photo courtesy of McKendree athletics
The NWCA Multi-Divisional National Duals, one of the premier events in women’s collegiate wrestling each season, took place this past weekend on January 4th and 5th. Of the 12 women’s programs that competed in Louisville, five are ranked in the top 10, headlined by top-ranked McKendree University. This year’s tournament, again, did not disappoint and for the second year in a row, a first-time champion was crowned. Below are some of the top performances from this amazing event put on by the NWCA.
The top-ranked McKendree University Bearcats finally got over the hump and the claimed the programs first National Duals title, becoming only the sixth women’s program to do so. In 2018, the Bearcats reached the finals against Campbellsville and jumped out to a 17-4 lead after winning the first five matches before ultimately falling 24-19. Obviously, that did not sit well with head coach Sam Schmitz, and this year he had his team ready for all challengers. After receiving a first-round bye, Schmitz’s team cruised to a victory over Southern Oregon in the quarterfinals, 34-9. This set up a showdown with the rising program, Emmanuel College, in the semifinals. The Bearcats overcame some tough losses to still take six of 10 matches and win 22-17. In the finals, McKendree met up with third-seed and perennial power King University. The dual did not disappoint as the two teams combined to feature an astonishing 25 wrestlers ranked in the top-10 of their respective weight classes in the most recent Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) rankings. McKendree would again have to overcome tough losses to key individuals but ultimately took six of 10 matches to prevail 24-17 to claim the 2019 National Duals crown. Vanessa Ramirez (109 lbs), Felicity Taylor (116 lbs), Alex Glaude (155 lbs), Sydnee Kimber (170 lbs), Destane Garrick (191 lbs) all went 3-0 for McKendree. The Bearcats will be gunning for their first national championship next month, and this should provide some momentum for them heading into the final month.
King University has been one of the most successful women’s programs over the years, however, after winning four consecutive national championships from 2014-2017 have been in a bit of a rebuilding mode the last two years. The coaching staff continues to do a great job of recruiting and developing talent in the King wrestling room, and it was evident this weekend. With a lineup featuring as many as eight freshmen, King finished runner-up to McKendree at the National Duals. The road to the finals was not an easy one by any means for the fifth-ranked Tornado, and every dual was hard-fought and could have gone either way. After a first-round bye, King met up with 12th-ranked Cumberlands in the quarterfinals. Cumberlands would jump out to a big lead after taking the first three matches, and the teams would ultimately split, with each winning five. However, it was the bonus points of King that proved the difference, winning all five matches by either fall or technical fall to move on with a 24-20 victory. In the semifinals, King was pitted against fourth-ranked Wayland Baptist. Wayland Baptist boasts a roster that features seven ranked wrestlers, including the top-ranked wrestlers at 101, 171, and 191-pounds. King would prevail 26-20 to make the finals after taking six of 10 matches including five by via fall or technical fall. Ultimately, King would fall to McKendree in the finals as described above but King showed that this young team can scrap and a top-three finish at the WCWA National Championships next month is not out of the question.
Second-ranked Nicole Joseph (King) had about as dominant a weekend as one could have at the National Duals. The junior, who was a 2018 WCWA All-American with a fourth-place finish, went 3-0 on the weekend. She won all matches by via fall or technical fall, including pins over Kellyann Jimenez (Cumberlands) and Michelle Camacho (McKendree), the fifth and sixth-ranked wrestlers respectively.
Kenya Sloan (Campbellsville), a freshman from Knoxville, Tennessee, had herself a little coming out party this weekend at the National Duals. Sloan appeared to be replacing fourth-ranked Mariah Harris in the lineup at 170-pounds for the weekend. She went undefeated on the weekend in five matches, winning all via fall for technical fall without yielding a point in addition to one forfeit. Success is nothing new to her, however, as Kenya had a lot of it before starting her collegiate career. She is definitely someone to keep an eye in the upcoming weeks.
Sierra Powell (Life), a freshman from Capon Bridge, West Virginia, put on a stellar performance of wrestling as she helped 16th-ranked Life University to a seventh-place finish at the National Duals. Powell battled to a 4-0 record, all via fall or technical fall, including a fall in just 18 seconds over her opponent from Southern Oregon in the seventh-place match. Life defeated Southern Oregon 22-21 and Powell’s fall, the only for Life, was a key in them winning the dual.