2016 Body Bar Women’s National Championships Preview
Cadet World Team Trials, more commonly known as Body Bar on the women’s side, is this weekend in Irving, Texas, and our nation’s best 14-17 year old women will be scrapping it out for chance to represent the United States in Tbilisi, Georgia this summer at the Cadet World Championships.
Returning medalists Alleida Martinez and Ronna Heaton will be competing, as well as a host of other young stars from across the country. The Cadet portion of Body Bar gives us a look at the future stars of the US women’s program, as alumni of past Cadet World teams have gone on to do extremely well at the Junior and Senior levels, such as 2016 Olympian Haley Augello (Cadet World Champion), Junior World Bronze Medalist Marina Doi (Cadet World Champion), US Open Champion Teshya Alo (Cadet World Champion), Junior World Bronze medalist Kayla Miracle (Cadet World Silver Medalist), and Junior World Bronze Medalist Becka Leathers (Cadet World Team member).
This year’s tournament should be no exception, as the field is loaded with excellent wrestlers at each weight class. The talent at this tournament increases every year and the women’s cadet program has always found success at the World Championships, so this weekend will be a great opportunity to get a first look at our girls who will be wrestling for world medals later this year.
Last Year: Jessica Rudick (PA) won uncontested.
The Contenders: Caitlyn Walker (PA)
Commentary: Typically the thinnest weight of the tournament in terms of numbers, in past years this weight has gone uncontested. Last year was no different, and Jessica Rudick was awarded the world team spot after being the only registered wrestler. While still eligible, Rudick is not currently registered to compete. Caitlyn Walker is the lone entrant as of right now.
Last Year: Vayle Baker (PA) won uncontested.
The Contenders: Erin Mance (TX)
Commentary: As with 38kg, 40kg is traditionally a small weight. Last year’s default champion and world team member Vayle Baker will be back again this year, but up at 46kg. Erin Mance is the only currently registered wrestler.
Last Year: McKayla Campbell (OH) defeated Naomi Chavez (TX), 2 matches to 0
The Contenders: Katlyn Pizzo (MI), Trina Nguyen (CA), Brooke Thurber (WI)
Commentary: Last year’s champion McKayla Campbell will be up a weight class and Naomi Chavez has moved up to the Junior division, so the path is clear for a new champion to merge at 43 kilos. Leading the way is Katlyn Pizzo, who was a boy’s state qualifier this year in Division 3 in Michigan. The Mitten-state native had an impressive showing at Junior Folkstyle Nationals in March, winning 3 matches by fall and one by decision. Pizzo is clearly the most proven of the field, but Brooker Thurber and Trina Nguyen could challenge her for the top spot.
While not yet registered, I expect Thurber to be in Irving competing at 43kg. Thurber has placed 3rd at this weight both in 2014 and 2015, as well as finishing 2nd in Cadets in Fargo in 2014. She also finished 3rd at Junior Folkstyle Nationals in March, losing to Pizzo 9-2 in the quarterfinals. The other potential contender is Trina Nguyen. Nguyen took 2nd at Cadet Folkstyle Nationals this year. At Junior Folkstyle Nationals the next day, Nguyen lost to Thurber, also by a 9-2 decision. Based on who is pre-registered currently, this appears to be Pizzo’s weight to lose.
Last Year: Alleida Martinez (CA) defeated Sariyah Jones (CA), 2 matches to 1
The Contenders: Alleida Martinez (CA), McKayla Campbell (OH), Vayle Baker (PA), Emily Shilson (MN), Hailey Horton (GA)
Commentary: Oh man, this is a fun one! If I had to sum up this weight in one emoji, it would be that little explosion one. THREE members of last year’s Cadet World Team will be competing in Texas at 46 kilograms. Leading the way is returning Cadet World Silver Medalist Alleida Martinez, who is back to earn her second straight trip to the cadet world championships, and move up a step to the top of the podium. Last year at Body Bar, Martinez defeated two-time cadet world team member Sariyah Jones in the finals to earn herself a trip to Bosnia. Jones is now too old for Cadets, but that won’t mean earning her spot will be easy. Moving up a weight class is her fellow world team member McKayla Campbell.
Campbell finished 5th last year in Bosnia, losing to two tough athletes from Japan and Russia. Campbell also was a double champ in Fargo last summer, winning both the Cadet and Junior Divisions. Martinez and Campbell are very technical, offensive wrestlers who can find multiple ways to score. Martinez has awesome defense and short offense and a wicked bar/wing series. Campbell has a nasty fireman’s/dump and an Adeline Gray-quality lace. If you put stock in the transitive property, Alleida has a win over Aleeah Gould, and Gould beat Campbell this year. But I don’t believe in that nonsense, this match can go either way. Should these two meet up, expect lots of points to be put up on the board.
