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HomeBusiness & CommunityHernando’s own Grace Leota All-American status at the Women’s Nationals

Hernando’s own Grace Leota All-American status at the Women’s Nationals

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On the weekend of April 14, 2023, over 1,200 of the best female wrestlers from around the country traveled to Spokane, WA, to compete in the 2023 USMC Women’s National Championships and World Team Trials. Some of the biggest names in women’s wrestling were in attendance at this prestigious tournament. Amit Elor, Senior World Champion and 4x age group World Champion; Kennedy Blades, Junior World Champion; Kylie Welker, Junior World Champion, were three of the top headliners at Women’s Nationals.

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Grace Leota, State Champion for Hernando High School, traveled with Coach David Pritz from Hernando Wrestling Club and Coach Mike Joyce from Phoenix Women’s Wrestling Club out of Tampa, FL. Hernando and Phoenix Wrestling Clubs boast several top-ranking female wrestlers in Florida as members. Grace is a member of both clubs and trains at their facilities in
preparation for the national tournaments she’s been competing in.

When asked what she does to prepare for wrestling nationally, she shared, “I train six days a week, about three hours a day. I also do strength and conditioning with Josh Cooper at Cooper Sports Performance in Tampa. Between Coach Pritz, Coach Joyce, and Coach Cooper, I have a great support system to help me achieve my goals.”

Grace had a strong showing at the Women’s Nationals despite being an unseeded participant. She won her first match with a 44-second pin. She drew the number 2 seed for her second match and lost by decision to Mishell Rebisch 5-2. Rebisch is currently ranked 3rd in the country in her respective weight class. After falling into the consolation bracket, Leota battled her way back for the opportunity to wrestle for 3rd place. She plowed through the “consis,” racking up five wins in a row; four of them were over nationally ranked girls. She ultimately took 4th place after losing by decision to Alexandria Alli, who wrestles for Wyoming Seminary, which is the number 1 ranked girls wrestling team in the country for high school.
“I was definitely nervous going into this tournament knowing some of the top girls that were going to be there. I just refocused, took one match at a time, and tried to win as many matches as possible,” Grace said.

Leota finished the tournament 6-2, earning her place atop the podium as well as All-American status for the 73 kg weight class.
“Words cannot describe how proud we are of her performance. Women’s Nationals is arguably the most prestigious girls’ tournament in the country, and Grace not only proved she belonged but proved she is one of the top girls in the country,” Coach Pritz said of Grace.

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Of the 1,200 registrants to wrestle in Spokane, 18 girls were from Florida. Emma Bauknight, another Hernando County wrestler, was also in attendance. Bauknight placed 7th at the FHSAA Girls State Championships last March. She went 2-2 in the 53 kg weight bracket.

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