Hampton wrestler performs on national stage

Sunday, July 31, 2022 | 8:47 PM

Hampton’s Isabella McNutt only started wrestling a year ago, but that didn’t stop her from reaching the nation’s biggest event this summer.

McNutt, who will be a junior at Hampton in the fall, qualified for the 2022 USA Wrestling 16U and junior nationals July 16-22 at the FargoDome in Fargo, N.D.

The 16-year-old McNutt went 1-2 in the 112-pound junior women division, competing against some of the top 18-and-under female wrestlers in the United States.

The event attracted roughly 6,000 boys and girls wrestlers, facing off on 27 mats.

“It was very exciting to me, because I actually went in there thinking I was going to go 0-2,” McNutt said.

“I feel like it was a big accomplishment just to qualify and be out there with some of the best women wrestlers in the U.S. in my first year wrestling. So I was happy to qualify and then to go and win a match.”

McNutt, who qualified by placing third at the Pennsylvania freestyle finals in Reading, dropped her opening match to Utah’s Lexus Bertagnolli, 10-0. Bertagnolli was two years older than McNutt and finished fourth in the state in Utah at 110 as a senior at Roy High School.

But McNutt, after receiving supportive texts from Hampton wrestling coaches Nick Endres, Joe Bursick and Chris Hart, rebounded to pin Missouri’s Ellie Marrah at 2:54 in the consolation round of 64.

“I was just excited,” McNutt said. “I looked up to my dad in the stands, and we were both smiling at each other. It felt like a good accomplishment.”

In the consolation round of 32, McNutt led Oregon’s Richi Campbell, 13-12, midway through in the second period of the two-period match, but she was reversed and pinned at 3:42. Campbell also was two years older than McNutt, and won the district title and placed second in the state last year at 105 as a senior at West Albany (Ore.) High School.

Kevin Franklin, who coaches girls for USA Wrestling Team Pennsylvania, said McNutt shows a lot of potential for being such a newcomer to freestyle wrestling.

“She scrambles well and she has pretty good hips,” Franklin said. “She’s really aggressive. She’s a very good student.

“I think for her, it was just a real good learning experience that she’s getting used to the different style.”

McNutt was eligible to compete in the 16U division at nationals, but she failed to place in the top three in Pennsylvania because it conflicted with Taekwondo Worlds in Arizona.

So McNutt opted to try her hand in the junior division, which is open to older wrestlers.

“The main difference is you are facing 18-year-olds in juniors and you only face up to 16 (year-olds) in 16U,” she said.

McNutt, who trains with Kaminski’s ATA Martial Arts Academy in Hampton, also had a busy summer in Taekwondo. She qualified for Team USA in June in Little Rock, Ark., and won a title in Weapons in the 15-17 year-old bracket for second- and third-degree black belts at Taekwondo Worlds.

McNutt, who won a 2019 world championship in combat sparring, will be competing this October at the Taekwondo Fall Nationals in Pittsburgh.

McNutt went 5-12 last winter in her first season with the Hampton wrestling team, competing against WPIAL boys. She was the first Hampton female wrestler to start a varsity match since Lisa Bisers in 2001. In March, she placed first at districts and second at regionals to reach the Pennsylvania Girls State Championship, where she failed to place.

Because female wrestling in college is freestyle — rather than folkstyle used in high school and men’s NCAA wrestling — McNutt wanted to get more mat time with that discipline.

“It was really fun,” McNutt said. “It was a good experience, and it’s a very high-level competition.

“Because I want to pursue wrestling in college, I feel like it was a good idea to go there and put my name out there for people to see.”

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