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Nanea Estrella, an NAIA national finalist, is transferring to the Iowa women's wrestling program


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A few days after the Iowa men's wrestling program dipped into the transfer portal, the Iowa women's wrestling program landed its own transfer commitment.

Nanea Estrella, a sophomore at Menlo College, told Hawk Central she plans to transfer to Iowa. She will redshirt next season and will have three years of eligibility remaining starting in 2023-24, when the Hawkeye women's team begins competing.

"I'm super excited about it," Estrella said in a phone interview Tuesday. "(Clarissa Chun) becoming the coach really helps put women’s wrestling on the map. I was super stoked. I wanted to be part of it."

Estrella is now the seventh known member of what will become the inaugural roster for the Iowa women's wrestling team, but the first to join through the transfer portal. 

She has spent the past two seasons at Menlo College, based in Atherton, California. This past season, she finished as the NAIA national runner-up at 130 pounds, helping Menlo to a third-place team finish.

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Estrella has also excelled in various age-level competitions. She took third at the UWW U23 national championships in 2021, won the UWW Junior national title in 2020, and took second at both the 2019 Junior national championships and the 2018 Cadet national championships. She also took third at the Cadet world team trials in 2019.

Originally part of the 2020 high school senior class, Estrella is from Makawo, Hawaii, where she won four state titles for Lahainaluna High School and was named the 2020 Tricia Saunders High School Excellence Award winner.

So Estrella will be the oldest wrestler (but only by a couple years) on the Iowa roster. The other six recruits are all currently high school seniors:

"I'm excited to bring my experience to the table," Estrella said. "I can't wait to share my experience and help this program become something special."

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Clarissa Chun, who was hired as the Iowa head coach back in November, is also from Hawaii. She was the state's first girls wrestling state champion in 1998, the first year Hawaii offered girls wrestling as an official sport.

Chun has since become a wrestling legend: a 2008 world champ, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, a prominent assistant in USA Wrestling's rise as an international power, and now the first head coach of the first Division I Power 5 women's wrestling program.

Estrella has long viewed Chun as a hero, and when Chun was tabbed as the Hawkeye wrestling coach, it immediately piqued her interest.

"I can say with 100% confidence that her name is said in every wrestling room in Hawaii multiple times every season," Estrella said. "I always looked up to her growing up. She’s been a really big role model for little girls in Hawaii who play any sport, like me.

"I’ve also never been coached by a female. I’ve always been coached by guys, so I figured there isn’t a more perfect person to have as my first female head coach."

Not long after her run to the finals at the NAIA national tournament in March — Estrella recorded two technical falls and a pin to reach the championship, where she fell, 3-2, to Texas Wesleyan's Lexie Basham — she said she asked Menlo for a release and reached out to Chun. She visited Iowa City this past weekend, which sealed the deal.

"I decided it was a really good opportunity to look into, and I wanted to take a chance," Estrella said. "I contacted Clarissa, and then away we went.

"I'm super excited for it. It's going to be awesome."

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.