Alivia White has already experienced more in her wrestling career than most could ever dream of.
She’s traveled across the country and competed at national tournaments, winning titles, piling up medals and receiving numerous All-American accolades.
She’s won over 100 matches during high school competition and a pair of state titles — including a state championship just minutes apart from her older brother Cayden’s.
And if she can complete another run to the top of the podium at Mat Classic this winter — a feat she’ll be heavily favored to accomplish — the Marysville Pilchuck High School senior will be the first Snohomish County girls wrestler to ever win three state titles at the high school level.
The list of accomplishments is already quite lengthy, but the experience White is set receive after her high school career is over will be the most unique yet.
White has signed a National Letter of Intent with the University of Iowa women’s wrestling program, which is set to compete as a varsity team for the first time during the 2023-24 season. Iowa announced its intentions of fielding a varsity team in September, 2021, and is set to become the first-ever varsity women’s wrestling program at an NCAA Division-I Power Five school.
“I love that these new opportunities are out there for girls,” White said. “It’s so new. … There’s a lot to look forward to and it’s super exciting.”
When Iowa made it’s announcement just two other Division-I schools — Presbyterian (South Carolina) and Sacred Heart (Connecticut) — offered varsity women’s wrestling. But the sport is growing quickly and was recognized by the NCAA as an emerging sport in 2020.
Iowa already has a rich tradition of success in men’s wrestling. The Hawkeyes have racked up 24 national team titles since 1975 and are supported by a rabid fan base that’s helped the program lead the nation in fan attendance every year since 2007.
“Iowa wrestling is the pinnacle of what wrestling should be – men or women,” said Tony Nunez, who coaches White at national tournaments through the Woodinville-based Ascend Wrestling Academy. “It’s fitting that Liv would take that challenge on because she’s that kind of person. And it’s fitting that she would test herself against the best in the country.”
“She’s always eager for a fight,” he added. “She’s not going to back down from anybody. She just has that ‘dawg’ in her.”
White said she started following the Iowa program closely as soon as it was announced. Then at the Junior Cadet National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, last July, one of White’s assistant club coaches, Bodi Orton, helped introduce her to Iowa women’s head coach Clarissa Chung, a two-time Olympian and former USA Wrestling women’s national team assistant.
After White filled out a recruiting form with the school, Chung reached out and offered her the chance to visit the campus.
“It was kind of surreal,” said Andie White, Alivia’s mother and coach of the MP girls team. “We were hoping that she’d get a look, and it was incredible when (coach Chung) reached out to her and offered her a visit. We were really excited.”
Alivia White said she kept her options open after the visit but ultimately decided Iowa was the best fit.
The opportunity to be under the tutelage of a top-notch coaching staff while training with some of the nation’s premier grapplers wasn’t one she was going to pass up.
“They have some of the best partners I could find out of all the college wrestlers,” White said. “I think being at that level and training at that level is just going to help me soar as a wrestler.”
And White already has lofty goals for her time at Iowa.
“I want to win a national championship there,” she said.
Nunez, who serves as the Washington women’s director for USA Wrestling, believes the talented MP senior can reach that milestone and more.
“I see some big things coming for her, some really big things,” Nunez said. “She has a great heart and a great family and support system, and she’s going to a great team with a great coach.”
Nunez has trained White over the past six years and has come away impressed with her combination of skill on the mat and mental makeup. White’s ability to stay even-keel even in the toughest moments is key in a sport that can be as physically and mentally taxing as wrestling can.
“When she does lose a match, she’s never really down for very long,” Nunez said. “… To be able to be that talented and have the mindset that she has right now is probably one of the most intriguing things to me, because right now technically she’s tough as nails. You can’t really rattle her. There’s no quit in her.”
Nunez said a national title at the college level is just the start of what White is capable of accomplishing in her wrestling career.
“Alivia White will win a world medal,” he said. “A national championship is going to be nice. … But you’re going to see Alivia White wrestling for the United States in another country with her hand raised. Gold, silver or bronze — that’s what she’s going to do. She’s that person. I have no doubt.”
USA Wrestling ranked White as the nation’s No. 2 wrestler for her age group at 180 pounds in November, 2022. After winning her second high school state title in February of the same year, White won the 180-pound title at the Girls National High School Recruiting Showcase in Las Vegas and placed second in her weight class in the Junior women’s division (grades 9-12) at the prestigious Junior Cadet National Championships in Fargo.
During the summer before her freshman year in 2019, White placed third at 164 pounds in the Cadet women’s division (16-and-under) at Fargo. She followed by winning a state title at 190 pounds during her freshman season with the Tomahawks, beating two-time defending state champion Ofa He Lotu Tuifua of Kent Meridian once at a regular-season tournament and again in the state semifinals before claiming the ultimate prize.
In 2021, White returned to Fargo and placed fourth at 180 pounds in the Junior women’s division. Her junior wrestling season followed, which resulted in another state title at 190 pounds. White joined an elite group of Snohomish County girls wrestlers with the championship victory, becoming one of just three local products to claim two girls state titles alongside Kiley Hubby (Glacier Peak/Lake Stevens) and Chanel Siva (Stanwood).
White said she feels “blessed” by the opportunity that lies in front of her and credited her coaches and parents for the support they’ve given her to get to this point in her wrestling journey.
As someone who entered the sport at a young age when it was much less visible on the women’s side, she knows she’s getting the chance to be at the forefront of a truly special moment for the wrestling community.
“I think it’s crazy awesome,” she said. “These opportunities were not available when I was a little kid.”
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