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Historic Who’s Number One girls card to showcase nation’s top wrestlers in 11 great matchups on Friday

by Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling

Shelby Moore of Washington celebrates after winning two national titles in Fargo in 2021, the 16U Nationals and the Junior Nationals. Photo by Austin Bernard.

FloWrestling took a huge step this year by creating a girls-only competition in its landmark Who’s Number One high school all-star event by creating a girls-only card and expanding the event to two consecutive nights in Dallas, Texas. Kudos to FloWrestling for making this kind of commitment.

“Everyone at FloSports is excited about this year’s Who’s Number One and the expanded format that now includes a complete card of women’s matches,” said Andrew Spey, FloWrestling’s Lead Content Writer. “We’re thrilled to be able to provide more opportunities for the many hard-working young women to compete in the premier high school wrestling event in the country. It's an opportunity for the competitors to gain valuable experience, and hopefully positive memories, but it’s also an opportunity to expose more fans to women’s wrestling and showcase a new class of future stars.”

The Who’s Number One girls event will be on Friday, September 17 at 6:00 p.m. CT, followed by the boys on Saturday, September 18 at 6:00 p.m. CT, both live on FloWrestling.

The 11-match girls card is stacked full of talent, and will have an immense impact on the next National Girls High School Rankings. The National Girls High School Preseason Rankings were released on Wednesday, with eight No. 1 wrestlers on the WNO card. There are four No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdowns, and the final match of the evening includes two No. 1 athletes from different weight classes going for bragging rights. The card features athletes who represented the USA at the age-group World level this summer, as well as many of the top stars from the 2021 USMC Junior/16U Nationals in Fargo in July.

“Having a set of high school rankings, which FloWrestling has published in partnership with USA Wrestling and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame for the past several years, is another powerful tool we hope is able to bring more fans into female wrestling. Both Who’s Number One and the rankings are natural complements that work even better together, and so we feel strongly that this year's event will be a part of the beginning of something truly special,” said Spey.

We will preview each match in order.

127 pounds

Alexis Janiak (Plainfield, Ill., No. 2 at 127, No. 14 P-4-P)

SaVannah Cosme (Denver, Colo., No. 1 at 127, No. 11 P-4-P)

Right off the bat, FloWrestling tosses us a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. SaVannah Cosme of Colorado, the current No. 1 at 127, and the No. 2 at the weight, Alexis Janiak of Illinois. Both are seniors looking to have a dominant final season on the prep level.

Cosme, who has been No. 1 a few other times in the last year, won the Cadet World Team Trials in May to make her first World Team, and defeated Janiak in that tournament in two straight matches, 5-2 and 8-2. Cosme did not qualify for a medal match at the Cadet Worlds, placing 16th in her weight class. Her last tournament facing top Americans was at the National Junior Duals, where she went 9-0 and had two ranked wins. Cosme also won the Junior Folkstyle Nationals last year.

Janiak bounced back after the Cadet World Team Trials by going 8-0 at the National Duals with two ranked wins, and then powered through this weight class to win the title at the Junior Nationals. Janiak also won the National Recruiting Showcase last season as well. She seems to have some trouble with Cosme, as she also lost to her in 2020 Super 32, another big-time freestyle event. Like Cosme, Janiak does not miss the major competitions, so she will be just as battle-tested going into this showdown. Let the best woman win, as this match will determine No. 1 and have an impact on the P-4-P rankings.

132 pounds

Janida Garcia (Modesto, Calif., No. 4 at 127)

Hanna Errthum (Mount Horeb, Wis, No. 1 at 132)

Hanna Errthum of Wisconsin has a deep resume and starts the new season at No. 1 at 132 pounds after placing second at the Junior Nationals, the highest placement among returning athletes at this weight class. Errthum did not make the Pound-For-Pound rankings because she actually lost a match at the 16U Nationals and placed third. That fact alone shows how much talent and depth there is at this weight class. Errthum is always in the mix in every event she enters, a consistency that has kept her high in the rankings throughout her career.

Janida Garcia has held a high ranking at either 127 or 132 pounds for the past year, basically because she wrestles nationally often and always has a high placement. She chose to drop to 127 pounds for the Junior Nationals and took third, losing only to runner-up Sofia Macaluso of New York. Over the last year, Garcia competed at most of the major events at 132 pounds or higher, although she was an NHSCA champion at 128. She was actually a USA Wrestling Preseason Nationals champion at 138 pounds, showing she can compete well regardless of weight class. There is a possibility that Garcia performs better at 132 pounds and a win over Errthum might determine what weight she chooses for the season ahead.

112 pounds

Jenavi Alejandro (Las Vegas, Nev., No. 3 at 112)

Cecilia Williams (Lansing, Mich., No. 1 at 112, No. 21 P-4-P)

This matchup could determine a new No. 1 at 112 pounds, or solidify the position of the current No. 1, Cecilia Williams of Michigan. Williams showed a lot of potential last year as an eighth grader who entered many large tournaments and scored a number of ranked wins over high school talents. She hadn’t really tested herself at the highest levels until she came to Fargo and powered through the bracket at the 16UNationals, where she had two more ranked wins, including a big victory over then No. 2 Zao Estrada. Williams was not eligible for the Junior division in Fargo, something she will be able to attempt this coming summer.

