Two future Iowa Hawkeyes win titles at USA Wrestling's women's nationals

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

There will be a strong Iowa wrestling presence in Bulgaria this August.

Reese Larramendy, an Iowa recruit, and Adaugo Nwachukwu, a freshman at Iowa Wesleyan, both made USA Wrestling's U20 women's freestyle world team after winning this weekend's trials event at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

Larramendy, a Nevada native who wrestles at Wyoming Seminary, went 6-0 to earn the world team spot at 65 kilograms (143 pounds). She won four matches Friday to reach Saturday's finals, then swept the best-of-three finals over Elleni Johnson — 10-0 in the first match, 10-0 in the second — to secure her first age-level world team spot.

Nwachukwu, a California native who won an NAIA national title this past season, will rep the U.S. at 62 kilos (136). She also won four matches on Friday to make the finals, then edged Skylar Hattendorf, two matches to one, for the world team spot, rallying to win matches two and three by scores of 11-1 and 10-0 after losing match one, 16-11.

As such, both Larramendy and Nwachukwu will both compete at the U20 world championships, set for August 15-21 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Reese Larramendy, center, made the U20 women's freestyle world team this weekend in Texas. Larramendy wrestles at Wyoming Seminary and signed to join the Iowa women's wrestling program.

For Larramendy, her appearance on the U20 world team only bolsters expectations for her Iowa career. She is part of the inaugural recruiting class for the Iowa women's wrestling program. Before this weekend, she was considered the No. 18 overall high school women's wrestler in the country by USA Wrestling. Her stock will surely rise.

For Nwachukwu, this is the continuation of a stellar freshman campaign with Iowa Wesleyan. She followed her NAIA title by taking third at the U.S. Open last weekend, which qualified her for the Senior-level world team trials, which will be contested at Coralville's Xtream Arena later this month.

Iowa's growing girls and women's wrestling presence has exploded in recent years. Many in-state colleges now offer women's wrestling, and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced in January that they'll offer girls wrestling as an official sport starting next season.

The next step of that continual growth has been increasing the level of talent in the state. The performances from Larramendy and Nwachukwu this weekend prove that's trending upward, too.

Iowa Wesleyan University wrestler  Adaugo Nwachukwu Wednesday April 13, 2022  in the Willis Wrestling facility in Mount Pleasant.

Results and takeaways from Iowa wrestlers at USA Wrestling's women's freestyle national championships

USA Wrestling hosted its women's freestyle national championship events this weekend, which featured a variety of age-level competitions. The highlights were the U20 and U17 world team trial events, but the U15 and U23 national tournaments were also contested.

And many wrestlers with Iowa ties — high-schoolers, incoming Hawkeye recruits, Iowa natives — produced stellar performances across all levels.

Below are the biggest highlights from an eventual three days in Texas:

Iowa's women's wrestling recruits continue to look great

There was a heavy Hawkeye presence inside the Will Rogers Memorial Center on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Head coach Clarissa Chun made the trip and roamed the floors, and she had to have been pleased by what she saw from her recruits.

In addition to Larramendy making the U20 world team, five other future Hawkeye wrestlers turned in spectacular performances this weekend.

Nyla Valencia, from California's Ann Sobrato High School, competed at 50 kilos (110) in both the U20 and U23 competitions. She went 13-1 across both tournaments: 8-1 in U20, where she took third — she won six consecutive wrestleback matches after losing in the round-of-16 — then 5-0 in U23, where she took first.

Valencia's performance was punctuated by a massive 8-5 semifinal win over Emily Shilson, an Augsburg star who's won world titles at the Cadet, Junior and U23 levels. Valencia scored eight unanswered points in the second period to turn a 3-0 hole into perhaps the biggest win of the tournament.

On Sunday morning, Valencia swept the best-of-three finals series over Nina Pham, a recent finalist at the Senior women's national championships. Valencia won match one, 19-8, then won match two, 10-0.

