Payton Stroud knows a thing or two about wrestling success, both individually and as a member of a top-tier team.
As a White River High senior she led the Hornets to a No. 2 spot in the state championships and now, as a sophomore at McKendree University, she has helped the Bearcats to a collegiate title.
McKendree defended its national championship March 6 at the second-annual Cliff Keen National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championship. The culminating event for female collegiate wrestlers was hosted by Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio.
For her part, Stroud took fifth place in the 123-pound weight class, earning All-America honors in the process. That makes her a two-time All-American, as she had placed eighth at nationals as a McKendree freshman.
During the season-ending national championships, Stroud won her first-round match by an 8-2 decision and advanced with a technical fall (1:28) in the second round. She slipped in her next two battles, defeated by fall at 1:19 before losing a 12-10 decision. In the fifth-place match, Stroud won by technical fall (1:10) over Mateah Roehl of North Central College (Naperville, Illinois). The 3-2 tourney record landed Stroud her fifth-place honors.
McKendree was represented by 15 wrestlers at nationals, where eight made it into the finals. In the end, McKendree won its second consecutive NCWWC title with 209 points while 14 Bearcats were named All-Americans. Six Bearcats were crowned individual national champions, and head coach Sam Schmitz was named Coach of the Year and Coach of the NCWWC Tournament.
The state of Washington played a pivotal role in McKendree’s run to a national title. Battling their way to individual championships were Cameron Guerin, a 130-pounder from Yakima’s Davis High School; Brenda Reyna, 136 pounds, from Mount Vernon High; and Emma Bruntil, 143 pounds, an Acme native out of Mount Baker High School.
The national tournament concluded the 2020-21 season for the Bearcats. No.1 McKendree finished the regular season 5-0, posting a third-consecutive undefeated season.
So, what’s next for a successful sophomore who is a two-time All-American, the recipient of Academic All-American honors and who turned 20 years old last weekend?
The World Team Trials are coming up and it’s a competition Stroud will be preparing for by wrestling every day. That’s quite a departure from a year ago, when the coronavirus rocked the entire world, including collegiate wrestling. Stroud spent time in Michigan, could not get into a gym and didn’t wrestle for perhaps six months.
But now she’s back, making the sacrifices necessary to excel on the mat.
Before being recruited by McKendree University, Stroud had closed the book on an outstanding four-year varsity wrestling career at White River High School. She was named team captain of the Hornets during her sophomore season and carried that title for the rest of her Hornet days. As a junior, she placed No. 2 at Washington’s all-classification state meet and then capped her senior season with a state title. Stroud also became a folk style national champion and was a member of the Team Takedown Wrestling Club.
McKendree University is a private university in Lebanon, Illinois. Founded in 1828 as the Lebanon Seminary, it is the oldest college or university in Illinois and now enrolls approximately 2,300 undergraduates and nearly 700 graduate students representing 25 countries and 29 states.
McKendree athletes participate in 16 women’s sports, with 17 on the men’s side. The university participates in the Great Lakes Valley Conference as a member of the NCAA Division II. The conference has 15 members spread among three states (nine in Missouri, four in Illinois and two in Indiana).