Moreno wins 123-pound title, lifts SOU to 2nd at nationals
JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Freshman Carolina Moreno and the Southern Oregon University women’s wrestling team saved their best performances of the season, and in program history, for last Saturday at the NAIA Invitational.
Moreno knocked off the top-two seeds in the 123-pound bracket on Day 2 at Newman Arena, capturing a national championship and lifting the Raiders to second place in the team standings after they came into the tournament with a No. 5 ranking.
Moreno’s title put an exclamation mark on a near-perfect showing for the Raiders in their placing matches, where they went 7-2. With nine top-eight placers, SOU finished with more than any of the 34 other teams in attendance.
Campbellsville (Ky.) won the team title with 189 points. The Raiders scored 158 ½ to finish 1 ½ points in front of third-place Menlo (Calif.) — the team that edged them for the Cascade Conference championship — and three ahead of fourth-place Life (Ga.).
Four Raiders joined Moreno as All-Americans: 116-pounder Tara Othman, 136-pounder Emily Se and 155-pounder Sienna Ramirez took third place, while 170-pounder Bailey Dennis finished fourth. Three more Raiders earned honorable mention All-America status with seventh-place finishes: Emma Baertlein (101 pounds), Carolina Johnson (116) and Desinee Lopez (130). Karrah Smith (191) was honorable mention in eighth.
Moreno, a product of Yuma, Ariz., followed Ramirez as SOU’s second-ever national champion after taking the 123-pound bracket’s No. 4 seed into the tourney. She was one of six Raider placers who outperformed their seeds.
After defeating three unseeded opponents on Friday, Moreno started Saturday by shutting out top-ranked Nichole Moore of Baker (Kan.) 8-0 in the semifinals. Her championship match was even more lopsided - an 11-0 technical fall over No. 2 seed Leilah Castro of Campbellsville that was called with just over a minute left in the second round.
Moreno, who placed second in the CCC, finished with a 31-5 record. She outscored her five tournament opponents by a combined margin of 47-4.
Othman, the No. 5 seed at 116, went down by fall against Menlo’s top-seeded Allieda Martinez in the first period of the semifinals. She came back with a 10-0 technical fall against No. 3 seed Camille Fournier of Texas Wesleyan in the consolation semis, then defeated No. 6 seed Ashley Gooman of Providence on criteria after they wrestled to a 4-4 score in the third-place match.
Se, after losing Friday in the round of 16, dominated the 136-pound bracket the rest of the way with four pins and two technical falls. On Saturday, the No. 5-seeded junior started with consecutive technical-fall shutouts over Samantha Barragan of Life Pacific (Calif.) and No. 12 seed Diana Dzasezeva of Waldorf (Iowa). In the third-place match, she pinned No. 4 seed Paige Respicio of Providence (Mont.) in the second round.
Ramirez, the top seed at 155, was equally dominant after being upset in the Round of 16 with six straight consolation wins to finish her senior season with a 44-3 record. SOU’s all-time wins leader started Saturday with a 14-8 decision over No. 3 seed India Page of Brewton-Parker (Ky.) before beating Campbellsville’s Kendra Thompson 12-1. In the third-place match, she stayed in control throughout a 4-1 win over Providence’s No. 11 seed Sadie Antoque.
Dennis, the No. 8 seed at 170, lost to the Nos. 3, 5 and 7 seeds Saturday after finishing Friday’s action with an upset of the top seed in the quarterfinals.
The Raiders went 3-1 in seventh-place matches. Baertlein pinned Menlo’s Tianna Fernandez in 4:52; Johnson won by technical fall against Corban’s Kendall Martin; Lopez pinned No. 8 seed Kaylee Moore of Eastern Oregon in 1:10; and Smith was pinned by Baker’s Elisa Robinson.
After finishing eighth as a team at the inaugural 2019 NAIA Invitational, the Raiders have improved by three spots in both subsequent appearances.