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Iowa's Herkelman, Hawaii's Alo among champions crowned at Cadet Nationals in women's freestyle

Craig Sesker USA Wrestling

Iowa’s Cassy Herkelman scores the winning points in the finals of the Cadet Nationals. John Sachs photo.

FARGO, N.D. – Iowa’s Cassy Herkelman celebrated her 16th birthday in dramatic fashion.

Trailing late in the third period, Herkelman executed a two-point turn in the closing seconds to rally for a 0-4, 1-0, 2-1 win over Pennsylvania’s Francesca Giorgio in the Cadet women’s freestyle finals at 115 pounds.

Herkelman countered a third-period shot attempt and locked around Giorgio’s leg. She then lifted her opponent and exposed her back to the mat for the winning points with three seconds left in the match.

“I had beaten her before up in Canada, and I knew she would come back tough against me,” said Herkelman, who was fifth in this event last year. “I had confidence I could score at the end and I was able to turn her.”

Herkelman said her birthday celebration will have to wait a couple of days. She plans to compete in the Junior Nationals women’s event on Tuesday in Fargo.

The Cadet women’s event on Saturday kicked off the eight-day Cadet and Junior Nationals at the FargoDome. It was the second year of competition for the Cadet women, featuring athletes ages 15 and 16.

Michigan’s Autumn Rux was the lone repeat champion in the Cadet women’s field. Rux recorded a third-period fall over Michigan teammate Samantha Cushard in the 154 finals.

Hawaii’s Teshya Alo capped a superb tournament by defeating Colorado's Maya Nelson 4-3, 2-2, 4-1 in the finals at 124. Alo was named Outstanding Wrestler.

Alo downed returning champion Kayla Miracle of Indiana 5-3, 4-2 en route to the finals on Saturday. Alo avenged a loss against Miracle from this year’s Body Bar Nationals.

Oklahoma’s Becca Leathers finished a strong tournament by defeating Hawaii’s Shannon Paaaina 2-0, 1-4, 5-1 in the finals at 132.

Leathers, a Junior and Cadet Folkstyle Nationals champion, rallied to top returning champion Jasmine Mendoza of California 4-3, 4-2 en route to the finals. Leathers trailed 3-0 in the first period and was down 2-0 in the second period before coming back to prevail.

California won the team title with Washington placing second and Michigan third.

Oregon’s Jessica DeHart took charge early en route to sweeping Washington’s Marizza Birrueta 6-0, 1-0 in the finals at 101.

Washington’s Brittnee Cook looked strong in earning a second-period fall over Virginia’s Rebecca Forsyth in the finals at 95.

Cadence Lee fell behind early before recovering to gain a first-period fall over California teammate Angelica Llanes in the finals at 108.

New York’s Alexis Porter earned the title at 143 with a first-period fall over California’s Anna Naylor. Porter was third in this event last year.

Michigan’s Kaitlyn Hill went 3-0 in a round-robin format to win the title at 172. Washington’s Ryan Gibbons won the title at 198 and Hawaii’s Malie Gonsalves was the champion at 84.

There were 85 entries for the second year of the Cadet women’s event, a slight increase from last year.

Cadet Greco-Roman wrestlers are scheduled to take the mat for Day 2 of the eight-day event on Sunday. First whistles are scheduled on 23 mats at 9 a.m. Sunday in Fargo.


84 Pounds
1st – Malie Gonsalves (Hawaii)

95 Pounds
Brittnee Cook (Washington) pinned Rebecca Forsyth (Virginia), 7-0, 0:50

101 Pounds
Jessica DeHart (Oregon) dec. Marizza Birrueta (Washington), 6-0, 1-0

108 Pounds
Cadence Lee (California) pinned Angelica Llanes (California), 1:55

115 Pounds
Cassy Herkelman (Iowa) dec. Francesca Giorgio (Pennsylvania), 0-4, 1-0, 2-1

124 Pounds
Teshya Alo (Hawaii) dec. Maya Nelson (Colorado), 4-3, 2-2, 4-1

132 Pounds
Becca Leathers (Oklahoma) dec. Shannon Paaaina (Hawaii), 2-0, 1-4, 5-1

143 Pounds
Alexis Porter (New York) pinned Anna Naylor (California), 1:32

154 Pounds
Autumn Rux (Michigan) pinned Samantha Cushard (Michigan), 4-0, 0-3, 1:42

172 Pounds
1st – Kaitlyn Hill (Michigan), 3-0 record
2nd – Azusenna Molina (California), 1-1 record

198 Pounds
1st – Ryan Gibbons (Washington)
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