White River wrestlers help state team earn national title

The team broke California’s nine-year winning streak.

A trio of White River High wrestlers made their presence known on the national scene, participating in the Cadet and Junior National Wrestling Championships.

The huge tournament is staged every summer in Fargo, North Dakota, and draws grapplers, both female and male, from every corner of the United States. This year’s tourney ran July 12-19.

In the Junior division, Washington’s female team – with recent White River graduate Payton Stroud and current Hornet wrestler Alex Hernandez on the roster – captured the team championship. Additionally, the Washington squad had former White River standout Erin Radford as one of its assistant coaches. She graduated from White River in 2017 and signed on to wrestle at Oklahoma City University; she has since transferred and will be competing during the coming season for Eastern Oregon University.

In capturing the Junior team title, the Washington girls snapped California’s nine-year streak, pushing the Golden State squad into the No. 2 slot. Rounding out the top five were Texas, Hawaii and Illinois.

In the Cadet division (16 and younger) California emerged on top, with Washington landing at No. 4 in the team standings. Representing White River on the Cadet roster were Hernandez and Claire DiCugno.

In Juniors, Stroud placed third at 122 pounds. She dropped a semifinal match to Gabrielle Skidmore of Wisconsin, who went on to win the tourney championship. To reach the semis, Stroud had handled Idaho’s Brelane Huber.

Hernandez grabbed eighth place in Juniors, competing at 144 pounds. She fell in the quarterfinal round to Jerzie Estrada of Colorado.

In the Cadet division, DiCugno was fourth at 117 pounds and Hernandez was eighth at 144. DiCugno lost her semifinal match to California’s Katie Gomez after defeating Anya Knapperberger of Maryland in the quarterfinals.

Hernandez and DiCugno will be a juniors when school opens in the fall. The Hornet are already major players in state wrestling circles, having earned spots in last season’s state championship meet. At Mat Classic, DiCugno placed second and Hernandez was fifth.

Stroud capped her senior season with a state title, then signed to compete collegiately for the McKendree University Bearcats. The NCAA Division II institution is in Lebanon, Illinois.

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