Washington wrestlers excelled in college postseason

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Updated: April 29, 2022

Photo: Brandon Kaylor (left) of Bonney Lake, Wash., was one of four Oregon State All-Americans at the Div. I tourney, while Puyallup’s Salyna Shotwell of Life University reached the women’s NAIA finals with Menlo’s Alleida Martinez.

By Emma Bruntil

Every wrestler and fan in America loves the month of March. It’s the time of year when the great are separated from the good and our nation’s best and brightest wrestling stars clamber for a spot on the top of the All-American podium.

This year, the state of Washington saw a dozen former prep wrestlers across several different college divisions earn All-American honors.

Men’s NCAA Div. I

Four-time WIAA state champion Brandon Kaylor made a statement at this year’s tournament in Detroit at 125 pounds. The Oregon State sophomore scored a 16-4 major decision over Penn’s Ryan Miller to open his tournament, before besting Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett.

After falling to eventual finalist Patrick Glory 7-3 in the quarterfinals, Kaylor won his Blood-Round match by fall over Missouri’s Noah Surtin to earn his first All-American finish (eighth). Meanwhile, former three-time WIAA state champion Haiden Drury wrestled for Utah Valley at 133 pounds but fell to Josh Koderhandt of Navy and Kai Orine of NC State, ending his tournament run.

Men’s NCAA Div. II

Colorado Mesa freshman Ryan Wheeler meant business at 157 pounds at the nationals in St. Louis. The No. 6 seed opened his tournament with a fall in just 27 seconds over Tyler Wagener of Augustana, before falling to the eventual champion Josiah Rider of Adams State 3-1 in the quarterfinals. Wheeler then pinned Jake Nicolosi of Mount Olive, followed by a 6-3 decision over Dawson Combest, and a 3-2 win over Anthony Herrera of St. Cloud State. In his third-place match, Wheeler pinned John Riddle of Central Missouri in 6:45 to clinch bronze.

Women’s NCWWA

When the lights shine brightest, Cameron Guerin rises to the occasion. The Yakima native and McKendree University sophomore blitzed the field at the national tournament in Adrian, Mich., capturing her second individual title at 130 pounds with a pin and three tech-falls and did not give up a single point.

Guerin was named the ‘Most Outstanding Wrestler’ and helped McKendree edge King University for the school’s third consecutive team title.

Meanwhile, White River alumnus Claire DiCugno earned her first All-American honor as a true freshman with a sixth-place finish at 130 pounds. DiCugno’s Colorado Mesa teammate, North Kitsap’s Holly Beudoin, finished sixth for the Mavericks at 136 pounds.

Meanwhile, Washington’s Riley Aamold and Tatum Heikkala also snagged All-American finishes.

Women’s NAIA

Salyna Shotwell put the wrestling world on notice when she held three-time World champion Emily Shilson to a decision at the 2020 Junior/U23 Nationals. The Life University freshman stepped up to the occasion once again at the 2022 NAIA national tournament, finishing as the runner-up at 116 pounds.

Shotwell was a pinning machine the entire tournament, as she earned four straight falls to reach the finals before falling to two-time national champion Alleida Martinez of Menlo.

Returning 155-pound NAIA champion Sienna Ramirez of Southern Oregon finished third, battling all the way back through the consolations after dropping her Round-of-16 match to Kendra Thompson of Campbellsville.

 Washington natives Kaylee Moore, Morgan Shines and Karrah Smith all wrapped up their tournaments with an 8th-place finish.

Men’s NJCAA

Former Tahoma wrestler and multiple-time WIAA state champion Steele Starren demonstrated he was more than capable of being a serious threat on the college level when he reached the finals of the NJCAA national championships in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The Clackamas freshman opened his tournament with a 4-3 decision over Alonzo Smiley of Triton, followed by a 6-2 decision over Scott Radke of Pratt, and a medical forfeit (Starren was leading 10-2 at the time of the injury) over Minnesota West’s Damon Ashworth. In the finals, Starren fell to a talented wrestler in Christian Minto 14-5.

Another former WIAA state finalist, Michael Gasper, had a successful weekend in Iowa, getting a pin and then a 4-2 victory over Khris Walton of Indian Hills. Gasper fell to Demarco Lee in the quarterfinals 3-1 but bounced back with a 10-4 win in the Blood Round. He added two more victories to place fifth. Fellow Washington native Navarro Nanpuya, who wrestles for North Idaho, claimed seventh at 174 pounds.

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