Women’s Wrestling Competes at Nationals

“This past weekend was quite the experience being able to win a regional title my freshman year,” said Sacred Heart women’s wrestling freshman Aaliyah Payne-Parris. “The feeling at the end of my final match had me at a loss for words as I realized I was going to Nationals.”

After winning their regional championships, the women had nine qualifiers for nationals, an improvement over last year when they had just four.

Last year, sophomore Madison Sandquist lost her weight class, but still qualified for Nationals. This time around, she is heading back to Nationals with her weight class title.

“I started wrestling in eighth grade, I was a swimmer for many years and my brother was the one who wrestled,” said Sandquist. “Once I quit swimming my parents encouraged me to give wrestling a chance and the environment was so encouraging that I fell in love and stuck with it.”

Payne-Parris won her weight class this year which was one of her two goals at the start of the season. The second goal was to win Regionals and get to Nationals.

“Winning my weight class after a bye in the semifinals made me feel thrilled as this was one of my goals at the beginning of the season,” said Payne-Parris. “I was excited to be able to accomplish this goal and it also helped with us winning our team regional title.”

Some players attribute their success to drive, commitment, and focus.  Others also give credit to tips from coaches and fellow athletes.

“The key to success is discipline,” said sophomore Jacklyn Smith. “I used to beat myself up in order to find the way to be motivated every day. I soon realized truthfully you are not going to be motivated every day. You have to develop discipline to show up on the days and under the conditions you may not want to.”

Despite being in their second season as a program at Sacred Heart, the team is growing tremendously. They are a young program, consisting entirely of freshmen and sophomores, but were recently ranked tenth in the nation.

“I am nothing but proud of my team,” said head coach Paulina Biega. “We have been working very hard from the first day of pre-season and it sure paid off. We finished the season undefeated in the region. The only four losses were to the top ranked programs in the country.”

That feat won Biega the NCWWC Region 1 Coach of the Year award.  In just two years of existence, she has led Sacred Heart to back-to-back winning seasons.

“It is a great honor which is a result of the efforts of the full team,” said Biega. “They made it possible, and I am grateful for that.”

The women’s wrestling Nationals was held in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on March 3. The team ultimately fell short, but were able to place seventh out of 37 programs.

The Women’s wrestling team ended the season with five All-Americans. Sandquist and Smith won their second career honor and Payne-Parris has one her first honor. The other two to be named All-Americans are Cara Broadus and Alexandra Fitzgerald.

Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.

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