The Arizona wrestling team might be obscure to most because of its club status, but it has wrestlers worthy to be recognized, notably freshman Chastity Todacheenie.
An accomplished youth wrestler, winning the national title last year for her weight class at the Greater Southwest Nationals, Todacheenie heads this week to the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NWCA) National Championships as the No. 1 seed in the 123-pound class.
Todacheenie, who became involved in the sport while in middle school, will compete against six other female wrestlers in her weight class in the nationals that run from Thursday through Saturday at Allen, Texas. As the top seed, she gets an automatic bye to the semifinal round.
“It’s a little scary,” Todacheenie said. “I didn’t expect to get this far in my first year.”
If her past success is any indication, Todacheenie, who hails from the Navajo-tribe region of Shiprock, N.M., will handle the challenge well.
“I get really nervous before my match,” she said in an interview with the Navajo Times. “I think all the memories of people telling me that I won’t live up to my dreams or something, just doubting me, come back and it’s like I have to prove them wrong.
“I have to show them that there’s more to me than what they think.”
Todacheenie came to Tucson in the spring after graduating from Shiprock High School with aspiration to complete her physiology degree. During orientation, she discovered Arizona had a club wrestling team and she immediately pursued the opportunity to continue her career on the mat.
“Wrestling, for me, helps me deal with a lot of things that I go through, that I deal with; stress and anxiety, depression,” she said. “I just take it all out on the mat.”
Although Todacheenie said she will be nervous at the nationals this week, she did mention, “What I expect is just for me to do my best.”
Arizona’s club team had some setbacks this year that prevented them from repeating as champions in the West Coast Conference Championships at Bullhead City two weeks ago.
With only four male wrestlers, the Wildcats still finished strong in third place, less than 10 points from second place.
“We had a strong showing with WBF (win by fall) or major decisions in the first three rounds” said head coach Vince Majalca.
In the semifinals of the 157-pound class, Andres Piedra of Sunnyside High School had a strong performance but lost a close match against a Dixie State wrestler 8-6, running out of time before he scored a takedown that would have given him the win. Piedra finished fourth, qualifying for nationals.
In the 149-pound class, Alex Colpo of Empire finished third, qualifying for the second time in his career, defeating Drew Linton from Utah State 12-10.
Freshman Phillip Grajeda III of Walden Grove (141 pounds) lost a close match to Patrick Truong of UCLA 8-7 but finished third with three pins and a major decision.
At 235 pounds, Jorge Lisa Loya-Lopez of Sahuarita missed half the season with injuries but still qualified for nationals.
It competes on a national level with NAIA teams and other NCWA teams. It also competes with redshirts from NCAA Division 1 teams.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.