photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com
Yesterday we discussed some of the wrestlers from the men’s tournaments in Fargo that had exceeded our pre-tournament expectations, so now it’s time to move onto the girls. Unfortunately, high school wrestling for girls does not have the following that the boys have…yet, but here at TOM we try to keep close tabs on the happenings on the girls side. With that being said, we are purposely not mentioning most of the champions from either age group since many of them have already won Fargo or placed highly at some of the most prestigious national tournaments. Here are six wrestlers that turned in excellent performances that raised their stock going forward in their high school careers.
Tiffani Baublitz (Pennsylvania)
The only Junior champion on our list is Kennard-Dale’s Tiffani Baublitz. For the most part, the story of the Junior tournament was the graduated seniors who captured titles. 10 of the 14 champions were from the high school Class of 2019. Two of the other underclassmen that won titles (Sage Mortimer – Utah and Kennedy Blades – Illinois) earned U16 championships a year ago. Last year, Tiffani was third at the U16 national championships at 144 lbs. Her performances earlier in the spring suggested that Baublitz may be on the verge of a breakout here in Fargo. At the Cadet World Team Trials, Tiffani dropped a pair of matches in the best-of-three finals to California’s super-freshman Amit Elor. Later she also competed at the Junior World Team Trials and took fourth in a 68 kg weight class that was mainly comprised of women that had already graduated from high school.
Baublitz’s Fargo started with a pair of falls in her first two matches, followed by a 6-1 victory over returning Junior All-American Hunter Robinson (Texas), who has already signed with Grand View. To earn her spot in the finals, Tiffani had to get by Washington state runner-up Alexandria Sanford. That proved to be easy work for Baublitz, who pinned Sanford after only 1:33 in the first period. Another Washington native, Kiley Hubby, was now the only one standing between Tiffani and her stop sign. Hubby was also a Washington state finalist and a U16 national finalist from 2018. Baublitz scored twice in the first period to go up 4-0 at the break and was able to hold on to win 4-2 and let everyone in the nation know that she would be the girl to beat at 152 for the next two years.
Viktorya Torres (Washington)
We’ve already mentioned a couple of Washington state finalists and here is another, Viktorya Torres. Viktorya was a member of the Team Washington squad that finally knocked off California and captured their first Junior Women’s team title. Torres also met a teammate from Washington in the Junior finals. Though she fell 8-4 to Kaylee Moore, Torres helped solidify her spot as one of the top wrestlers in the Class of 2020. Her journey to the semis was a quick and painless affair, as she did not surrender a point along the way and outscored her opponents 31-0, along with a pin. For Viktorya to make the finals, she needed to get by Illinois’ Louisa Schwab a 2017 U16 national champion and a Junior runner-up in 2018. Torres was able to jump out to a 5-0 lead and coasted to a 5-2 win, which vaulted her into the finals against Moore.
A finals berth in Fargo put a cap on what was already an excellent spring and summer for Torres. At Junior Folkstyle Nationals, Viktorya upset two-time Junior National Champion Xochitl Mota-Pettis (Texas) just to make the finals. She would win the tournament after shutting out 2018 U16 National Champion Mia Macaluso (New York). Later, at the Junior WTT’s, Torres was sixth at 57 kg.
Nichole Moore (Kansas)
What a tournament Nichole Moore had, taking third at 112 lb in Juniors. Moore teched her first two opponents before getting tested by an upstart, rising sophomore Torieonna Buchanan (Indiana), who was a double AA last week. Moore led 6-0 at the break and fended off a late-charging Buchanan to advance to the semi’s where she met Josie Bartishofski (Wisconsin). Moore would lead again at the break, but this time dropped a 6-4 heartbreaker to Bartishofski. Nichole bounced back though to get a win over the U16 champion Alexis Janiak (Illinois) in the consolation semis. Moore needed a score with only 28 seconds remaining to edge Janiak 7-6. For third place, Nichole survived a 13-10 shootout against the dangerous Trinity Berry (Virginia). Earlier in the tournament, Berry had pinned the top two seeds at 112 lbs, Kiersten Bush (Utah) and Jaslynn Gallegos (Colorado).
