The Open Mat – Introducing the 2019 Women’s Junior World Team By Earl Smith

53 kg – Gracie Figueroa (Selma HS, CS) photo courtesy of Jim Thrall; MatFocus.com

The first age group contested at Women’s Nationals on Friday was the Juniors with the Junior World Team Trials. We anticipated that there would be some great competition and it did not disappoint. The first two series’ went to three matches in the best-of-three finals. The result is a Junior World Team that has to be one of the most decorated in US women’s history. Nine of the ten team members have been on a world team at some age group or another, while seven of the ten are making their second appearance on a Junior World Team. The team has combined to win nine world medals (1 U23, 1 Junior, 7 Cadet) during their international history. The 2019 squad will look to improve upon last year’s disappointing finish, where only one medal was won. Here is the group that will be traveling to Tallinn, Estonia in search of gold medals and US history.

50 kg – Alleida Martinez (California)

For the second consecutive year, Alleida Martinez is the representative at 50 kg. In last years Junior World Championships, Martinez won a pair of matches but had to settle for seventh place. She will be seeking her first world medal at the Junior level, after taking a silver and bronze medal as a Cadet. Alleida just finished her first year at Menlo College where she captured a WCWA National Championship, as well as a national title at NAIA’s. Only two weeks ago, Martinez finished seventh at the US Open wrestling in the same weight class. She has qualified for the Senior World Team Trials next week in Raleigh, North Carolina by virtue of her WCWA finish.

Martinez had to earn her spot on the team after a three-match battle with 2018 Cadet World Champion Emily Shilson. Alleida dropped her first match in the series, yet came back strong to take matches two and three. In both of the final two bouts, Martinez used a four-point move to turn the tide in her favor. Martinez racked up three falls and a tech to make the semis where she met her 2019 WCWA finals opponent McKayla Campbell, a two-time Junior World Team member herself. After trailing 1-0 in the first period, Alleida rallied to earn the win and a berth in the finals by the score of 4-1.

53 kg – Gracie Figueroa (California)

Martinez’s high school and college teammate Gracie Figueroa followed suit and made her second Junior World Team. Like Martinez, Figueroa is a Cadet world medalist that is looking to medal as a Junior for the first time. Gracie was also a WCWA national champion and helped lead Menlo to the first team title. At the Open, Figueroa lost a wild 9-6 bout in the semi’s to veteran Katherine Shai, yet rebounded to take third place.

Gracie entered this tournament as the top-seed and showed why early by teching her way to the finals, never having wrestled into the second minute of any match. She would face a stiff challenge in the best-of-three finals, facing Tiare Ikei, the winner of the Open at Figueroa’s weight. Figueroa was able to subdue the younger Ikei in the first match with a 3-0 victory. Ikei came back to take the second match 5-2, which forced a third and deciding match. Gracie was able to control the action for most of the match and used a double bar to put Ikei on her back for a fall in the second period, while leading 6-1. The pair could meet again next week at the World Team Trials, as Ikei is sitting in the finals, awaiting the winner of the challenger tournament.

55 kg – Alex Hedrick (California)

A sophomore at Simon Fraser, Alex Hedrick made the Junior World Team for a second consecutive year. Last time it was at 57 kg, yet she dropped down a weight in 2019 and still has had success. Hedrick is a two-time WCWA runner-up, having lost to teammate Dom Parrish in both national finals. Last year, she won the Senior WTT’s and earned a place opposite Olympic Gold Medalist Helen Maroulis in Final X Bethlehem. Though Alex would lose the wrestle-off to Maroulis, Hedrick was able to show that she was one of the elite women in the nation, regardless of age. Alex is looking to improve upon her showing at the 2018 Junior World Championships, where she was teched in her only match.

For Hedrick to make the 2019 team, she had to knock off one of her teammates on the 2018 world team Alisha Howk. Alex turned in a pair of workman-like performances to sweep the series 4-2 and 6-1, becoming the first member of the 2019, as the series’ at 50 and 53 kg went to three matches. Hedrick was the fourth seed of the tournament and earned another trip to the finals after downing Cadet World Champion Ronna Heaton 7-3. In her two other bouts, pre-finals, Alex tallied two techs and a fall.

57 kg – Cameron Guerin (Washington)

This Junior World Team lineup will be led off by four wrestlers making their second Junior World Team, with Cameron Guerin being the fourth. In her first trip to Junior Worlds, in 2017, Guerin wrestled for a medal, but came up just one match shy. A high school graduate in 2018, Guerin has become a member of USA Wrestling’s Elite Accelerator Program (EAP) and trains out of Colorado Springs at the OTC. Last summer, Cameron won the Junior Pan-American Championship and has went on to capture a title at the German Grand Prix, thus far in 2019. She also finished eighth this year at the prestigious Klippan Lady Open.

The second-seeded Guerin needed to get by one of the Cinderella stories of the tournament as she faced the fifth-seed, Gabrielle Skidmore. There was no magic left for Skidmore though, as Guerin dominated both of their matches by identical 10-0 scores, the second coming within the first two minutes. Only Ainslie Lane in the quarterfinals avoided getting teched or pinned by Guerin, though she did have to battle back from an early 6-0 deficit against Robin Yunis during her Round of 16 bout. In the semis, Guerin pinned fellow Washington native Viktorya Torres while leading 8-0 in the first period.

59 kg – Michaela Beck (New York)

The only wrestler on this team that had never made a world team at any level is Michaela Beck. Michaela graduated from high school in 2018 and has forgone wrestling in college, rather she has chosen to train at the Hawkeye Wrestling Club. This was the third time that Beck has wrestled for a shot on a world team; previously she had lost in the Cadet finals in 2017 and the Junior finals last year. As a high schooler, Michaela had success in Fargo winning a Junior National title in 2016 and making the finals on two other occasions.

