North Central star Yelena Makoyed wrestles her way to victory against Coach Joe Norton

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Yelena Makoyed, a three-time national champion at 170 pounds for the North Central College women’s wrestling team, ended her senior season with a different kind of matchup taking on her head coach Joe Norton in what was a highly anticipated match. 

Day of Giving

“I was trying to do some sort of fun challenge for the alumni on our big day of giving event. So back on, I think it was late February, whenever we had our day of giving. This year, what I challenged them to is if we fundraise $25,000, I’d wrestle Yelena. Obviously, she’s the star of the show, three time national champ, and particularly because she’s 45 pounds bigger than I am. So people were excited about the prospect of seeing me get my butt kicked,” said Norton. 

In addition to a three-peat for Makoyed, the Cardinals won their first ever team National Championship at the 2023 National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships this season. In addition to being a fundraising opportunity for the program, it also served as a feel-good capstone to a storybook season.

Makoyed wins in dominating fashion

Following a lopsided six-minute match, Yelena walked away with yet another win taking down Coach Norton by a score of 21-3. 

“It was awesome. It was honestly more nerve wracking than my National Finals match because there’s just so many of like my close friends here and the men’s and women’s wrestling team here and then a bunch of like people that support our program are here. It was just super nerve wracking even though I knew I was going to win,” said Makoyed. 

“I wrestle her plenty in practice, but never like live wrestling where I’m trying to win and she’s trying to win. It’s more about figuring out positions and learning, but this is the first time we’ve ever done it like that. But it’s fun. I thought she’d come at me a lot more than she did, but maybe that’s her just taking it easy on me a little bit, but it was a lot of fun. She did the things she’s good at and I can feel why nobody can stop them,” said Norton. 

A collegiate career that won’t be forgotten

While her North Central career has come to a close, the future is still bright for the standout grappler, including more opportunities to compete with Team USA wrestling on the national stage.

But for the 2023 Women’s College Wrestler of the Year, this match is one she’ll never forget. 

“I think this is one of the best wins I had this season. I can’t believe I gave up those two points. Those two points in the last like five seconds of a match. So that was definitely a bitter moment for me, but this was a very exciting match. It was the hardest match I’ve had all season. It’s awesome,” said Makoyed. 

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