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JUCO wrestling: Bommarito's return highlights IHCC's sweep of NIACC

Jan. 26—OTTUMWA — Eliana Bommarito has spent much of the past year wrestling on the world's stage.

Ultimately, there's no place like home. For the first time in her sophomore season, Bommarito competed on the mat at home inside the multipurpose center on the Indian Hills Centerville campus, closing out another impressive performance for the top-ranked Warrior women's wrestling team.

The reigning national champion and last year's most outstanding wrestler of the NJCAA National Invitational Tournament actually had the longest match of the Iowa Community College Athletic Conference dual with NIACC. Bommarito worked her way to a 10-0 tech fall against Destinee Thomas at 235 pounds, clinching the win 35 seconds into the second period as the UWW Beach gold medalist actually had to work through some pre-match jitters prior to her first home match for the Warriors since last season.

"I was definitely trying to go out there and try out some new techniques that I've been learning," Bommarito said. "It was nice to kind of slow it down and try out those techniques. I was nervous about that. I didn't want anything to go wrong. I didn't know how my conditioning would be coming into this match. It kind of surprised me how well it went. I'm really excited about it."

Bommarito's win clinched a 48-5 victory for Indian Hills as the three-time reigning national champions remained perfect in ICCAC duals with a 5-0 record, improving their overall dual record to 9-1 on the season. Indian Hills needed less than eight total minutes on the mat to clinch wins in six matches to go along with four forfeits.

Third-ranked freshman Madison Leverknight literally rolled her way to a 10-0 tech fall in 53 seconds at 116 pounds, catching Sara Arroyo on the mat and rolling her over to earn six total back points. Nationally-ranked Warrior sophomore teammates Shammika Miranda Diaz (123) and Angelica Vincente Gonzalez (130) each secured pins in less than a minute in consecutive matches as the Warriors stormed out to a 24-0 lead before a forfeit at 136 allowed NIACC to score their only five points of the dual.

"We've called them the girls of the summer. It was just Eliana. Shammika was a silver medalist at the Pan-American Games. Angelica was also a bronze medalist," IHCC head wrestling coach Cole Spree said. "These girls aren't just doing this on a national level. They're doing it on a world level. We've got some pretty special human beings that have been part of this women's program. That's a pretty neat thing to be a part of to have them here competing in Centerville."

Abbi Smith (143) and Jazmine Garcia (155) added falls for the IHCC women. Then came the return of Bommarito who followed up her national championship freshman campaign for the Warriors with an impressive world championship showing during the offseason winning gold at the UWW Beach World Series and becoming the 2023 U.S. Marine Corps Beach Wrestling national champion.

"I feel much better going into my matches. I'm feeling more comfortable and stronger," Bommarito said. "That experience of competing in the world championships and competing on a beach has made me more aware of my footing. I've been able to test my techniques against a lot of new competition. There are a lot of things that I've learned from that experience that have made me a better wrestler."

Bommarito took her time against Thomas, ultimately clinching the win with two final points in the opening minute of the second period. The reigning national champion has been working her way back to full strength, health-wise, throughout most of this season after an active offseason of worldwide competition.

"Between her health stuff, the weight cut and everything she's been dealing with, we just have to do things the right way," Spree said of Bommarito. "We were patient with her. She really didn't have a lot of chances to train with us. It's great to get her back out there."

The Indian Hills men added a 29-15 ICCAC win of their own over NIACC, winning three of four matches in the second half of the dual to snap a 12-12 tie. Opening falls by seventh-ranked freshman Isaac Gibbs (125) and sixth-ranked sophomore Arojae Hart (133) staked the Warriors to a 12-0 lead before a tough 2-1 win by ninth-ranked sophomore Peyton Asbury put IHCC on top for good.

"It's very important to set that tone right from the start, especially when you can get the pin and get the points that might prove to be big when the night is over," Gibbs said. "Our coaches do a good job setting us up to be ready to go as soon as whistle blows."

Eighth-ranked freshman Jaquan East added a tech fall for the Warriors at 174 pounds, clinching a 22-4 win over Marco Guzman in the final minute of the second period. East dominated the first period, building a 10-1 lead after three minutes, before having to scramble out of a nearfall in the second period before taking down a charging Guzman and clinching the win with a nearfall of his own.

"I knew after I got that reversal I had to stay tough on top," East said. "I needed that tech fall for the team. I put the team before myself."

Jessey Colas, ranked seventh at 184 pounds, kept NIACC alive in the men's dual holding off Ronald Butler to earn a 6-3 decision cutting IHCC's lead to 20-15 with two matches left. Needing to win one of the last two matches to clinch the win, 10th-ranked freshman Ansel Cervantes rallied in the final period of a 197-pound match with Xander Kenworthy scoring seven points in the final two minutes to earn an 11-7 victory that securing the fifth dual win of the season for the Warriors.

"We were in shambles during the first term with injuries," Spree said of the IHCC men's team. "We had some injuries that we didn't know if we'd get back. This was Arojae's first time back. We're really young and we've made some decisions to take things slow, but we're getting guys back that we think will help us as we go forward."

Indian Hills will be back home next Wednesday to wrestle Iowa Lakes in what will be the final home dual of the season for both Warrior wrestling teams. Before being honored as one of the sophomore members of the program next week, Bommarito was surprised on Wednesday by being honored with a plaque for her national and worldwide accomplishments by Indian Hills in between the duals.

"When you do special things like that, it's an honor for us to recognize her," Spree said. "She's always going to be an Indian Hills Warrior and one of the best athletes to ever wear one of our singlets."

"I was about to grab my bag and walk out when I heard my name being called," Bommarito added. "I love it. It's a sick plaque."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.