Women’s Wrestling: National Champions!

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Women’s Wrestling Win their First National Dual Title

By Clay Gray
Photos by Mark Burnham

At five in the morning on Jan. 10, head coach Mike Jones and the Mat Pack piled into a few vehicles and drove to Seattle to catch a flight destined for St. Louis, Missouri. Upon arrival, the women’s wrestling team was driven in rental cars to complete the final leg of their journey to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, CliffKeen National Dual Championships in Springfield, Illinois. The tournament didn’t begin until Saturday, but the team settled into their hotel, and got an early night sleep. Friday was used for preparation, it consisted of the Mat Pack going through their pre-competition routine and for some the process known as cutting weight, wherein athletes attempt to sweat out extra water in order to bring their body weight inline with their respective weight classes. This process was easier for some than others. When it came time to step onto the scales on Saturday, one wrestler missed weight. Fortunately, Jones had brought along backup wrestlers and filled in the vacant 116-pound spot with Nikkie Brar, a third-year from Abbotsford.

SFU’s dual-team came into the National Duals ranked third behind Oklahoma City University and the King’s College of Bristol from Tennessee. Although SFU had beaten the first-ranked team earlier in the year, but the championship format varied slightly and due to OCU’s five-straight National Dual titles they entered this year’s tournament as the favourite.

It was clear the Clan was fighting an uphill battle from the start. The Clan’s only dual on Saturday had a late start, beginning at 8 pm. In the first round of the tournament, the Clan rolled over Cumberland College from Kentucky without losing a single match. The tournament venue closed for the day, sending the Mat Pack back to their hotel with high hopes for their next dual against the second-seeded King’s College. The Clan dropped the occasional match against King’s College but the Mat Pack proved to be too much for Tornadoes, downgrading them to a low-pressure system and handing them a 27–12 defeat.

The victory over the Tornadoes set the Clan up for a rematch against the first-seeded and five-time defending National Champions, the OCU Stars. The dual started off in a grim fashion for SFU. 101-pound sophomore Darby Huckle lost via technicalfall, putting the Clan in a 0–4 hole. However, the Clan rallied and went on a four-match win streak sparked by Victoria Anthony. At 109 pounds, she dished out a technical- fall win over Brianna Rahall, tying the dual at fours. In the 116- pound matchup, Brarr lost the first round, but rebounded to win the second and third rounds to take match and the lead in team points, 7–5. The 123-pound showdown pitted senior Laura Wilson against one of OCU’s seniors, Joey Miller. Miller defeated Wilson in the first round 2–5 but could not hang with the “Tofino Terror” as Wilson recovered to secure the win, 10–5. Jones commented on the situation, “OCU pulled national champions out of their usual spots in the line-up and put them up against our lesser recognized athletes Brar and Wilson. Both responded well with Brar winning all three of her bouts, two against returning national champions and All-Americans.” At 130 pounds, third year Helen Maroulis hit the mat ready to go and served OCU’s Brieana Delgado a loss by pin in less than 60 seconds, which gave SFU a 10-point lead at the halfway point in the dual, 15–5.

The Clan stumbled by dropping the 136- and 143- pound weight classes, allowing the Stars to shorten the Clan’s lead to five, 16–11. The reputation of SFU’s next wrestler, Danielle Lappage in the 155- pound weight class, preceded her, and OCU admitted defeat. In doing so, they bumped their 155-pounder up a weight class. With no one to wrestle, Lappage walked on the mat to receive her forfeit taking back the Clan’s ten-point lead, 21–11. Some of you may be asking yourself, why would the fivetime defending champions forfeit a match in the finals? The answer is to win based on criteria; in the event that a dual is tied, the officials look to see how matches were won by each team with the more dominant team coming out on top. The criterion begins with a pin count, simply who had the most pins. So, knowing that Lappage would have won by pin and that because of that they would have had to win both remaining matches by a pin anyways, OCU forfeited the match to prevent SFU from winning another pin.

With two matches left in the dual, OCU’s hopes of a sixth straight National Dual title were quickly fading. Third year Justina Di Stasio stepped up to seal the Clan’s victory and their first National Dual title with a decision victory over OCU’s three-time All-American, Brittany Roberts, 24–12. The Clan had already won the dual and the title, but there was still one more match left to be wrestled.

In the heavyweight matchup Jenna Mclatchy lost the first round 0–3 but rallied back taking the second and third rounds 5–1 and 5–0 respectively. The final score card read Clan 27, Stars 13.

When asked to comment on his team’s performance, Jones said, “This is the fourth year we have been invited to the team championships and we have placed second and third, but never won title before this event.” He attributed the success to his team, saying, “Having international class athletes like Lappage, Anthony, and Maroulis as well as returning Canadian junior national champion Justina Di Stasio had OCU adjusting their lineup trying to get around these athletes. . . . Everyone wrestled well, and to be honest, it may have been the best total team effort I have seen in the 36 years I have coached here at SFU.”

Helen Maroulis was given the Outstanding Wrestler award, but when asked how it felt to be the recipient, she stated, “Winning the OW felt good, but it didn’t compare to winning the team title. Everyone wrestled their hearts out and you could tell we were all doing it for each other. Wrestling is mainly an individual sport but this weekend wasn’t about that.” The Clan will be back in action at the traditional national championship, Jan. 25, where the wrestling women of SFU will be on the hunt for individual titles.s