The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa women’s wrestling dominates to start inaugural season, excited for Carver-Hawkeye Arena debut

The Hawkeyes took a trip to the East Coast and came back to Iowa City with plenty of accolades under their belts.
Grace Smith
Sisters Brianna and Emilie Gonzalez pose for a portrait during the inaugural Iowa women’s wrestling media day in the Feller Club Room and the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2023. The duo wrestled at Arroyo High School in their hometown of El Monte, California.

The Iowa women’s wrestling team’s performance showed the Hawkeyes will be a force to be reckoned with in its inaugural season.

Eighth-ranked Iowa traveled to Pennsylvania to take on No. 7 East Stroudsburg on Nov. 4, and the Hawkeyes dominated from the first whistle en route to a 43-1 victory.

Iowa announced in September 2021 that it would become the first Division I Power Five program to add women’s wrestling. At the helm of the new program is Clarissa Chun, a two-time Olympic medalist and former assistant coach for the women’s national team from 2017-21.

“I think the women that are here know and understand that no one person is bigger than the next, and the fact that they want to push each other to be better. So that way they can reach their goals of becoming a college national champion but also beyond to world and Olympic stages,” Chun said at media day on Oct. 18.

The dual meet with East Stroudsburg took less than 40 minutes from start to finish. This was not only because of Iowa’s superiority on the mat but also the unique freestyle wrestling rules.

Freestyle matches are two three-minute periods. Takedowns can be worth two, four, or five points depending on the execution. Exposure points, which are achieved when a wrestler turns their opponent’s back to the mat, are two points apiece. Reversals and step-outs are a point each.

A wrestler earns five team points for a pin, four points for technical superiority or tech fall, which is when a competitor leads by 10 or more points at any point in the match, and three points for a decision.

An individual earns one team point if they score during a match but still lose — this is how East Stroudsburg finished with a single point on the scoreboard. In the 136-pound bout, Warrior Zoe Gress scored a takedown against third-ranked Hawkeye Nanea Estrella before the Iowa grappler pulled away for a 12-2 tech fall.

Iowa did not surrender a point in any of the other nine bouts and finished with seven technical superiorities and three pins.

Second-year Sterling Dias made her Hawkeye debut at 101 pounds and only needed 1:14 to get the job done, defeating Olivia Klein, 10-0. Ava Bayless showed out in her home state and took down Madi Mansmann, 10-0, in the 109-pound match.

Brianna Gonzalez inked her name in the history books and recorded the first pin in program history. It took just 44 seconds for the 116-pounder out of El Monte, California, to force sixth-ranked Emily Klein to her back for the fall.

Felicity Taylor, a fifth-year and homegrown Iowan, kept the momentum on the Hawkeyes’ side at 123 pounds. She defeated second-ranked Mia Macaluso, 10-0, in just 47 seconds after tying up a tight leg lace. Taylor took home a U23 national title at 53kg in April. First-year Emily Frost followed suit at 130 pounds with a 10-0 win over Gianna Amendola in 46 seconds.

U20 Pan-American Champions Ella Schmit and Haley Ward also showed up big in their Iowa debuts. At 143 pounds, Schmit recorded an 11-0 technical fall with 55 seconds left in the second period over Jayla Hahn.

Ward recorded the second pin for the Hawkeyes in 2:23 against Jade Huerta in the 170-pound bout.

Reese Larramendy came in at 155 pounds and tallied a 10-0 win over Paityn DeLong in the first period. Iowa finished the dual meet strong at 191 pounds as Alivia White took just 17 seconds to pin Ariel Ofri-Akman.

Two notable names missing from the starting lineup were Kylie Welker and Marlynne Deede. Welker, a U20 World Champion and U23 World bronze medalist, was the first recruit to commit to Chun and the Hawkeyes. She is listed at 170 pounds.

Deede, a 155-pounder, will compete in the National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Star Classic presented by Cliff Keen on Nov. 21. Deede transferred from Augsburg in the offseason, where she was a four-time All-American and 2023 national champion.

“I’m the older one on the team, so now I really figured out, like, who I am and the things that I enjoy,” Deede said.

The Hawkeyes’ season-opener was just one of few dual the team will compete in this season in addition to open tournaments. The two duals the Hawkeyes will host inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season will feature four teams.

“If there is a dual meet, it’s typically a dual tournament style. As women’s wrestlers, we wrestle freestyle, so because of the rules in itself, the wrestling can tend to go faster than a folkstyle men’s collegiate match, which is why our first home dual is a quad,” Chun said. “The good thing is it gives a lot more of our women the opportunity to compete.”

The Hawkeyes capped off their trip to the East Coast with an appearance in the Princeton Tiger Collegiate Open on Nov. 5.

Six Hawkeyes took home first place in their respective weight divisions, including Taylor, White, Ward, twins Brianna and Emilie Gonzalez, and Ava Bayless. Emilie Gonzalez defeated Dias, her Hawkeye teammate, 7-0, in the 101-pound title match. Iowa also had two runner-up and two third-place finishers, as well as four other medalists.

The Hawkeyes will be back in action on Nov. 12 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the Trailblazer Duals. The quad-dual will feature fifth-ranked Sacred Heart, 11th-ranked Lindenwood, and 13th-ranked Presbyterian. It will be broadcast on Big Ten Plus and begin at 11 a.m.

“Couldn’t be more grateful for the team that we have built together, and we’re so excited to be able to have our first duel in Carver Hawkeye Arena,” Chun said. “No better place to host a wrestling event, let alone a women’s wrestling event.”

For the three Iowa natives on the roster — Taylor, Schmit, and first-year Lilly Luft — taking the mat at Carver in a Hawkeye singlet for the first time will be a dream come true. 

“I encourage everyone to come watch because women’s wrestling is just an emerging sport, and I think it’s truly going to grow so big,” Luft said. “To get to see three Iowans and then a bunch of other amazing wrestlers out there — it’s going to be a sight to see.” 

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About the Contributors
Kenna Roering, Sports Editor
Kenna Roering is The Daily Iowan's sports editor. She is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism with a minor in sports and recreation management. Kenna previously worked as a sports reporter for men's wrestling and volleyball and was the summer sports editor in 2023. This is her second year with the DI.
Grace Smith, Senior photojournalist and filmmaker
Grace Smith is a fourth-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic Arts. In her four years at The Daily Iowan, she has held the roles of photo editor, managing summer editor, and visual storyteller. Outside of The Daily Iowan, Grace has held an internship at The Denver Post and pursued freelance assignments for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and the Des Moines Register.