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    October 22, 2021 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Following a 2020-21 season without an official match, Liberty University’s women’s wrestling team has hit the mats running this fall semester, preparing for a full spring schedule.

    The Lady Flames will hold an intrasquad scrimmage Friday in the Liberty Club Sports Complex training facility before hosting a tri-meet on Nov. 20 at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center. They will then travel to the University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) to cap off the fall semester at the Dec. 3-4 Patriot Dual Tournament.

    “We’re just really excited to be able to have our team back on the mat and to have a schedule in place,” Liberty second-year Head Coach Charisse McIlhenny said. “Because of COVID last year, we didn’t get to compete as much as we would had hoped. We’re really excited for what the new season holds. We have some good competition ahead of us, so it’s looking really great.”

    Team members have returned and new recruits arrived with greater enthusiasm for what the 2021-22 season will hold.

    “This is actually a really exciting season because we get a nationals this year and we have newcomers and it’s always exciting fun to have a new experience with different people and I’m just really excited to see what God has for us,” said Claudia Keanini, one of the Lady Flames’ two sophomores from Hoolehua, Hawaii. “Being able to do things with a little less COVID restrictions is honestly a really great blessing.”

    “We have different levels of experience, which is fun to see blossom throughout the year,” added Maile Ka’ahauni, the other Hawaiian sophomore. “The pandemic was really hard, competition-wise, but it provided the chance to build deeper connections with the team and this year we can take what we learned and apply it to the new people … because it’s more than just wrestling. It’s a family on the team.”

    McIlhenny, who like her sister — four-time NCWA Grand National champion Cendall Manley who assisted her last season — is also from Hawaii, said building a solid foundation for the new program has been challenging, but fulfilling.

    “A big part of us growing the team is just us getting our name out there,” McIlhenny said. “We’ve had a bunch of conversations with potential recruits. It’s a little difficult in the midst of the pandemic to secure spots and get people to come from farther locations away from Liberty, but the Lord provided and we have a couple new girls on the squad this year. We have a good, solid team, pretty much a full lineup with just a couple of spots missing. Every year, we’re building and getting more girls, so it’s great.”

    She is looking forward to the Nov. 20 season-opener, which will include another relative newcomer in St. Andrews (N.C.) University.

    “I’m very excited just to see how we compare and to give the girls an opportunity to compete … especially for our freshmen who were here last year, and also our new girls to see where they stand on the college level and where do they land on the scale of things,” McIlhenny said.

    Spring semester competition will kick off with the Jan. 21-22 NCWA Women’s National Duals hosted by the University of Southern California and conclude with the March 20-22 NCWA Grand Nationals in Allen, Texas.


    Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media