If that’s not enough for you, throw in the third returning world team member , Vayle Baker. Baker is at this weight all the way up from 40kg, where she made the team last year. In the past year, the Pennsylvania native won the Cadet Division of both Folkstyle Nationals and Freestyle Nationals in Fargo. She also was the runner-up at Junior Freestyle Nationals, losing to Campbell in the finals. Baker is very talented, however, she is still very small for this weight, and size could factor in to how she fares this weekend. Looking to crash the party in this weight class are Hailey Horton, who is a former Cadet Freestyle National Champion, and Emily Shilson, who took 3rd at Junior Folkstyle Nationals.
Barring some upsets, it seems that Martinez and Campbell are on a collision course, and that’s going to be a series you don’t want to miss.
Last Year: Ronna Heaton (SD) defeated Aleeah Gould (CA), 2 matches to 1
The Contenders: Mace Kilty (WI), Stefana Jelacic (AZ), Felicity Taylor (IA), Marissa Gallegos (CO)
Commentary: Both of last year’s finalists will be absent from 49kg this year. Returning champion Ronna Heaton will be moving up to 52kg, and Aleeah Gould is moving up to the Junior division, which means a new star will likely emerge at 49kg. The clear favorite to do so is Wisconsin native Mace Kilty. At Folkstyle Nationals in Oklahoma City, the freshman phenom burst onto the scene by pinning her way to a Cadet National title, and then repeated as champion the next day in the Junior division. In her run to the Junior finals, Kilty beat two-time Cadet World Team member Sariyah Jones in the quarters, as well as 2014 Cadet World Team member Theresa Rankin in the semis.
Additionally, Kilty was a qualifier for the Wisconsin boy’s state tournament earlier this year, becoming just the second Wisconsin female to accomplish the feat since two-time World Bronze Medalist Alyssa Lampe qualified back in 2006. The only unknown is what kind freestyle skills Kilty will bring to the table, as she has yet to compete at the national level in a freestyle setting.
Looking to halt the Mace Kilty hype train will be Stefana Jelacic, Felicity Taylor, and Marissa Gallegos. Jelacic was the runner-up at Cadet Folkstyle Nationals, losing to Kilty in the finals. Taylor finished 3rd in that same weight. Gallegos was a runner-up at Cadet Nationals in Fargo last summer.
Despite being just a freshman, no one at 49kg is nearly as credentialed as Kilty at the moment. She is incredibly poised and technical for her age and has already proven herself in her first year of high school competition. The question now seems to be whether or not Kilty is capable of winning a medal in Georgia this summer. Although there are still some questions about her freestyle abilities, I think it’s safe to say that a spot on the podium is not out of the realm of possibility.
Last Year: Gracie Figueroa (CA) defeated Kaden Campbell (CO), 2 matches to 1
The Contenders: Ronna Heaton (SD), Brenda Reyna (WA), Alisha Howk (MO)
Commentary: With Gracie Figueroa likely moving up a weight class and Kaden Campbell out with an injury, this weight would be appear to be up for grabs. Not the case. If you don’t know the name Ronna Heaton, now would probably be a fantastic time to remove yourself from the rock you are most likely living under. The returning Cadet World Champion (!!!) will be moving up to 52kg to punch another ticket to the Cadet World Championships, where she will look to repeat her awesome accomplishment from last summer. Heaton is beyond impressive.
She’s persistent with her shots, has great re-attacks, and can score from almost any position. She’s also incredibly stingy defensively and keeps great position. In addition to her 2015 accomplishments, Heaton was also a double champion in Fargo in 2014, dominating both the Cadet and Junior division en route to her two titles.
Of those pre-registered, the only person who has been able to compete with Heaton is Brenda Reyna. In the finals of Folkstyle Nationals back in March, Heaton defeated Reyna by a narrow 8-6 decision; however, it wasn’t as close as the score may indicate. Also, folkstyle and freestyle are different animals (I’ll save my folkstyle rant for another day). In Fargo last year, Heaton cruised to a cool 10-0 technical fall over Reyna in the semis. While I think Reyna may have closed the gap slightly, I don’t expect the outcome to be any different this time around. While not pre-registered, the other contender at this weight who could very well be in attendance is Alisha Howk.
Should she choose to compete this weekend, Howk could pose a threat to Reyna’s rematch with Heaton. Howk is very talented and aggressive, but sometimes struggles to pull the trigger offensively.
