Left and center photos by Richard Immel, USA Wrestling, right photo by Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com
With just three weeks remaining until women’s college wrestling converges on Oklahoma City for the 2018 WCWA Championships, athletes across the United States and Canada are making preparations to be at their best in early February. The question of who will win a WCWA title is on everyone’s mind, but this year, with the addition of the Patricia Miranda Medal, there is an additional storyline to discuss. Evaluating the field based on the award’s four criteria, record, dominance, past credentials, and additional accomplishments, we have identified an initial list of wrestlers to watch. This is by no means an exhaustive list and our panel of voters will be free to select others if they make themselves known in the next few weeks. However, there are some clear front-runners to win the first edition of the Miranda Medal.
Kayla Miracle (Campbellsville), 136
While competing as high as 155 pounds, the senior and three-time WCWA champion has led her team to a National Duals title already this season. Now she seeks to become the fourth four-time WCWA title winner as the Tigers seek their first team title. In addition to being a dominant force in the college ranks, Miracle has a pair of Junior world bronze medals to her credit, won the Dave Schultz Memorial in November, finished fifth at the Under 23 World Championships that month, and was a member of the 2017 US World Cup team, going 2-2 at 58 kg. With a chance to cap her career and ensure her spot in the sport’s history, Miracle might be the favorite.
Mallory Velte (Simon Fraser), 143
After finishing fourth as a freshman in 2014 at 130, Velte did not compete at the WCWA level in 2015. Since she returned, the senior has staked her claim at the top of this weight class. WCWA titles in 2016 and 2017 made sure of that. In addition, Velte earned a spot on her first Senior world team last summer, competing at the World Championships in Paris. Mallory was also a member of Team USA at the World Cup in early December. Simon Fraser is geographically isolated from many of the other top teams in the WCWA which means we don’t see Velte and her crew as much in the regular season. However, she’ll lead her top-ranked squad into Oklahoma City looking to end her college days in style.
Cody Pfau (Emmanuel), 109
While wrestling for Oklahoma City, Pfau was fourth in 2014, then won titles at 109 in 2015 and 2016. Her finals victim in 2016 was Breonah Neal (King) who would claim the crown last season as Pfau redshirted. Now in her senior season at Emmanuel, Pfau has already notched a win over another wrestler we’ll see on this list, two-time WCWA champion and three-time finalist Marina Doi (King). Doi’s titles have come at 101 pounds, but she bumped up to take on Pfau at the National Duals. The Lion got the better of it, pinning Doi in 4:15. Cody made three Junior world teams and was also a member of Team USA for November’s Under 23 World Championship.
Marina Doi (King), 101
As a freshman in 2015, Doi made the WCWA final only to be denied a title by four-time champion Emily Webster (Oklahoma City). Once Webster was out of the way, Marina has reigned supreme. WCWA titles in 2016 and 2017, last year’s coming when she beat her twin sister Regina in the finals, put Doi on this list, though she has taken a couple of losses up at 109, the one to Pfau and another to the fourth-ranked 109 in the country, Maria Vidales (Emmanuel). While her size limits her opportunities at the Senior level, the senior has two trips to the Cadet world finals on her resume, winning in 2012, has two more age group world bronze medals as well, and made six Cadet or Junior world teams in all.
Others to watch:
Payten Smith (Simon Fraser) is the defending champion at 191 pounds. She has finished third, second, and first in three trips to the WCWA tournament. Natalia Hinojo (Oklahoma City) won the 130-pound crown in 2016, but has seen a limited schedule this season and lost twice at the Bearcat Open yesterday. Abby Lloyd (Simon Fraser) is a three-time All-American and holds the number one spot at 116. Dominique Parish (Simon Fraser) was a WCWA runner-up last year, a member of the 2017 Under 23 world team, and is ranked number one at 123. Megan Black (McKendree) is a three-time All-American with silver medals the last two years. She, too, competed at the Under 23 World Championships in November. She holds the top spot at 130. Niauni Hill (Lindenwood-Belleville) was second to Senior world teamer Tamyra Mensah (Wayland Baptist) last season, Hill’s third top-eight finish at the WCWA tournament. She is on top at 155. Two-time All-American Brittany Marshall (Wayland Baptist) is your top ranked 170 pounder.
One final wrestler that voters are going to have to consider is Grace Bullen (Campbellsville). She may not be a contender given that this is her first year as a WCWA athlete and we have many great candidates. However, the Norwegian international won both the Junior and Senior European titles last year, claimed a Junior world bronze and is a past Cadet world champion. Bullen, whose family is originally from Eritrea, lost to Miracle at the Dave Schultz, but she is one to keep an eye on going forward.