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|FEATURE: Winning multiple Women’s Junior titles a big deal for Woody and Padilla|
By Gary Abbott USA Wrestling
Capturing a gold medal at the Junior National Championships is a highlight for high school wrestling, both men and women. Winning more than once is very important for those talented and motivated young athletes.
Nicole Woody of Maryland has been coming to Fargo since her freshman year in high school and has won the tournament every time she entered. As a senior, she came to the Junior Nationals with the chance to be the first person to ever win the women's division four times.
"I started out going because my older brother did it," said Woody. "He said I should wrestle the girls, instead of just going in the guys division. I won it that year and got a tech fall against everybody. From that point on, I decided my goal was to be the first four timer."
Woody not only started wrestling on the Junior level, but also entered tournaments in the FILA Junior and Senior levels. She went on to be a FILA Junior World champion last year, and has been an all-American on the Senior level. Yet, winning the Junior Nationals was still important to her along the way.
"The Worlds I had not planned on. It just came along for me," said Woody. "Fargo has always been my goal."
Woody also learned a few things about persistence and dedication because of the event.
"It is at the end of the year. You really don't want to do it. It helps your mental toughness. It helps at the higher levels when you go to the Worlds and have to do things you may not want to."
Tatiana Padilla of California won the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals two times, and went for number three this year. She just completed her junior year in school, and was named the TheMat.com/ASICS Girls High School Wrestler of the Year.
"I want to be a four timer," said Padilla. "I don't want to win it just twice. You come here to get experience, to learn from it. You go your hardest here. I don't look at my bracket. I take them one at a time and get everything out of it. Of course, you come here to win. I only have one more year after this."
Padilla has made a big splash on the Senior level, placing second at the U.S. World Team Trials to earn a No. 2 national ranking at 130 pounds. She beat 2006 U.S. World Team member Erin Tomeo to advance to World Team Trials finals. Padilla credits competing at the ASICS/Vaughan Junior Nationals for helping her deal with the challenges of the Senior level.
"This year is my first year on the Senior level," said Padilla. "All of this helps you. When you get up on the platform here, you get used to being nervous. If had gone to the Senior level and had not been up on this platform, it would have been harder for me. I never wanted to go into that blind."
Padilla enjoys the team aspect of competition in Fargo, where she is a member of the powerful California program. She is excited about helping her state to win the team title at both the individual tournament and the women's dual meet championships here.
"Our coaches here are great. They have competed at the Senior level also. They have been coaching me for two years and know what they are talking about. This team is great. They work hard. We would like to win a fifth team title for California and make the state proud. I like being on a team, getting support and supporting others," said Padilla.
The finals went exactly as these two stars wanted. Woody became the first to win four career Junior National titles, with a 2-0, 8-1 win over Amy Whitbeck of New York. Padilla stopped California teammate Samantha Phillips, 5-0 7-0, for number three, with a chance for a fourth next summer.
In victory, Woody showed how much experience means at the highest levels.
"Nothing is much different this year," said Woody. "I knew what to expect. I knew I had to step my game up because the other wrestlers had improved, too."