Nyla Valencia on her early weeks as a Hawkeye wrestler and the U23 World Championship
Nyla Valencia talks about her first few weeks as a wrestler in Iowa Hawkeye and her preparation for the upcoming U23 World Championships in Spain.
Cody Goodwin, Hawk Central
A small segment of the Iowa women’s wrestling program made their much-anticipated debut this weekend – and the early returns are looking incredibly promising.
Seven Hawkeye wrestlers competed at the prestigious Missouri Valley Open on Friday and Saturday. Although they all wrestled independently — the Iowa Women’s first official season is slated for 2023-24 — it was the first collegiate competition in which they all represented the University of Iowa.
And everyone put on a show.
Five of the seven won singles titles: Sterling Dias at 101 pounds, Nyla Valencia at 109, Felicity Taylor at 116, Nanea Estrella at 136 and Reese Larramendy at 143. The other two, Emilie and Brianna Gonzalez, finished second behind their teammate: Emilie lost 3-1 to Dias in 101 final; Brianna lost to Valencia 6-5 in the 109 final.
All in all, the seven wrestlers from Iowa finished the two-day event with a combined record of 36-2. When not battling each other, the Hawkeyes went 34-0 against the competition with 25 technical falls and 2 pins, collectively outperforming their opponents at a staggering 330-35.
Related: The historic Iowa high school girls’ wrestling season kicks off with a 4-team dual in Grimes
It gets even more impressive when you consider that the Missouri Valley Open is widely regarded as one of the toughest tournaments of the season in women’s collegiate wrestling.
There were 495 wrestlers from 45 different teams, including McKendree, last year’s NCAA women’s team champions; Campbellsville, last year’s NAIA women’s team champion; and Indian Hills, last year’s junior college women’s team champions. Attendees included up to 10 past-age world team members, as well as numerous national champions and All-Americans.
This was an opportunity for the Iowa women to get an honest assessment of how they stack up against some of the best women in collegiate wrestling. It turns out all of those highly acclaimed recruits that head coach Clarissa Chun brought to Iowa City are pretty, pretty good.
Dias won 5-0 with four 101-pound technical shutout falls, beating two NAIA All-Americans in the process. Valencia beat their five opponents en route to gold 42-7 with 109 points, including a 6-2 semifinal win over Iowa Wesleyan’s Mia Palumbo, a returning NAIA National Finalist. Emilie and Brianna Gonzalez both beat All-Americans to meet their teammates in the Finals.
Taylor went 6-0 with three technical falls and two pins, picking up victories over a US Open seeder, two top-four finishers in last spring’s U20 world team trials and an NAIA All-American. Estrella outscored her six opponents 59-3, beating out a U20 World Team Trial finalist and an NCAA finalist. Larramendy defeated three senior All-Americans and a US Open finalist by a combined 63-13 on her way to six wins.
More Hawkeye wrestling:5 takeaways from Iowa’s wins over Sacred Heart and Buffalo
The overall performance of both parts was impressive, yet not incredibly surprising given the stellar credentials of these wrestlers. To name a few:
- Dias is a two-time cadet world bronze medalist and junior national champion.
- Valencia was part of the U23 world team last summer.
- Both Gonzalez sisters are national junior champions.
- Taylor was also on the World Under-23 team, winning the US Open and finishing runner-up in the USA Wrestling Senior World Team Trials against an eventual world champion.
- Larramendy finished fifth at the U20 World Cup.
- Estrella won the US Open last spring after finishing second at the NAIA National Championships.
But this opening performance more than anything else raises the stakes for next season, where these women will truly represent the Hawkeyes. In addition to the seven who lined up this weekend, there are others who didn’t, which will add more firepower to Chun’s first lineup in Iowa — like Kylie Welker, Sam Calkins, Ella Schmit and many more.
So this weekend’s performance was another exciting step forward for the Hawkeye women, although all results go into the books as unofficial and independent. It’s also a spark in the ongoing excitement building around this program, and another indication that these women are ready to win big, win early, and win often.
More women’s wrestling in Iowa:Lilly Luft, a two-time state champion from Charles City, signs the Hawkeyes
Iowa Women’s Wrestling Results from Missouri Valley Open
Sterling slides, 101 pounds
- game 1: 0:11 tech case via Jennesis Martinez (Colorado Mesa)
- game 2: 10-0 tech case over Sage Beltran (Missouri Valley)
- quarter finals: 10-0 tech case via Emma Cochran (Grand View)
- semifinals: 10-0 tech case via Ira Navarro (University of Providence)
- final: 3: 1 over Emilie Gonzalez (Iowa)
Emilie Gonzalez, 101 pounds
- game 1: 6-4 decision over Erin Hikiji (University of Providence)
- game 2: 10-0 tech case over Hannah Michael (Grand View)
- quarter finals: 12:2 tech case on Alaina Sunlin (Iowa Wesleyan)
- semifinals: 10-0 tech case on Alyssa Quezaire (Missouri Baptist)
- final: 3-1 loss to Sterling Dias (Iowa)
Nyla Valencia, 109 pounds
- game 1: 0:10 tech case on Laura Lincoln (Missouri Valley)
- game 2: 10-0 Tech case over Korigan Wilkey (Indiana Tech)
- quarter finals: 10-0 tech case via Pauline Granados (McKendree)
- semifinals: 6-2 over Mia Palumbo (Iowa Wesleyan)
- final: 6-5 over Brianna Gonzalez (Iowa)
Brianna Gonzalez, 109 pounds
- game 1: 10-0 tech case via Kali Christy (University of Saint Mary)
- game 2: 12:2 tech case via Jenavi Alejandro (Tiffin)
- quarter finals: 8-4 over Natalie Reyna-Rodriguez (Southern Oregon)
- semifinals: 10:0 Tech Case via Emma Baertlein (Unbound)
- final: 6-5 loss to Nyla Valencia (Iowa)
Felicity Taylor, 116 pounds
- game 1: 0:11 tech case via Shea Reisel (Campbellsville)
- game 2: Winner by fall (1:44) over Chloe Krebsbach (Grand View)
- game 3: 14-0 tech case over Elvie Villa (McKendree)
- quarter finals: 6-3 via Hannah Hall (Central Methodist)
- semifinals: 0:10 tech case on Juliana Diaz (Missouri Baptist)
- final: Fall Winner (2:26) via Ashley Gooman (University of Providence)
Nanea Estrella, 136 pounds
- game 1: 0:12 tech case via Oliva Flores (Friends University)
- game 2: 0:12 tech case about Jolynn Harris (McKendree)
- game 3: 0:12 tech case via Kira Phillipa (Texas Woman’s University)
- quarter finals: 10-0 tech case over Aliyah Yates (Cumberlands)
- semifinals: 10-0 Tech Case via Claire DiCugno (Unbound)
- final: 3: 3 over Nina Makem (Augsburg)
Reese Larramendy, 143 pounds
- game 1: 0:11 tech case via Ashlee Palimo’o (Midland)
- game 2: 10-0 tech case via Sidney Ramos (Tiffin)
- game 3: 10-0 tech case over Madison Diaz (Grand View)
- quarter finals: 5: 4 over Katie Lange (Augsburg)
- semifinals: 12-4 over Mea Mohler (Texas Wesleyan)
- final: 15-5 tech case via Alexis Gomez (Grand View)
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.