University of Providence Women’s Wrestling Program ended their 2022 – 2023 season with excitement, big wins, and making UP history.
Within the seven teams in the conference qualifier, UP’s Women’s Wrestling Team had six athletes ranked going into conference. Throughout the tournaments, they qualified nine – more than originally stated on paper.
Head Coach Matt Atwood mentioned there were a lot of triumphs and fantastic performances throughout the season.
“There were girls, like Lexi Tupuola, that were ranked 20th going into the national tournament and placed eighth. Big stuff like that happened,” said Atwood.
Erin Hikiji, UP freshman, also made a comeback. Hikiji, originally not ranked, finished off the season at nationals as number two in the country for her weight class (101lbs).
In addition to having nine national qualifiers, the wrestling team had six All-Americans (Ira Navarro, Ashley Gooman, Paige Respicio, Lexi Tupuola, Erin Hikiji, and Waipuilani Estrella-Beauchamp), the most single season All-Americans in school history. In addition, the team added the first national champion (Ira Navarro) to the university’s athletic records.
Although short from finishing off third in the country, the women’s wrestling team exceeded their initial placement (13th in the country). They finished off the season strong coming in at fifth.
“We just didn’t have enough qualified athletes at the national tournament. We had nine girls there where those other teams that were winning at 12 because of the conference qualifier. We were three point scorers away from what they had,” Atwood said.
The team won both sportsmanship awards at the NAIA Conference and Nationals. Atwood stated the sportsmanship award is based o
ff other coaches’ and their teams’ votes. Atwood also commented that winning the award meant other teams were looking at UP’s women’s wrestling program as one to mirror.
“I actually had a lot of girls reach out to me from other teams wanting to transfer to us because of the way they saw our girls interact at the national tournament. That’s not something that all teams have,” Atwood said.
Although wrestling is very much self-focused and based on individual competitiveness, UP’s Women’s Wrestling Program establishes a team culture of support and unity. The team displays a robust image of dedication, commitment, and discipline. In season, the team practices at 6:00 a.m. almost all year long with challenging workouts and strict and individual daily regimens.
“They have to be very disciplined especially whenever you are looking at being a national champion, like Ira. Every single day is a strict regimen for her weather. It’s her diet, her workouts, and her mental game,” Atwood said.
The team is coming back stronger with top-of-the-line recruits and a promising potential outlook for the 2023 – 2024 season.
“Both of what we’re returning and what we’re recruiting, we’re set up really well.” Atwood said.
Atwood mentioned there may be a few surprises depending on how they finish the recruiting process these next few weeks.
UP Women’s Wrestling is looking at 53 women on the roster for the 2023 – 2024 season with 33 new athletes and 20 returning. Some of the upcoming freshmen consist of a U15 World Silver Medalist (Paige Morales at 109 lbs.), U-17 Pan-American Championship Gold Medalist (Isabella Bocanegra at 101 lbs.), and state champions in various weight brackets.
Atwood and Assistant Coach, Fisher, are excited for the upcoming season and look forward to next year’s national tournament.
“I think we have a really good opportunity to win a national title next year, which would be really big since I don’t think the school has won one since the 1960s in bowling, if I understand correctly. We are set up well, so we’ll see what happens,” Atwood said.
Athletic events for the 2023 – 2024 season will be updated on the Argo Athletics page.