She won the Cadet division in Fargo last summer with solid wins over Colorado stars Kaden Campbell and Marissa Gallegos. Howk also won the Cadet division at Folkstyle Nationals in March. However, like Reyna, Howk also suffered a 12-1 technical fall loss to Heaton at Junior Freestyle Nationals, and a 10-0 loss the next day at Junior Duals.
This is Ronna Heaton’s weight, and like Kilty, this is more of a stepping stone on her trek to the podium in Georgia. The reigning Cadet World Champion will look to win another gold medal for the USA and cement herself as one of the future stars of the US women’s program. Believe the Ronna Heaton hype, y’all!
Last Year: Alex Liles (TX) defeated Jerzie Estrada (CO), 2 matches to 0
The Contenders: Gracie Figueroa (CA), Jerzie Estrada (CO), Michaela Beck (NY), Alanah Vetterick (IA), Logan Mize (TX)
Commentary: While this weight might not have the star power and credentials of 46kg, this weight is DEEP and should be one of the premiere weights of the tournament. If 46kg is the explosion emoji, 56kg is definitely the fire emoji. Expect great matches from the quarter-finals right through to the finals. Leading the pack is returning Body Bar champion and world team member Gracie Figueroa.
In the past 12 months, Figueroa has won just about every tournament she’s entered. California state champ? Check. Body Bar? Check. Folkstyle AND Freestyle National Champion in BOTH Cadets and Juniors? Check and check. The only thing that has evaded Gracie in the last year is a medal at the Cadet World Championships.
This year, she’s up a weight class and looking to make a return trip to the world championships in an attempt to get some redemption and earn a spot on the podium. Figueroa possesses wrestling skills well above others her age, and has impressive situational awareness. Her attacks are well-timed, she controls her opponents well, and frankly, just knows how to win. While Gracie may seem like an overwhelming favorite, there are a couple very talented athletes who stand in her way and believe they can steal the world team spot. The biggest threat to Figueroa probably comes in the form of Jerzie Estrada, who was the runner-up at this weight last year. Estrada has been wrestling up in the low 130-range for most of the year, but will be dropping back down to 56kg this weekend.
Estrada is the reigning Cadet Freestyle National champion, and took 2nd and 3rd at Cadet and Junior Folkstyle Nationals in March, respectively. Freestyle is definitely Estrada’s wheelhouse, and with a solid background of Greco training, she is certainly worthy challenger. With no prior match-ups against Figueroa and a significant size advantage, she is in prime position to pull off the upset. The next biggest threat is New York’s Michaela Beck. In the past 18 months, Beck has made huge strides, and while she hasn’t had any big tournament wins, she is clearly one of the elite competitors in this weight class. Beck has wrestled Figueroa a number of times in the past year, and while she has yet to beat her, each time she has closed the gap.
Most recently, the two squared off in the finals of Cadet Folkstyle Nationals, with Figueroa emerging the 3-0 victor. In comparison, the two also faced each other in the finals of Junior Freestyle Nationals last summer, with Figueroa earning a 10-0 technical fall, so it’s clear that Beck is quickly catching up. Like Estrada, freestyle has become Beck’s forte, as she is very skilled on her feet and has a gnarly gut wrench. While Beck and Estrada are the two biggest contenders, they should also be challenged by the likes of Alanah Vetterick (2nd at Junior Folkstyle Nationals at 121), Logan Mize (2nd at Junior Folkstyle Nationals at 125), Alyssa Aceval, and a host of other talented athletes.
All that being said, Gracie Figueroa is still the heavy favorite. However, both Estrada and Beck are more than capable of coming out on top when all is said and done. As mentioned earlier, 56kg is going to have some fireworks right out of the gate and is certainly a weight to keep a close eye on.
Last Year: Ashlynn Ortega (CO) defeated Hannah Ramos (WI), 2 matches to 1
The Contenders: Alex Liles (TX), Hannah Ramos (WI), Hailey Cox (UT), Emma Bruntil (WA), Allicyn Schuster (NE)
Commentary: In the words of Mugatu, that Alex Liles is so hot right. I couldn’t tell you what got into the water down in Allen, Texas, but since last summer, Liles has turned into a completely different wrestler. And considering she was already pretty dang good, that’s a scary reality for everyone else in this weight. Last year Liles earned a spot on the Cadet World Team down at 56kg but failed to place in Bosnia.
This year she’s back and primed for a run for a medal at the world championships. Liles won both the Cadet and Junior divisions at Folkstyle nationals in convincing fashion, with two solid wins over Jerzie Estrada in both tournaments. Liles’ hand fighting is ability is unlike any other high school girl in the country right now. In the words of Zane Richards, no one else is in her league in that regard. She’s also become a much smarter wrestler in the past year, and has made strides in every aspect of her wrestling.