Jenavi Alejandro is a senior who has been consistently competing well at national events in recent seasons. In Fargo, she placed third at this weight class, losing only to No. 1 ranked and eventual champion Sage Mortimer of Utah, who is now in college. There were a number of other big events in the Western USA where Mortimer was the only wrestler to give Alejandro a loss. Estrada had a win over Alejandro at the National Recruiting Showcase, which is why Alejandro has a No. 3 ranking this month behind Williams and Estrada. A win over Williams will give Alejandro the right to claim No. 1 as her own, especially if Estrada decides to settle in at 117 pounds for good.

117 pounds

Zao Estrada (Hilton Head, S.C., No. 2 at 112)

Cadence Diduch (Freeport, Ill., No. 6 at 117)

This event is also an intriguing challenge between a pair of young stars. Zao Estrada of South Carolina is coming off a fantastic 2021 freshman year, where she jumped near the top of the rankings after she won both the 16U Girls Folkstyle Nationals and the National Recruiting Showcase on the same weekend in March. She was upset in the 112-pound finals at the 16U Nationals by Cecilia Williams. Estrada will want to start the new season off with a big win, which is what Who’s Number One is offering her. It is likely that Estrada may be competing at 117 pounds in the year ahead.

Diduch is another talented freshman, the U16 Nationals champion at 117 pounds. Like Williams, she was not eligible as an eighth grader last year to compete in the Junior Nationals, and she is ranked behind the five returning wrestlers who placed at Junior Nationals. An Illinois state champion this past year, Diduch had a number of ranked wins over high school stars during the winter season. A win by Diduch over Estrada will set her up to enter all the big high school events this year and move up near the top of this weight class quickly.

152 pounds

Destiny Rodriguez (West Linn, Ore., No. 2 at 144, No. 15 P-4-P)

Jasmine Robinson (Allen, Texas, No. 2 at 152, No. 13 P-4-P)

Here are a pair of No. 2 wrestlers who won Junior National titles this summer but are sitting behind current World Team members in the rankings. Rodriguez is behind Grace Stem, who was eighth at the Cadet Worlds. Robinson is behind Amit Elor, who won Cadet and Junior World titles this summer for the USA. In other years, these two athletes would be No. 1, no problem.

Just consider this a battle of Junior National champions from different weight classes wrestling for bragging rights. Robinson was one of the Fargo stars who created a big buzz, while winning both the Cadet Nationals and Junior Nationals and throwing her opponents all over the place. Rodriguez, who was a 2019 U15 World champion, had some tough matches on the way to her Junior title, beating opponents ranked No. 1, No. 4 and No. 7 on the way to the podium. This one is hard to handicap, but will be a joy to watch.

94 pounds

Valerie Solorio (Panama City, Fla., No. 17 at 100)

Erica Pastoriza (Phoenix, Ariz., No. 10 at 100)

The lowest weight class in the national rankings is 100 pounds, so girls who weigh in the 90’s have real difficulty getting in the top few ranking spots at 100, just based upon size. However, at the Cadet levels, there are lighter weights, and FloWrestling is bringing two of the best to Who’s Number One. Pastoriza won a Cadet World title at 88 pounds, while Solorio was the Cadet Nationals champion at 94 pounds. Since Pastoriza was at Cadet Worlds, these two did not wrestle in Fargo. We now get a chance to see which of the smaller high school stars can say they are the best in the nation.

100 pounds

Brianna Gonzalez (Baldwin Park, Calif., No. 2 at 100, No. 18 P-4-P)

Ava Ward (Centralia, Mo., No. 1 at 100, No. 9 P-4-P)

Here comes another No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown. Last year, as an eighth grader, Ava Ward took over this weight class by winning the Cadet World Team Trials, then went on to win a bronze medal at the Cadet World Championships. Brianna Gonzalez was a co-champion at the Junior Nationals, meeting up with her twin sister Emilie in the finals. Brianna gets the No. 2 ranking with Emilie at No. 3, based entirely on Brianna’s body of work over the last two years.

There is a common opponent here from Cadet World Team Trials, where they both wrestled at 46 kg. Gonzalez lost to Rianne Murphy, while Ward beat Murphy in a full three-match series in the finals. (Since then, Murphy has moved up to 106). Gonzalez has a ton more experience, as she enters her senior year while Ward is just a freshman. The difference in this match could be based on who comes out strong early and sets the pace. This could be a high-scoring and entertaining bout.

