photo courtesy of Sandy Slater
It was a historic year for the United States at the 2018 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, as the USA set a new record with 12 Senior World medals across all three styles. The women’s team were major contributors to that total with four medals, including three from former competitors of the Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA). Of the 10 women who competed for the USA, six of them were alumni of the WCWA. This does not include two-time World silver medalist, Alli Ragan, who was supposed to wrestle at 59 kg but withdrew due to injury. Five out of the six WCWA alumni competitors placed in the top-five in their respective weight classes. Ironically, the lone former WCWA wrestler who failed to place or medal only happened to be two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist, Helen Maroulis, who was upset in her first match. Maroulis, who competed in the WCWA for Missouri Baptist and Simon Fraser, is one of only four women to win four WCWA national championships.
While not all women competitors choose the route of wrestling in college, it is safe to say that the continued growth and emergence of the WCWA is having a tremendous impact on the development of women’s wrestling in the United States. Below is a look at the five women who formerly competed in the WCWA who either medaled or placed top-five in the world at their weights for the USA in 2018.
Sarah Hildebrandt – 53 kg, silver medal
WIN Jyldyz Eshimova (Kazakhstan), 5-1
WIN Anzhela Dorogan (Azerbaijan), 15-9
WIN Diana Mary Weicker (Canada), technical fall 10-0
LOSS Haruna Okuno (Japan), technical fall 11-0
Sarah Hildebrandt overcame some adversity to make her second World Team this year. After finishing 10th at the 2016 World Championships, she suffered an injury in 2017 and was unable to make the team. Healthy again, Sarah not only made the 2018 team but also battled her way to a silver medal at 53 kg. She reeled off three impressive victories on her way to the finals before falling to her Japan opponent in the in the finals. Hildebrandt wrestled for King University and after runner-up WCWA finishes in 2012 and 2013, won back-to-back national titles in 2014 and 2015. She was also a major factor in King University’s first two WCWA team titles.
Jacarra Winchester – 55 kg, 5th place
WIN Ramona Galambos (Hungary), 12-1
WIN Tetyana Kit (Ukraine), 4-2
LOSS Zalina Sidakova (Belarus), 2-1
LOSS Lianna Montero Herrera (Cuba), 5-2
Jacarra Winchester representing the USA at the 2018 World Championships may have been a bit of a surprise to many; however, it was no fluke. She earned her first World Team spot by not only winning the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament but then taking two consecutive matches from 2017 World bronze medalist, Becka Leathers, in convincing fashion. In Budapest, she put together two straight victories before losing a tight one to Zalinas Sidakova (Belarus), a 2012 World silver medalist. Ultimately, Winchester would finish fifth in her first appearance at the World Championships. Winchester competed in college for Missouri Valley, where she was a WCWA National Champion in 2015 and a runner-up in 2013. Missouri Valley is one of only six schools to have won a WCWA team national championship, having done so in 2004 and 2005.
Mallory Velte – 62 kg, bronze medal
WIN Sara Dal Col (Italy), tech. fall 10-0
WIN Jackeline Renteria Castillo (Colombia), 14-6
WIN Gantuya Enkhbat (Mongolia), technical fall 14-4
LOSS Taybe Yusein (Bulgaria), pin 2:17
WIN Lais Nunes de Oliveira (Brazil), 2-1
Mallory Velte made her second appearance at the World Championships in as many years and is less than a year removed from finishing her collegiate wrestling career. After failing to win a match at the 2017 World Championships, Velte impressively battled her way to a bronze medal in Budapest. After three dominating victories against Italy, Colombia, and Mongolia to start the tournament, she lost to eventual champion, Taybe Yusein (Bulgaria) in the semifinals. Yusein is a five-time medalist at the World Championships, having won a gold, two silver, and two bronze medals. Velte would bounce back in the Bronze medal match to defeat her Brazilian opponent in a tightly contested scrap. Velte was as dominating of a wrestler you will find in women’s college wrestling. She won three consecutive WCWA national championships for Simon Fraser after finishing fourth as a freshman. However, I think her best wrestling is still ahead of her.
Forrest Molinari – 65 kg, 5th place
WIN Leidy Izquierdo Mendez (Colombia), 4-0
LOSS Danielle Lappage (Canada), 6-2
WIN Maria Kuznetsova (Russia), pin 5:25
LOSS Iryna Netreba (Azerbaijan), 1-1
Forrest Molinari had to overcome many obstacles to make her first U.S. Senior World Team. Her wrestling career once thought to be in jeopardy due to health issues; however, she found a way to overcome them and get back on the mat. At the 2018 US Open, Forrest made it to the finals where Julia Salata shut her down by the score of 5-0. She would earn a rematch against Salata after winning the World Team Trials Challenge Tournament. This time Molinari would flip the script on her former King University teammate and coach by defeating Salata two matches to none and by a combined score of 15-2 at Final X Bethlehem. In Budapest, Molinari would place fifth after a heartbreaking loss to Azerbaijan on criteria in the bronze medal match. Molinari started her college career off at Missouri Baptist and finished third as a freshman before transferring to King where she would earn three more All-American honors, including a national championship.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock – 68 kg, bronze medal
WIN Yudaris Sanchez Rodriguez (Cuba), technical fall 10-0
WIN Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia), technical fall 10-0
LOSS Koumba Larroque (France), 2-1
WIN Olivia Di Bacco (Canada), 7-4
Tamyra Stock was also competing in her second World Championships in as many years. After a disappointing ninth-place finish in 2017, this year she walked away with a bronze medal and was very close to wrestling for gold. She started the tournament out on a tear, earning two technical fall victories, including over two-time World Champion and Olympic bronze medalist Battsetseg Soronzonbold (Mongolia). However, Tamyra would suffer a gut-wrenching loss in the semifinals over 2017 World bronze medalist, Koumba Larroque (France), and would ultimately settle for bronze. Mensah-Stock spent her collegiate days wrestling for Wayland Baptist University where she won two WCWA national championships and two additional All-American honors. I truly believe Mensah-Stock will be our next woman to win a gold medal.
Other Notable WCWA Alumni at the 2018 World Championships:
Grace Bullen (Norway) – 57 kg, 5th place
Bullen competed for one season at Campbellsville University where she claimed the 130-pound crown at the 2018 WCWA National Championships and helped propel the Tigers to their first team title. It appears she has headed back to Norway for the foreseeable future and will not be competing in the WCWA this season.
Justina Di Stasio (Canada) – 72 kg, gold medal
Former Simon Fraser University wrestler and current assistant wrestling coach captured her first world title at the 2018 World Championships after a bronze medal in 2017. As a Simon Fraser wrestler (2010-2014), Di Stasio was a four-time All-American and three-time WCWA National Champion.
Danielle Lappage (Canada) – 65 kg, silver medal
Lappage, also a former Simon Fraser University wrestler, earned her first World medal at the 2018 World Championship with a runner-up finish at 65 kg. As a Simon Fraser wrestler (2009-2013), Lappage was a four-time finalist and three-time WCWA National Champion.