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Sacred Heart women to open the season ranked No. 5 in nation

No. 5 Sacred Heart begins the wrestling season Sunday in Pennsylvania. (Photo courtesy Sacred Heart Athletics)

With five All-Americans and nine wrestlers returning who qualified for the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championship tournament, Sacred Heart is ranked No. 5 in the preseason National Wrestling Coaches Association (NWCA) tournament poll.

Four Sacred Heart wrestlers are ranked in the top eight of their respective weight classes – All-American wrestlers Cara Broadus (2nd at 170), Madison Sandquist (5th at 155), Jacklyn Smith (5th at 191) and Alexandra Fitzgerald (8th at 130).

The tournament ranking of No. 5 for the Pioneers is the best in program history. The rankings are based solely on the number of wrestlers ranked in their individual weight classes.

Defending NCWWC national champion North Central College from Naperville, Illinois, is ranked No. 1 with 13 individual wrestlers ranked, including seven ranked No. 1 in their respective weight class. King University from Bristol, Tennessee, is ranked No. 2 with 10 individual wrestlers ranked and McKendree University in Lebanon, Illinois, is third with nine ranked wrestlers.

Colorado Mesa University is ranked fourth with eight ranked wrestlers.

Sacred Heart is the top NCAA Division I team in the poll, that includes Division II and Division III programs. Iowa, a first-year program, is ranked No. 8.

The Pioneers open their third varsity season on Sunday at the East Stroudsburg Open at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. Sacred Heart went 17-4 a year ago and won the NCWWC Region I tournament, sending nine wrestlers to the national championship meet.

Sacred Heart finished seventh with five All-American wrestlers – Broadus, Smith, Fitzgerald, Sandquist and Aaliyah Payne-Parris. Four are ranked in the NWCA’s individual preseason ratings.

Broadus, a senior from Plymouth, is ranked No. 2. A year ago, she was 26-9 for Sacred Heart at 170, finishing fourth at the NCWWC tournament.

At 155 lbs, Sandquist was ranked fifth in the individual poll in her weight class. Last season, she was 35-8, winner of Region 1 title and seventh at 130 pounds at the national championships.

Smith (191), who is from Trumbull, is also ranked fifth in the individual preseason rankings. She earned her second consecutive trip to the national championships where she finished seventh. Smith also won a Region I title.

Fitzgerald, a junior, is ranked No. 8 at 130 pounds. She was second at the regional tournament and seventh at the national championships last March. She was 33-8 a year ago.

Individual rankings

2023-24 Sacred Heart women’s schedule

Sunday, Nov. 5
Sacred Heart at East Stroudsburg Open

Sunday, Nov. 5
Sacred Heart at East Stroudsburg Open

Sunday, Nov. 12
Sacred Heart at Trailblazer Duals at Iowa

Friday, Nov. 17
Sacred Heart at Missouri Valley College Open

Saturday, Nov. 18
Sacred Heart at Missouri Valley College Open

Sunday Dec. 3
Sacred Heart at Northeast Dual Championships at East Stroudsburg, PA

Sunday, Dec. 10
Delaware Valley University at Sacred Heart, noon
Lock Haven University at Sacred Heart, 2 p.m.
New England College at Sacred Heart, TBA

Friday, Jan. 5
Sacred Heart at NWCA National Duals at Cedar Falls, Iowa

Saturday, Jan. 6
Sacred Heart at NWCA National Duals

Sunday, Jan. 14
Sacred Heart at Tornado Open at Bristol, Tenn.

Sunday, Jan. 21
Ursinus College at Sacred Heart, 6 p.m.
Western New England University at Sacred Heart, 8 p.m.

Sunday, Jan. 28
New England College at Sacred Heart, noon
Columbia at Sacred Heart, 2 p.m.

Sunday, Feb. 4
Sacred Heart at FSU Bobcat Open at Frostburg College MD

Friday, Feb. 9
Sacred Heart at Western New England University, 5 p.m.

Feb. 23-24
Sacred Heart at NCWWC regional tournament, Lock Haven, Pa.

March 7-8
Sacred Heart at NCWWC national championships, at Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Alliant Energy Powerhouse)

National Wrestling Coaches Association preseason NCAA women’s poll.
Tournament Power Index Rankings, Oct. 26, 2023

Team Location (Division) Pts. Rnk Last Yr
1. North Central College Naperville, Ill. (III) 128 13 2
2. King Bristol, TN (II) 67 19 1
3. McKendree University Lebanon, Ill. (II) 60 9 3
4. Colorado Mesa Univ. Grand Junction, CO (II) 51 8 4
5. Sacred Heart Fairfield, CT (I) 4 9
6. Gannon University Erie, PA (II) 26 5 8
7. East Stroudsburg E. Stroudsburg, PA (II) 25 3 11
8. Lock Haven Lock Haven, PA (I) 22 2 7
8. Iowa Iowa City, Iowa (I) 22 2 nr
10. Adrian College Adrian, Mich. (III) 17 3 13
11. Lindenwood Univ. St. Charles, MO (I) 14 2 nr
12. Mount Olive Mt. Olive, NC (II) 13 2 nr
13. Aurora University Aurora, Ill. (III) 12 1 10
13. Presbyterian College Clinton, SC (I) 12 1 12
13. Northern Michigan Marquette, MI (II) 12 2 14
16. Emmanuel College Franklin Springs, GA (II) 11 2 nr
17. Tiffin University Tiffin, OH (II) 10 1 17
18. Augsburg Univ. Minneapolis, MN (III) 9 1 5
19. Wisconsin-Stevens Pt. Stevens Pt, WI (III) 7 2 nr
19. New Jersey City Univ. Jersey City, NJ (III) 7 1 16
19. Ursinus Collegeville PA 7 1 nr
Also receiving votes: Elmira 4, Chadron State 4, Texas Woman 3, Emory & Henry 3, Simpson 3
NOTE: This is a tournament power index ranking. This poll is not based on a team’s dual meet strength. Points are earned by individual rankings with the No. 1 ranking worth 15 points, No. 2 worth 12 points, No. 3 (10), No. 4 (9), No. 5 (7), No. 6 (6), No. 7 (4) and No. 8 (3).
RNK is the number of ranked wrestlers on a respective team.

Historical rankings


Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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