 62 kg which is the weight she is registered at here. Competing at 59 kg, she was 2-2 at the World Cup last weekend, topping Sweden and Canada before coming up short against Japan and Mongolia. Miracle won a spot on the Under 23 world team last year, finishing fifth in Poland, just missing a fifth age group World Championship medal. While there are a couple of other WCWA All-Americans in her bracket, Kayla is also a heavy favorite to earn her way to Romania.
Alex Liles seeks a chance to earn her first age group world medal
One of the more intriguing aspects of this weekend’s competition is that high school seniors who are at least 18 years old will be allowed to compete against a field that will include Senior-level athletes and college stars. Liles is one of those that will take on the challenge after wrapping up her fourth Texas state title recently. Despite many impressive performances domestically, Liles was not able to make the Junior world team last spring. She did make her second trip to the Cadet World Championships but left without a medal once again. Alex will head the Olympic Training Center to continue pursuing her international goals once she graduates from high school. However, it can be difficult to gauge how close she is to those dreams. Unless another contender enters late, Liles toughest competition at 59 kg may well come from Emma Bruntil, who was third at last year’s Under 23 World Team Trials, losing only to Miracle. These two met in the Fargo finals back in 2016 with Liles walking away the victor. I’d like to see Liles against a top end WCWA athlete with senior level experience to gauge her progress, but there isn’t one entered right now.
Can anyone stop Cody Pfau at 50 kg?
Pfau has been a fixture on age group world teams making her fourth when she earned a place on the Under 23 team last fall. She has finished fifth twice at the Junior level and recently wrapped up her WCWA career by winning her third title. Cody, too, will have her sites set on her first medal and should be considered the favorite this weekend. Two names on the early entry list stick out as possible leaders of the chase pack. Sarah Allen was a four-time WCWA All-American, finishing as high as second, concluding her college career in 2017. She did fall to Pfau 13-2 at December’s Dave Schultz Memorial, however. Alleida Martinez is a high school senior from Selma, California, who owns a pair of Cadet world medals, four California state high school championships, and four Fargo stop signs. She is another of the young guns who will get to measure themselves to see where they stand.
Can Jayden Laurent compete with proven veterans?
Forrest Molinari won a spot on last year’s Under 23 world team at 69 kg and competed at the World Cup last weekend where she defeated 2015 world champion Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia) at 65 kg ending the event 2-0. A three-time WCWA top-four finisher, including a title in 2016 and a runner-up finish in 2017, Forrest has gotten a lot of reps on the Senior-level circuit recently and it seems to be paying off. She will be a heavy favorite here. Francesca Giorgio, who finished third for Simon Fraser at this year’s WCWA tournament for her third consecutive top-four finish, might be the next most accomplished athlete in the field, but far more intriguing is Laurent. Jayden passes the eye test with flying colors but has yet to make an age group world team. She has won the Pan American Championships, first as a Cadet, then a Junior, the past two years and seems like she has breakout potential. However, this is a big jump. Both Giorgio and Molinari will be stiff tests if Laurent ends up facing them. Still, it will be interesting to see how those matches go. If Jayden can compete with that level of competition right now, it will only show further the considerable potential she has.