Iowa's Bella Mir, Iowa Wesleyan's Adaugo Nwachukwu qualify for USA Wrestling's Junior freestyle world team

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

USA Wrestling’s women’s freestyle national championships wrapped up Sunday at The Podium in Spokane, Washington, with the Junior world team trials.

The Junior division — commonly called U20 internationally — turned into another showcase event for the Iowa women’s wrestling program. Bella Mir led the Hawkeye women by securing a spot on the Junior world team at 68 kilograms (150 pounds).

Additionally, some incoming Iowa women’s wrestling recruits further revealed the program’s bright future, two of Iowa’s top high-schoolers earned All-American honors, and Adaugo Nwachukwu, a U23 national champ earlier this weekend, led a contingent of Iowa Wesleyan women by making her second consecutive Junior world team.

Here’s a rundown of what happened:

MORE:Felicity Taylor, Adaugo Nwachukwu win U23 titles; Slade, Biscoglia lead Iowa at Cadet world team trials

Bella Mir qualifies for the Junior freestyle world team over the weekend.

Bella Mir makes Junior world team, leads Iowa women’s wrestlers

In all, seven Iowa women’s wrestlers competed in USA Wrestling’s Junior world team trials event, and six finished on the podium, including four finalists. Bella Mir led the Hawkeyes by earning a spot on the Junior world team.

Mir went 6-0 overall this weekend to earn the world team spot at 68 kilos. She will represent the United States at the Junior world championships, set for August 14-20 in Warsaw, Poland.

Mir swept her best-of-three finals series over North Central’s London Houston, winning both matches with come-from-behind pins. In match one, Mir trailed 4-0 before pinning Houston in 84 seconds. In match two, Mir trailed 8-0 but won by fall again in 1:54.

Mir’s performance was the big highlight for the Iowa women’s program. But she was one of four Hawkeye women who made the Junior world team trials finals. The other three all lost their finals series:

Ella Schmit fell just short of earning a spot on the Junior world team this weekend.
  • Nyla Valencia, a returning U23 world-teamer, finished second to Audrey Jimenez at 50 kilos (110), losing the finals series two matches to zero. Jimenez won the first match, 4-2, then won the second, 7-0.
  • Ella Schmit lost a thrilling three-match series to Missouri star Maddie Kubicki at 65 kilos (143). After trading the first two matches, Kubicki prevailed 13-4 in the winner-take-all third match to earn the world team spot.
  • Kylie Welker finished second at 76 kilos (167). After recording four straight technical falls, Welker dropped a highly-anticipated series to Kennedy Blades. Blades scored four points in the final 10 seconds to win the first match 8-6, then took Welker feet-to-back for a first-period fall in the second match to win the world team spot.

Behind them:

  • Reese Larramendy, a returning Junior world-teamer, went 5-1 overall, rallying for third place at 65 kilos after a quarterfinal loss;
  • Ava Bayless took sixth at 50 kilos and finished 5-3 overall, which included four straight wins in the wrestlebacks after a third-round loss to secure a podium finish;
  • Sterling Dias was the seventh Iowa women’s wrestler to compete but injury-defaulted from the tournament after a quarterfinal loss at 50 kilos.

Combine these results with Felicity Taylor’s U23 national title from Saturday, and it was yet another strong showing from the Iowa program at the country’s biggest women’s wrestling competition — something they've made a habit of doing at various open tournaments this year.

Reese Larramendy went 5-1 overall this weekend.

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Lilly Luft, Naomi Simon earn Junior All-American honors

Two of Iowa high school wrestling’s best girls wrestlers, Charles City’s Lilly Luft and Decorah’s Naomi Simon, earned All-American honors at the Junior world team trials event.

Luft went 5-2 for fourth at 62 kilos (136). She finished with two pins and two technical falls, reaching the quarterfinals and then rallying for fourth. Four of her wins came over wrestlers currently ranked in USA Wrestling’s national girls high school rankings.

Simon went 4-2 for seventh at 76 kilos. She won twice by fall to reach the quarterfinals, then twice more in the wrestlebacks to finish seventh — including a 13-2 technical fall over Grand View All-American Shenita Lawson in the seventh-place match.

Luft and Simon join both Raccoon River-Northwest’s Katie Biscoglia and Southeast Polk’s Skylar Slade, who both earned podium finishes at the Cadet world team trials earlier this weekend. All four wrestlers won state titles in February.

Charles City's Lilly Luft earned All-American honors this weekend.

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Incoming Iowa women’s wrestling recruits are already pretty good

Luft was one of seven incoming recruits for the Iowa women’s wrestling program that competed at the Junior world team trials — and, as it turns out, these incoming recruits are already pretty good.

Along with Luft, New York native Emily Frost finished fourth at 59 kilos (130), and Missouri native Haley Ward and Illinois native Rose Cassioppi took second and third, respectively, at 72 kilos (158).

Frost went 5-2 overall and won three in a row in the wrestlebacks to reach the top four after a quarterfinal loss. Ward and Cassioppi both lost to Amit Elor, a 2022 Senior world champ, at 72 kilos. Elor beat Cassioppi 12-0 in the semifinals, then swept Ward in the best-of-three finals, winning both matches by identical 10-0 scores.

Hononegah wrestler Rose Cassioppi.

RELATED:Rose Cassioppi, sister of Hawkeye Tony Cassioppi, commits to Iowa women's wrestling team

Adaugo Nwachukwu earns second Junior world team berth

A contingent of Iowa Wesleyan women’s wrestlers competed in the Junior division. Adaugo Nwachukwu, a returning Junior world bronze medalist, led the way, securing her second Junior world team berth by winning the world team trials at 62 kilos.

After winning a U23 national title on Saturday, Nwachukwu went 6-0 to win a Junior world team spot, a performance capped by sweeping Sunday’s best-of-three finals over SaVannah Cosme. Nwachukwu pinned Cosme twice to win the series.

Taken altogether, Nwachukwu, a two-time NAIA national champion, went a combined 10-0 this weekend with 6 pins, four technical falls and outscored her 10 opponents by a combined 93-7. She only had one match all weekend reach the second period.

Adaugo Nwachukwu won a U23 national title on Saturday and went 6-0 to win a Junior world team spot Sunday.

Nwachukwu was one of four Iowa Wesleyan wrestlers to compete in the Junior world team trials. The others:

  • Mia Palumbo went 4-2 and took fourth at 50 kilos. She reached the semifinals, where she lost 4-1 to Iowa’s Valencia, and twice beat Iowa’s Bayless.
  • JoAnna Vanderwood went 6-2 for fifth at 57 kilos (125). After a second-round loss, she won four in a row in the wrestlebacks to reach the podium.
  • Janida Garcia, an incoming Iowa Wesleyan recruit, took sixth at 65 kilos. She won her first two matches to reach the semifinals, where she lost to Kubicki, then injury-defaulted to sixth-place.

After Iowa Wesleyan announced it would be closing at the end of the academic year, Jake Kadel and Cash Wilcke, the coaches that built Iowa Wesleyan into a top-10 NAIA women’s program, were hired by William Penn. Most of Iowa Wesleyan’s wrestlers are expected to follow them, though no official announcements have been made.

Iowa Wesleyan coaches Jake Kadel, left, and Cash Wilcke, coached Adaugo Nwachukwu.

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