Nyla Valencia, from California's Bulldog Wrestling Club, won USA Wrestling's High School National Recruiting Showcase at 106 pounds back in March. Valencia is ranked third nationally at 106 pounds by USA Wrestling.

Brianna and Emilie Gonzalez, twin lightweights from California, both competed in the same U20 bracket as Valencia. Brianna went 5-2 and took fifth, losing in the semifinals, then again to Valencia in the consolation semifinals. Emilie went 2-2, losing in the quarterfinals, then to Valencia (yes, again) in the bloodround.

Nanea Estrella, fresh off a Senior women's national title last weekend, made the U20 finals at 59 kilos (130), but lost the best-of-three finals series to Savannah Cosme, a 2021 Cadet world team member. Cosme won the first match by fall, then the second match, 7-1. Estrella won her first four matches by a combined 41-6 to make the finals.

Ella Schmit, a three-time state champ from Bettendorf, took third in Estrella's bracket, posting a 7-1 overall record. Schmit actually lost her first match to Cosme, then recorded seven straight pins for third — including a first-period pin over New Hampshire's Jaclyn Dehney, considered the 15th overall women's wrestler in America by USA Wrestling.

Finally, Bella Mir, a four-time state champ from Nevada and professional fighter, took sixth in Larramendy's bracket. Mir actually lost to Larramendy, 11-0, in the round-of-16, then won four consecutive wrestleback matches before finishing sixth.

Members of the Iowa women's wrestling program posed for a picture at USA Wrestling's women's national championships in Texas.

South Winneshiek grad Felicity Taylor wins U23 national title

Felicity Taylor, a South Winneshiek graduate, followed up her U.S. Open title last week with a U23 national title in Texas. She went 5-0, with four technical falls and a pin, and outscored her opponents 44-2 en route to gold. She swept Samara Chavez in the best-of-three finals on Sunday morning — first by fall, then by a 10-0 technical fall.

Over the last two weeks, Taylor, a U23 world team member in 2019, is a combined 8-0 with five technical falls, three pins and two separate age-level national titles. She'll carry a ton of good momentum into Coralville's Xtream Arena later this month, where she'll take aim at the next step toward her first Senior women's freestyle world team.

Felicity Taylor, left, wrestles Melanie Mendoza at 53 kg during the first session of the USA Wrestling Olympic Trials, Friday, April 2, 2021, at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.

Iowa girls become All-Americans at U15, U17 world team trials

All of the Iowa high-schoolers competing this weekend struck out when it came to qualifying for a world team, but a bunch earned All-American honors between the U17 and U15 competitions this weekend.

Decorah sophomore Naomi Simon, a two-time girls state champ, made the semifinals of the U17 trials before taking sixth at 73 kilos (160). She pinned her first three foes before losing to Washington's Amarisa Manuel, who's ranked No. 9 nationally at 152 by USA Wrestling and made the U17 world team. (Simon is ranked No. 9 at 164.)

Charles City junior Lilly Luft, another two-time state champ, took seventh in the U17 trials. She went 6-2 at 61 kilos (134) and won three straight in the wrestlebacks after losing in the round-of-16. She notched a 10-0 win over Massachusetts' Daniella Nugent, who's ranked No. 9 nationally at 132 by USA Wrestling. (Luft is ranked No. 13 at 132.)

Underwood's Molly Allen and Sigourney-Keota's Reanah Utterback, both freshman state champs at this past season's girls state tournament, earned All-American honors at the U15 national tournament, at the same weight, 50 kilos. Allen went 6-2 and took fifth, Utterback went 5-2 for seventh. Allen beat Utterback, 4-1, in the wrestlebacks.

Iowa Valley's Emma Peach, another freshman state champ in January, took fifth at 66 kilos (145). She made semifinals and finished 2-2. Two Iowa middle-schoolers also made the U15 podium: Katie Biscoglia went 3-1 for third at 39 kilos (86) and Skylar Slade went 5-1 for third at 66 kilos. She beat Peach in the wrestlebacks, 10-2.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.