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 reflects on historic season, future of sport after winning national title

The Hawkeyes closed out their inaugural campaign with six individual champions and a team title at the NCWWC National Championships.
Cody Blissett
Iowa wrestlers and staff pose for a portrait after winning the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships at Alliant Energy PowerHouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Saturday, March 9, 2024.

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA — When Clarissa Chun was introduced as the first head coach in the history of the Iowa women’s wrestling program in 2021, her goal was to “build a winning program in Wrestling Town, USA.” 

Needless to say, she has done just that. 

Iowa dominated the women’s wrestling landscape in its first year as a program, winning all 16 regular season duals and claiming a national title at the NWCA National Duals on Jan 6.

Thousands of fans attended both home events inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with the Trailblazer Duals on Nov. 12 drawing 8,207 spectators, which is believed to be the largest crowd ever for a women’s wrestling event. 

On Saturday, the Hawkeyes capped off their milestone season with six individual champions and won the team title at the NCWWC National Championships. 

Though it became clear early on that Iowa would have multiple champions, defending champion North Central quickly built up a 14-point lead in the team standings after the first day of action. 

With their backs against the wall, the Hawkeyes didn’t go down quietly. 

Iowa had five head-to-head matches against North Central in the semifinals, so plenty of opportunity remained for a comeback. 

Sterling Dias knocked off North Central’s Madison Aulia in the 101-pound bout, and the floodgates opened from there. The Hawkeyes didn’t lose any of their matches against Cardinal opponents and raced out to a 23-point lead, which they rode the rest of the way. 

Iowa’s comeback mirrored the finals of the NWCA National Duals, where the Hawks coincidentally faced North Central for the title. In that dual, Iowa jumped out to a quick lead only to see the Cardinals storm back. In the final bout of the tournament, Iowa’s Jaycee Foeller lost but clinched the title for the Hawkeyes by scoring a passivity point. 

On Saturday, second-year Kylie Welker was the hero and knocked off North Central’s Yelena Makoyed to clinch the national championship for the Black and Gold. Makoyed was the three-time defending champ. 

Chun credits her team’s toughness and strong mentality for their success. 

“Each time our women take the mat, they know what it means to fight for Iowa,” Chun said. 

Not only was Iowa’s season defined by toughness and resilience, but each wrestler on the roster knows that their impact has stretched well beyond the mat. Following their final home event on Jan. 21, the Hawkeyes hosted an autograph session for fans. Due to the long lines and time constraints, a young fan was turned away, but the rest of the squad made sure she would walk away happy. 

“We’re hoping to set a precedent for future generations of young wrestlers,” fifth-year national champion Felicity Taylor said. 

Despite the program being only a year old, Iowa wrestlers and coaches have felt the strong support from their fanbase. Many Hawkeye fans made the short trek north to Cedar Rapids to cheer on their squad. 

“Iowa is known for having great fans, and they always bring the energy and get you fired up,” second-year national champion Reese Larramendy said. 

“They’re the best fans, and we can’t ask for anything better,” Taylor added. 

Iowa is the only Power Five university and one of only three Division I schools in the country with a women’s wrestling program. The Hawkeyes hope that other programs will follow their lead.

“Wrestling has changed my life,” Welker said. “I hope this sends a statement to the rest of the country to keep pushing forward.”

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About the Contributors
Brad Schultz
Brad Schultz, Sports Reporter
Brad Schultz is a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication with a minor in Sports Studies. This is first year working as a sports reporter and he has a deep passion and love for sports. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Brad is a contributor for Saturday Blitz, a college football site, with his content primarily covering Iowa and the Big Ten.
Cody Blissett
Cody Blissett, Visuals Editor
Cody Blissett is a visual editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a third year student at the University of Iowa studying cinema and screenwriting. This is his first year working for The Daily Iowan.