The best wrestlers in the world were in Fort Worth, TX on Dec. 20-22 for the 2019 Senior Nationals, including Litchfield High School grad Victoria Francis.
Francis would finish second overall in a tough 68-kilogram weight class to 65-kilogram U.S. Open champion Forrest Molinari, who pinned Francis at the 1:08 mark of the match.
The Litchfield grad and Lindenwood University alum earned an 11-1 tech fall victory over Jacqueline Parks in the round of 16 at the 5:14 mark, then earned another tech fall, this time 10-0, over Iman Kazem at 2:16 in the quarterfinals.
In the semifinals, Francis would face Alexandria Glaude and picked up a narrow 3-2 decision over the McKendree University senior to earn a shot at Molinari.
Both Francis and Molinari came from different weight classes as women's wrestling has ten classes on the world stage, but just six for the Olympics. Both were also fifth at the 2019 World Championships in September and the top ranked Americans in their respective classes, with Molinari wrestling at 65-kilograms and Francis wrestling at 72-kilograms.
Molinari would go 5-0 on the weekend in Fort Worth, with four pins and a 38-second 10-0 tech fall victory.
By virtue of their spots on the world team this Olympic cycle, both Molinari and Francis were already qualified for the Olympic Trials, which will be held on April 4-5, at Penn State University in State College, PA.
In addition to Francis and Molinari, Tamyra Mensah-Stock will also be in the Olympic Trials field. Mensah-Stock won the 68-kilogram world championship in September of this year in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, beating the 2016 Olympic bronze medalist to earn the title.
The Olympic weight class above Francis' 72-kilo division is just as tough, featuring five-time world champion Adeline Gray, who defeated Francis in the 2016 Olympic Trials finale.
Francis will be ready though. In addition to the World Championships, where she lost a narrow 2-1 decision to Paliha Paliha of China in the third place match, Francis has also won the Canada Cup and placed third in the Poland Open, beating Banzragch Ogunsuren of Mongolia by forfeit in her final match.
She was also part of the US Women's World Cup team that took silver to Japan on Nov. 17, in Tokyo. Francis would pin Evgenila Zakharchenko in the United States' 8-2 win over Russia, then lost a 13-7 decision to Davaanasan Enkh Amar in the Americans' 6-4 win over Mongolia. In the match with the Japanese, Francis lost a close 3-1 decision to Yuka Kagami, the 72-kilogram World Junior Champion.
Life Outside Of Wrestling
In addition to her wrestling schedule, Francis has also been working with the next generation of standout wrestlers as an assistant coach at Life University in Marietta, GA.
The job was made possible through the Tara VanDerveer Fund for Advancement of Women in Coaching grant from the Women's Sports Foundation, which will assist in Francis' living expenses, professional development and mentorship. Life University was one of ten universities and colleges to receive the grant, which will be designated for female coaches in sports such as field hockey, wrestling, basketball, volleyball, softball and strength and conditioning.
"I'm thrilled for the Women's Sports Foundation's launch of this inaugural class of female coaching fellows," said VanDerveer, a legendary basketball coach at Stanford University. "I've seen a lot of positives over my career in advancing women in sport, but the continued decline of female coaches is concerning. This program is a powerful way we can help reverse this trend. Providing avenues for women to pursue coaching is something that is very important to me and I am deeply honored that the WSF chose to set up this fellowship program in my name. I am excited to see the impact it will have on empowering tomorrow's leaders."
"I’m very grateful that Life chose me, and the Women’s Sports Foundation chose Life as a grant recipient," Francis said in an interview with Transition Wrestling. "This is such a neat opportunity for women to step into the college coaching world where we are underrepresented."
"In wrestling we lose a lot of star athletes after competition just due to the continuation of their lives," Life University Head Coach Ashley Sword told Transition Wrestling. "So the ability to connect someone like Victoria, who’s at such a high level, with a coaching and learning opportunity is big for the sport."
When not wrestling or coaching, Francis lives in Glen Burnie, MD, with husband Jacob Weiss and their two dogs.