Moore competed in but did not place, at the Junior WTT’s. She picked up three wins along the way in the 50 kg weight class before her elimination. In her most recent competition before Fargo, Moore went 5-1 at the Junior Duals. Her loss came to Autumn Flanigan (Missouri) who was upset in the first round by Buchanan.
Heaven Fitch (North Carolina)
Last year, Heaven Fitch became only the second girl to place in Fargo, at any age group, when she was eighth at 100 lbs in the U16 division. This time she wasn’t content with just getting on the podium. In fact, in the quarterfinals, she was ever-so-close to knocking off Cadet World bronze medalist Sterling Dias (Nevada) at 94 lbs. Fitch held an early 4-0 lead after a pair of exposures. With only 15 seconds left in the match and the score knotted at 4-4 (in favor of Dias on criteria), she was able to get another two from exposure and appeared to be the winner. Dias’ corner challenged and it was deemed that Dias should get two herself, which gave her the win at 6-6. Not discouraged by such a close loss to a tough opponent, Fitch reeled off four straight wins to take third. The third of those four wins came over Cadet World Team member Alex Szkotnicki (Maryland), a highly-touted incoming freshman.
After the U16 tournament, Fitch entered Junior, as well. After a second-round loss to the eventual finalist Rayana Sahagun (Michigan), Heaven went on another roll through the consi’s. One of her four straight wins came by fall over Isabella Morales (Washington), the finalist on the other half of her bracket in U16. Next, she emerged victorious 10-10 over a 2018 Junior AA Estrella Dorado Marin (Colorado) in the consolation quarters. Fitch would clinch fifth place after a 15-5 tech of Amanda Newcomb. Heaven’s fifth-place finish made her the first North Carolina girl to ever place at the Junior level.
Faith Cole (Missouri)
Coming into Fargo, Faith Cole had been listed as one of TOM’s top 25 wrestlers in the Class of 2022, so it’s not as if she came out of nowhere. Cole is mentioned because of the way she breezed through the U16 tournament and most of the Junior bracket, too. At U16, Faith registered a pin and a tech before downing California state third-place finisher Adrienna Turner, 10-2. Next up was returning U16 finalist Ava Bayless (Pennsylvania), whom Faith ended up teching in the semis. Her finals opponent was an imposing one in Alexis Janiak (Illinois). Alexis had recently earned All-Tournament honors at the Junior Duals after going undefeated and pinning or teching all of her competition. Cole never seemed to be in any trouble and won the stop sign by defeating Janiak, 8-2.
In the first round of the Junior tournament, Cole teched Delaware Valley-signee Tatyana Ortiz (Pennsylvania) 14-4, before edging Washington state finalist Emily Mendez, 6-4. She then teched a pair of returning U16 All-Americans Greta Gustafson (California) and Tehani Soares (Nevada) to get into the finals. Unfortunately for Cole, she ran into one of the finest women’s competitors ever to grace the mats in Fargo, in Emily Shilson (Minnesota). Like so many before her, Cole was teched in the first period by Shilson, 10-0. That loss can’t take the shine off of a hugely impressive couple of days for Cole in Fargo.
Haley Ward (Missouri)
Another Missouri wrestler on this list and why not? Missouri had an excellent showing at the U16 tournament, coming in third with four finalists and two champions. The U16 tournament featured some incredible incoming freshman like Szkotnicki and Destiny Rodriguez (Oregon), but Haley Ward may have gotten overlooked. Haley was a U15 WTT’s runner-up up at 62 kg’s earlier this year. She also was fourth at Folkstyle Nationals’ U16 division where she fell to fellow Missouri native Maddie Kubicki for third. Kubicki is also a rising freshman that made the finals in Fargo.
While in Fargo, Haley only needed a minute and 59 seconds to pick up two falls and a tech, which put her in the semifinals at 127 lbs. There Ward would shut out Devin Patton (Texas), winner of the 122 lb bracket at U16 Folkstyle Nationals and a fourth-place finisher in the state of Texas. The win propelled Ward into the finals where she would face off with Korina Blades (Illinois). Ward actually led Blades at the break, but would end up falling 2-2 on criteria. That would be the only time in the tournament that anyone came within ten points of Korina.