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Young, tough Warriors ready to battle this season

By Matt Oliver

FOREST CITY – Twenty underclassmen look to provide depth while building on experience for the Waldorf College women’s wrestling team this season.

“We have a young and tough group of kids,” Waldorf coach Tyreece Gilder said. “They work hard and they’re looking to go out and surprise some people.”

The Warriors, who begin the 2015-16 campaign ranked No. 20 in the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) preseason poll, are prepared to bring their best every time they step onto the mat.

“There’s no pressure on us to go out there and perform except for the pressure we put on ourselves,” said Gilder, who begins his third season at Waldorf.  “I try to make it to where they’re just going out and having fun and the rest takes care of itself.”

Senior Sonya Legate (191 pounds), sophomores Maciel Ramirez (109), Marisa Hopwood (109) and Bailey McLaughlin (136) return for the Warriors after competing in last season’s WCWA National Championships.

“They have all come a long way,” Gilder said. “You can definitely see the growth that they’ve had since then with the work they’ve been putting in. It’ll be fun to see them get out there, wrestle hard and enjoy the fruits of their labor.”

Legate is Waldorf’s lone senior and the Neligh, Neb. native is expected to provide for the team in her final season.

“She’s a really big player for us,” Gilder said. “She is the most experienced on the team and is one of the team leaders.”

Redshirt junior Justice Losee (136) is the only other upperclassmen for the Warriors, who have quickly come together and bonded through preseason practices.

“They’re a close group,” Gilder said. “They’re young and I think down the road, their strengths will show more because they’ll have so much time spent together with each other. They push each other and we have a lot of girls who are really competitive.”

Rose Heurtelou (109) is a junior academically, but joins Waldorf with sophomore eligibility. The Brooklyn, N.Y. native transferred from Springfield Technical Community College where she was named a 2014 Body Bar Women’s National Championships All-American and a 2015 National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) All-American.

“She’s competed up in Canada and has been around the sport for a while,” Gilder said. “She’s got quite a bit of experience with the international style.”

Freshman Hope Cordoviz (101) is also a transfer, coming from San Joaquin Delta College.

Illiana Bartsch (116) and Celeste Hernandez (191) return as sophomores for the Warriors along with redshirt freshman Rachael Coleck (130).

Freshmen Abigail Flores (143), Aisha Simpson (136), Araceli Cruz (109), Carli Lombardo (116), Cherydan James (143), Daisy Velazquez (136), Emmalee Buesinger (191), Harmony Maitland(170), Jasmine Alexander (109), Kaitlyn Moorhead (143), Valerie Gonzalez (116) and Victoria Lyons (155) round out Waldorf’s roster.

The Warriors begin the season on Saturday in the Midland Women’s Wrestling Open, which starts at 9 a.m. at Fremont, Neb.

“They’ve got to go out there and wrestle complete matches,” Gilder said. “They need to finish stronger than they started and that’s always tough to do, but that’s the goal.”

Waldorf faces No. 3 Oklahoma City University, No. 9 Missouri Baptist University, No. 14 Lindenwood University-Belleville, No. 18 University of Jamestown, No. 19 Ottawa University and No. 22 Midland University in the season-opening tournament.

“We’ll see a lot of the same competition that we’ll see throughout the year,” Gilder said. “It’ll be a good eye-opener for a lot of the newer girls and a good test for the returners as well to make sure they’re not sleeping on the competition.”

Ten events appear on the season schedule for the Warriors, who host the Waldorf College Open on Jan. 2. Waldorf also competes in the National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) National Duals on Jan. 8-9 at Fort Wayne, Ind. The WCWA National Championships are set for Feb. 12-13 at Oklahoma City.

Ready to begin a new season, progressing from one day to the next is the top objective for a young and talented Warriors team.

“Improving every day is the biggest goal,” Gilder said. “One of the things I tell them is, ‘Give the type of effort today that you’ll be proud of tomorrow’ and that’s always the goal. Going out there, competing hard and leaving it out there on the mat, so that at the end of the day you don’t have any regrets.”