At the US Open, the Hawkeye Wrestling Club had a ton of success, coming away with three national titles, and Beck followed suit by winning one of her own here. Niya Gaines was the only opponent that was even able to get onto the scoreboard against Beck, pre-finals. She made the finals for a third consecutive season after she teched another New York native, 2018 Fargo Cadet national champ Mia Macaluso. Michaela scored early and often in her finals series against Kaylee Moore and took their opening contest 12-0, before earning a spot on the world team after cruising to an 8-2 win in the second.

62 kg – Alara Boyd (Indiana)

Even though this is Alara Boyd’s first Junior World Team, she has had plenty of international experience and hardware. In 2016, Alara won a Cadet World bronze medal, then she followed it up with a silver medal in the following year. The McKendree signee Boyd is one of only two Junior World Team members that are still in high school. In her four trips to Fargo, Alara has never placed lower than fourth and has finished as a runner-up twice. Last year at this tournament, her first as a Junior, Boyd dropped a controversial match in the semis, then came back to take third place.

This weight class was one of the deepest of the Junior tournament and Boyd crushed the competition. In her six matches, Alara outpointed her opponents by the score of 60-2. Oddly enough, it was only in her first match where she surrendered any points. Each of her last two competitors were 2019 California state champions, Dalia Garibay and Cheyenne Bowman. Bowman is a returning Cadet World Team member but was able to provide little resistance for Boyd, losing by fall in the first match and 12-0 in their second.

65 kg – Macey Kilty (Wisconsin)

The first-year eligible Junior Macey Kilty has now made her second Junior World Team. In 2018, she made the Cadet World Team, where she would go on to win the gold, then took the silver against Juniors. Along with Boyd, Kilty is the other member of this group that is still in high school. She took third at the US Open earlier this year after winning two matches over 2019 WCWA runner-up Nicole Joseph. Macey has done a lot of competition at the Senior level in 2019, taking silver at the Dave Schultz and bronze at the Grand Prix of Germany. Last year, Kilty made the team at 68 kg and she has bounced between that weight and 65 for most of 2019.

Macey came into the tournament as one of the biggest favorites, at any weight, and did not disappoint. Each of her five matches ended in a tech and the only time that she gave up any points was in her second finals match against Cara Broadus, yet she won 12-2. Kilty appears to be on another level from any of the Juniors and could be well on her way to finishing a step higher on the podium at the 2019 Junior World Championships.

68 kg – Jayden Laurent (Wisconsin)

Making the Junior World Team for a second consecutive season is Jayden Laurent. In last year’s world tournament, Laurent finished in a disappointing 10th place, losing her only bout of the tournament, by fall. Since then she has gone on to win her third stop sign in Fargo, then go to college where she earned a WCWA National Championship for Lakeland University in its first year of competition. Jayden also made the finals of the US Open where she fell to long-time veteran Randi Beltz. Laurent has qualified for the WTT’s and will be looking to upset Beltz and secure a berth into Final X.

Like her Wisconsin teammate Kilty, Laurent was a pretty sizeable favorite to return to the Junior World Team and showed why she was so highly regarded. Laurent’s tournament started with a 12-0 tech fall sandwiched between two sub 40 second falls. After jumping out to a 10-1 lead over multiple-time California state champion, Jerzie Estrada, in the semis, Jayden hung on and survived an Estrada push to advance, 10-6. In the finals against Alma Mendoza of Colorado Mesa, Laurent was never seriously tested and posted a pair of 10-0 wins.

72 kg – Alyvia Fiske (California)

Also back on the team for back-to-back years is another Simon Fraser sophomore Alyvia Fiske. This year at the WCWA Championships, Fiske was able to get onto the podium for the first time, finishing third at 155 lbs. Alyvia is on a bit of a hot streak after winning the US Open and clinching a spot in Final X. A takedown with short time remaining in the Open finals gave Fiske the title over former Senior World Team member Victoria Francis. Earlier in the year, Alyvia also earned the gold at the Dave Schultz Memorial.

Like her Open final, Fiske needed some late match heroics to win her second match in the best-of-three series against Dymond Guilford. She earned a takedown with only 11 seconds remaining in the match to gain criteria in her 4-4 win. Guilford was a WCWA national champion this year at 170 lbs. Fiske’s first two matches Friday ended in 10-0 techs and set the stage for a matchup with the dangerous Alexis Gomez. Fiske was able to maintain her composure, even though she gave up a four-pointer in the first period to trail 5-4. She would come back to win 13-6.

76 kg –  Kori Bullock (Illinois)

The only member of this team with U23 World-level experience is Kori Bullock. Not only does Bullock have the experience, but she also has a medal to go along with it, a bronze, from 2018. Bullock is a college sophomore that has placed sixth and eighth for McKendree in two trips to WCWA Nationals. Even though her collegiate title earned her a place at the WTT’s, she also competed at the US Open and took third, losing in the quarters by criteria. In 2018, Bullock won the WTT’s and was able to participate in Final X State College, where she ended up losing to the eventual world champion, Adeline Gray.

Bullock’s tournament started with a pair of 10-0, first period techs, before a battle with Emily Cue in the semis. Trailing 5-3 with two minutes left in the bout, Bullock survived a chin whip attempt from Cue and ended up earning four points in the process. Those points proved to be the difference as she would hang out to prevail 7-5. There was little drama during the final series against Kenya Lee-Sloan, as Kori won 12-0 and 10-1.