138 pounds

Savannah Gomez (Calexico, Calif., No. 2 at 138, No. 19 P-4-P)

Korina Blades (Broadview, Ill., No. 1 at 138, No. 4 P-4-P)

Few athletes had better 2021 seasons than Korina Blades, who at No. 4 is the highest ranked Pound-For-Pound wrestler in Who’s Number One. Blades made two U.S. World Teams this year, both the Cadet and Junior World Teams. At the Cadet Worlds, Blades placed seventh, which was probably below her expectations. At Junior Worlds, she rallied and won a World bronze medal against older opponents. Blades was on a pair of World Championship Teams, as the USA came home with the team title trophy at both Cadets and Juniors. She is No. 1 at this weight class for a reason.

Gomez is also a force, winning the Junior Nationals in impressive fashion. She beat four nationally-ranked opponents in Fargo. Both of these athletes tried out for the Cadet World Team, and Blades beat Gomez in that tournament in the semifinals, 9-1. In that respect, Who’s Number One gives Gomez a unique opportunity to turn the tables on Blades and grab No. 1 for herself. It will be a good show.

164 pounds

Lillian Freitas (Modesto, Calif., No. 3 at 164, No. 6 P-4-P)

Rose Cassioppi (Hononegah, Ill., No. 3 at 152)

How can a No. 3 ranked athlete be good enough for Who’s Number One? Consider that Lilian Freitas is sitting behind Junior World champions and Olympic Trials finalists Kylie Welker and Kennedy Blades at 164 pounds. Freitas won a bronze medal at the 2021 Cadet World Championships this last summer and has wins over most of the other athletes ranked at 164 pounds. Freitas won California state high school titles as a freshman and sophomore, then went to Wyoming Seminary where she is focusing on her international freestyle career. This is an elite athlete in an amazingly deep weight of young stars. She is ranked No. 6 in the Pound-For-Pound rankings because of her tremendous talent and success.

Freitas was supposed to wrestle Welker in Who’s Number One, but Welker went out and beat Blades to earn a spot on the Senior World Team at 72 kg. Instead of competing in Dallas, Welker is off to New York City for World Team Training Camp prior to heading to Oslo. Taking on Freitas will be junior Rose Cassioppi, who was second in the Junior Nationals at 152, losing to Jasmine Robinson in the finals. Cassioppi competed at 164 pounds most of the season before Fargo and was high in the rankings all year. Included in her resume were titles at the Preseason Nationals, the Junior Folkstyle Nationals and the National Recruiting Showcase, and second place in the UWW Cadet Nationals, where she lost to Freitas in the 73 kg finals, 8-0 and 7-0.

106 pounds

Paige Morales (Clovis, Calif., No. 2 at 106, No. 17 P-4-P)

Audrey Jimenez (Tucson, Ariz., No. 1 at 106, No. 7 P-4-P)

Here goes another No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown, with Cadet World bronze medalist Audrey Jimenez battling 2021 Cadet Nationals and Junior Nationals champion Paige Morales. With Jimenez not in Fargo in order to attend Cadet Worlds, these two have not met at a major event. When Jimenez won the Cadet World Team Trials, Morales was third. Morales lost to Faith Cole, who was beaten in the finals series by Jimenez.

FloWrestling gets credit for “discovering” Jimenez earlier this year, placing her on one of their special all-star cards before she really hit the national scene. Jimenez won the Arizona state championships as a freshman, then had four ranked wins during the Cadet World Team Trials. Morales had one of the best performances in Fargo, with eight ranked wins during her two tournaments. Morales beat Kiely Tabaldo in the finals of both National events in Fargo. While Jimenez has the most recent World medal, Morales was a U15 World silver medalist back in 2019. This match will be a barnburner.

122 pounds

Shelby Moore (Buckley, Wash., No. 1 at 122, No. 8 P-4-P)

Katie Gomez (Van Nuys, Calif., No. 1 at 117, No. 5 P-4-P)

What is better than a match between No. 1 wrestlers from two different weight classes? That is what we are getting with Shelby Moore, the current No. 1 at 122 pounds, and Katie Gomez, the current No. 1 at 117 pounds. Both of these athletes had incredible summers. Gomez is a World champion, winning the gold medal at the Cadet World Championships. Moore is a Fargo double champion, winning both the 16U Nationals and Junior Nationals at the next weight up from Gomez. In the Pound-For-Pound rankings, Gomez is No. 4 and Moore is No. 8. This is truly a battle of super talents.

Gomez didn’t always wrestle down at 116 pounds. She won the 2020 Super 32 up at 123 pounds, which would put her right in Moore’s weight class. If you go back to the 2020 Freakshow, Gomez has a win over Moore, who was just emerging on the national scene. Gomez had a great year in 2021, winning the National Recruiting Showcase and the UWW Cadet Nationals. Moore also had a stellar 2021 season, winning the Folkstyle Nationals at the U16 and Junior levels, and adding a third national title that weekend with a win at the National Recruiting Showcase. Moore lost one match at the UWW Cadet Nationals to Juliana Morris, pretty much the only blemish on her record the entire year. Gomez is a senior and Moore is a junior, which means this is the last year they could battle while in high school. But you can expect to hear from both of them at the next level and beyond.