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WOMEN'S COLLEGE PREVIEW: Cumberlands the team to beat at Women's Nationals

Blake Timm Pacific Univ

Defending national champion enters Womenıs Wrestling Championships with No. 2 continental ranking

FOREST GROVE, 0RE - ­ Sometimes reputation, size and experience make all the difference in competing for a national title, and the No. 2 ranked team in North America has all three coming into this weekendıs National Collegiate Womenıs Wrestling Championships.

University of the Cumberlands enters Saturdayıs tournament will all three attributes working for them. The defending national champion will have the biggest squad of the eight-team field, bringing 13 athletes each. Eight of the Patriots' grapplers are ranked in the last North American College Poll, as ranked by, and return three national champions in Jessica Medina at 51 kg, Othella Lucas at 59 kg, and Alaina Berube at 63 kg.

In addition, the talent on the Cumberlands squad was evident when the team won a dual over Northern Michigan University's Olympic Education Center program on Feb. 23. The Patriots won five of seven matches in the dual meet.

While Cumberlands will be the odds-on favorite to take another title, it can be assured that the other three varsity teams in the field will give the Patriots a run for the money.

Missouri Valley enters the tournament with a No. 4 North American team ranking. The Vikings, who finished second at last yearıs tournament, return two national champions in Tabitha Ramsey at 48 kg, and Stephany Lee at 72 kg. In all, Missouri Valley brings five All-Americans back to the field.

Host Pacific will try to avenge a disappointing tournament last year as their lineup was ravaged by a number of injuries just before the tournament.

Titilope Lawani is the teamıs top returning placer, finishing third in 2006 at 63 kilograms. Kapua Torres, who missed last year's tournament with injuries, returns to the four-athlete field at 51 kg. Torres enters ranked No. 4 in North America in her weight class, while the Boxers boast a No. 10 North American team ranking.

Menlo will look to move up after finishing fifth last year. The Oaks suffered from missing a number of their top grapplers last season and did not bring home any All-Americans. Carla OıConnell and Ashlee Evans-Smith are the top returning placers for Menlo, each finishing sixth at 51 kg and 67 kg, respectively. Sara Fulp-Allen will be the favorite in the tournament at 48 kg. She enters the tournament with a No. 1 North American ranking.

In addition, individual wrestlers will represent Arizona State, Cabrillo Junior College, Cal State Bakersfield and Fresno State. A total of 44 athletes are currently entered in the tournament.

The national tournament, hosted this year by Pacific University, will be held on Saturday at the Pacific Athletic Center in Forest Grove. Sessions begin at 9:00 a.m., with the championship session beginning at 7:00 p.m.

For more information on the National Collegiate Womenıs Wrestling Championships, including the tournament schedule and brackets, visit the tournament Web site at:
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