Looking to slow her roll is a group of talented athletes, including Hailey Cox, Hannah Ramos, Emma Bruntil, and Allicyn Schuster. People may have forgotten about Hailey Cox, but she’s not to be ignored. Cox made the Cadet World Team in 2014 as an 8th grader down at 43kgs. Remember that McKayla Campbell girl I hyped up earlier? Hailey Cox has beaten her, twice. By tech-fall and fall. Since then, Cox has moved up in weight and struggled a bit, but she has now adjusted the heavier girls and has hit her stride.
She has great leg attacks and a very strong par terre game, and is a threat to make her second Cadet World Team. Last year’s runner up Hannah Ramos also returns at 60kg in attempt to get over the hump and earn a world team spot. Ramos was also the Cadet Folkstyle runner-up in March up at 143, but will be dropping back down for this event. A relative newcomer to the national scene, Emma Bruntil won the 139 division at Junior Folkstyle Nationals in March this year, but has no other national credentials or freestyle experience. That being said, anyone who wins a national title is a worthy competitor and could make an impact this weekend. Allicyn Schuster was the runner-up to Liles at Junior Folkstyle Nationals and 3rd in Fargo Cadets last year and could be a factor, as well.
Alex Liles definitely leads the pack at this weight, but it will be interesting to see if Cox or Bruntil can step up and challenge her for the spot. Cox has proven herself at this tournament before, and with Bruntil coming in as a relative unknown, she could certainly play spoiler, as well. It will be fun to watch how this weight pans out on Saturday.
Last Year: Kayla Marano (OK) defeated Emily Cue (CO), 2 matches to 0
The Contenders: Ashlynn Ortega (CO), Jayden Laurent (WI), Andreina Rodriguez (NY)
Commentary: Last year’s champion and Cadet World Bronze Medalist Kayla Marano will be moving up to Juniors, and runner-up Emily Cue will be at up at 70kg, so this weight will have some new blood, as well. Last year’s 60kg world team member Ashlynn Ortega is now up at 65kg and is the heavy favorite coming in. Ortega has been relatively inactive since Fargo last summer, but she did win the Cadet Freestyle Nationals back in July in addition to her Body Bar title last May.
After Ortega, this weight is pretty thin. Cadet Freestyle All-American Andreina Rodriguez had a very close, hotly contested match with Ortega in Fargo last year and could certainly flip the script this time around. Another newcomer to the national scene, Jayden Laurent won Cadet Folkstyle Nationals this year, but has very little national experience and is an unknown in regards to her freestyle abilities. This appears to be Ortega’s weight for the taking as she looks to return to the Cadet World Championships and improve upon her performance from last year.
Last Year: Alexis Bleau (NY) defeated Zoey Thompson (MI), 2 matches to 0
The Contenders: Emily Cue (CO), Kylee Heaton (SD), Emma Watters (IA), Hailey Cancelleri (NY), Emma Reusing (CA)
Commentary: Much like 65kg, last year’s tournament OW and Cadet World Bronze Medalist Alexis Bleau is too old for Cadets, and as of right now returning runner-up Zoey Thompson is not currently registered to compete. This weight is currently lacking in proven athletes, which should provide someone the opportunity to make a name for themself and book their trip to Georgia.
While no wrestlers here are highly-lauded, there are a few names you might recognize. Kylee Heaton, Emma Watters, and Emma Reusing may ring a bell, as they are the younger siblings of Cadet World Champion Ronna Heaton, Junior World Team member Rachel Watters, and Cadet World Team member Kendall Reusing, respectively.
Of the three, Reusing has the best resume, placing 3rd at Cadet Folkstyle Nationals, which included a win over Heaton. The favorite in this weight is most likely Emily Cue, who in the last 12 months was the runner-up at Body Bar, Cadet Folkstyle Nationals, and Cadet Freestyle Nationals. She also posted a 7th-place finish at Junior Freestyle Nationals. This could very well be the tournament where she breaks through and stands on top of the podium. Also competing is Hailey Cancelleri of New York, who placed 2nd at Cadet Folkstyle Nationals and 7th at Junior Folkstyle Nationals all the way up at 198lbs. Cancelleri was extremely undersized while up at heavyweight, but will still have a size and strength advantage down at 70kgs.
She’s very athletic and can compete with anyone, and in a wide-open weight like this one, she could surprise quite a few people and find herself getting her hand raised in the finals on Saturday night.