BRISTOL, Tenn. – When King College started its women's wrestling program in 2009, the College knew it was increasing opportunities for women in athletics and enhancing the on-campus experience for both student-athletes and supporters of the program. But what it did not know was just how much and how fast the program would grow from one of the few in existence to the No. 1 team in the country of one of the fastest growing female sports.
The 2012-13 season will kick off this Saturday (Oct. 20) against a team that historically has dominated women's wrestling at the collegiate level, but No. 1 they are no more. The top team in the Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) will be inside the Freede Center this weekend, but it will not be the Oklahoma City Stars. It is your very own King Lady Tornado.
It was a pleasant surprise for the team and Head Coach Jason Moorman, when on the evening of Oct. 2 it was made official that King had, in fact, dethroned the perennial top dogs in the latest preseason rankings. A total of 17 individuals were ranked in the top-10 of their respective weight classes and two return as No. 1 in their divisions (Krista Revelle, 136; Sarah Hildebrandt, 123).
Coach Moorman expressed his surprise and pleasure with being named preseason No. 1, but said it is not where you begin that is important, but instead where you finish.
"What these girls have done, they did earn that No. 1 ranking," said Moorman. "However, preseason rankings are preseason rankings. What we've been talking to our team about since those rankings came out is the finished product."
"As much as we want to beat them [OCU] right now and keep that No. 1 spot, our main focus is January because the true champion wins at the very end when it matters," said returning 109-pound national champion, Emily Martin.
|Jason Moorman, head coach|
|Sr., Emily Martin|
No sooner did the Junior World Championships in Pattaya, Thailand conclude did the women's team get down to business preparing for the collegiate season. Last week, the team broke up into two lineups for an intrasquad exhibition as a prelude to this weekend's collegiate season opener. After one round of preliminary bouts, the teams were decided and so began the annual Scarlett v. Navy dual.
Twenty different grapplers took the mat for their respective teams and after a heated dual that meant just more than bragging rights but also starting spots for this weekend's dual versus Oklahoma City University. After all ten weight classes were represented, the Scarlett team won by a final score of 18-15.
Martin said, "There is great competition on this team. It was nerve-wracking but it felt great once I got out there. I thought that I would be thinking too much but once I got out there, I just rolled with it."
The Lady Tornado return their entire starting lineup from a season ago when they finished as WCWA National Runner Up. Redshirt senior Emily Martin (Frisco, Texas) and sophomore Krista Revelle (Meriden, Kan.) will defend their national championship titles while Sarah Hildebrandt (Granger, Ind.) and Alli Ragan (Carbondale, Ill.) look to improve upon their silver medals from last year's championship.
Katarina Perez made a late push to assert herself at the 2012 WCWA Championships and made a memorable run at the tournament for a third place finish in the 126-pound division.
Emily Martin earned an extra year of eligibility from the WCWA to come back for a fourth full season. The 109 pounder was named Wrestler of the Year at last year's championships on top of earning King's second individual national championship.
In just her second collegiate tournament following a late start with the Lady Tornado, Krista Revelle brought home King's second individual national championship of the evening.
Junior Alli Ragan was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Harry Geris Memorial and the NYAC Invitational en route to earning gold at both tournaments and a silver medal the 2013 WCWA Championships at the 136-pound division.
All of that quickly summarizes King's collegiate season only. A good portion of the team also took to the air in order to compete internationally. Six individuals qualified for the chance to represent the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. While King did not have a representative on the Olympic team, all six did qualify for additional international competition by winning gold or silver medals at the 2012 Body Bar Championships in Lakeland, Fla.
Amanda Hendey (Beaumont, Calif.), Krista Revelle, and Kayla Bartosch (Triangle, Va.) all traveled to Peten, Guatemala to compete in the Junior Pan-American games. Hendey and Bartosch each earned a gold medal while Revelle was forced out of action due to injury.
The remaining three, Alli Ragan, Julia Salata, and Sarah Hildebrandt all qualified to represent the U.S. at the Junior World Championships, a tournament commonly known for producing tomorrow's Olympians of the sport. All three had very respectable showings but Ragan highlighted the King lineup with her second bronze medal at the Junior World Championships in as many years. King also took pride in sending the most representatives for a single institution.
And so it begins again. The 2012-13 season will get underway with a classic No. 1 v. No. 2 matchup to begin the season this Saturday (Oct. 20) at the Oklahoma City Duals. High expectations are being made by both wrestlers and coaches who are determined to keep their No. 1 overall team ranking intact through the WCWA Championships, which will be held at King College for a second straight year.
"We really thought last year we could beat OCU so this year we're going to stick everything to the mat. said senior Emily Martin. "
"They are hungry and if you see them every day in that wrestling room and how hard they are fighting, they want it bad," said Moorman. "Hopefully we can keep that motivation all semester long."
Katarina Perez (El Centro, Calif.) will be a large part of the team's success this year after having a stellar showing at the 2012 WCWA Championships where she achieved a huge and inspired upset for a bronze medal at the 123 pound weight class. The junior is expected to move to the 130-pound division this year.
While Hendey will have to wait for the Spring semester to be able to compete due to WCWA transfer rules, she will be ready to compete at the 2013 WCWA Championships. Until then, expect Ragan or freshman Sarah Saenz (Grenada Hills, Calif.) to fill the void. Other notable participants who names will be called up on this season will include 101 pounder Shannon Constantine (Haverhill, Ma.), 123 pounder Stacy Martin (Frisco, Texas), and 170 Rebecca Mattes (Randolph, N.J.). The 190-pound division will feature a tight race for a starting spot between freshmen Kieara Allison (Vallejo, Calif.), Clover Esquivel (Stockton, Calif.), and Malexis McAdoo (Amarillo, Texas).
Even though nearly every starter will be back and competing for the Lady Tornado, it does not mean the lineup is set in stone. Moorman is hopefully that with the level of intensity breeding among his players up and down the roster, it will also help improve everyone individually and breed competition for a starting role.
"We didn't want anybody to be complacent or comfortable in their starting position," said Moorman. "Every day in that practice room it's a competition. Someone is always trying to fight for that [starting] spot. If I can keep it that competitive every day, that is where we want to be."
As Coach Moorman said, it is not where you begin but where you finish. So regardless of the outcome of this weekend's dual against the five-time defending champion Oklahoma City Stars, the season will feature an adventure with many storylines developing in front of King's very eyes. Between defending champions fending off hungry competition, watching his own motivated wrestlers fight for the gold medal they feel they rightly deserve, the fresh faces beginning to make names for themselves, and everything in between, he will have plenty to write home about this season.
"We have a great group of girls. I could say something great about every single one of them," said Moorman. "It's a good time for King College Women's Wrestling and we are excited about what lies in the future."
His pen and paper are ready. Moorman and the Lady Tornado begin writing a new chapter of their ongoing growing legacy this weekend.