MARSHALL, Mo. — Sophomore Zoe Nowicki battled back to win seven matches and earn fifth place at a loaded Missouri Valley Open on Sunday.
Nowicki was the women's wrestling team's highest finisher in the 34-team tournament that featured 353 wrestlers and was one of the largest women's collegiate wrestling tournaments in history.
After falling 10-0 in the opening match to eventual champ Emma Bruntil of McKendree, Nowiciki was forced to win seven matches on the consolation side — often wrestling on a short turnaround and with little rest in between matches — to secure fifth place in the 136-pound bracket.
"Zoe had a tough draw. She matched up with the eventual champion in the first round. She wrestled her tough but lost. From there she had the longest path to placing. She wrestled nine times to take fifth," said Coach Cliff Cushard. "The last four matches took place in a stretch of about one hour. She had to dig deep into her energy reserves and her mental toughness for it. It isn't often that we see someone go 7-2 on the day."
Adrian finished in 20th place overall, while McKendree University won the team race.
"Every bracket was huge. The top wrestlers from the NCAA and NAIA were all here. It was a room filled with almost every ranked wrestler in the country. We won't see another tournament this stacked this year," Cushard said. "Because of this, the team got to experience the highest levels of collegiate women's wrestling. They got a true taste of what it feels like to be the best. It's another gear above what we normally see. This is a great motivator to pick up our intensity another level."
"Overall, we had great fight this tournament. With competition this tough and brackets of over 40 it's a very difficult task to place," Cushard said. "I'm not judging our performance on placing but rather on performance and improvement. We certainly got better today. I'm proud of this team."
The Bulldogs are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Tiffin for a dual.