CALMAR — Everything happens for a reason.
Felicity Taylor said she believes that and might be why she ended up competing on South Winneshiek’s wrestling team instead of cheering for it.
After not making the cut for the wrestling cheer squad in eighth grade, Taylor was determined to be involved in the sport. She decided being a wrestler was her best choice.
“My brother wrestled,” Taylor said. “It was something I just knew I would enjoy.”
Taylor is a junior for the Warriors and won her second straight 106-pound Upper Iowa Conference title last weekend. She will take a 33-7 record into a Class 1A sectional Saturday at Postville. The postseason for 1A and 2A wrestlers begins this weekend, vying for two berths to next weekend’s district meet.
“I’m well prepared for sectionals,” Taylor said. “I have no doubt in my mind I can advance to district.”
Taylor has put the work in to get to this point. She was 8-6 as a backup to a state qualifier her freshman year. Taylor made strides to place fourth at sectionals with a 27-19 record last season.
She devoted her time in the offseason to improve, trading softball for freestyle wrestling. She began training with Team Iowa and joined Elite Takedown Club. The schedule was filled with more tournaments, earning All-American status with a fifth-place finish at the 2015 USA Wrestling Cadet National tournament in Fargo, N.D., and fourth last summer.
Taylor has reaped the rewards of extra work, willing to lift weights, run and drill to get better.
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“When she sets a goal to do something, she’s all in,” South Winneshiek Coach Jacob Elsbernd said. “She’s on board when it comes to do whatever it takes to achieve a goal.”
Taylor owns a strong wrestling aptitude. Elsbernd said he can demonstrate a move and quickly execute it.
“She can pick up on technique faster than any person I’ve coached,” Elsbernd said. “We’d show her technique on a Monday and she’d be able to hit it in a meet on Thursday.”
Adjustments are a strength as well, avenging two losses from earlier this season. Taylor will watch video of her matches and change what she did wrong, looking to learn as much as possible.
“She’s mentally tough,” Elsbernd said. “She absolutely hates losing. She does well to adapt.”
Taylor was a four-sport athlete and remains active in three. She has placed 14th or better at the state cross country meet, finishing 11th in 2016 and helping the Warriors place second in 2A. She has also competed at the state track meet, running in the 1,500 and on relays. Wrestling is tops on Taylor’s list.
“It is my passion,” Taylor said. “I haven’t done it long, so I haven’t gotten tired of it. I don’t see that happening.”
The love for wrestling has caused her to become an advocate of the sport. As part of an academic program at school, Taylor gave a presentation on girls wrestling. The topic was well received and more than 20 girls from second to seventh grade are planning to attend a wrestling clinic she will hold after the season.
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“It is very important to me,” Taylor said. “It starts with younger kids. if they see it as more accepted they will go out.”
Taylor said she has been accepted in a sport that has seen the growth of female wrestling but remains co-ed in Iowa. Elsbernd said she is viewed as just another Warrior wrestler, noting he needs occasional reminders to get her a separate locker room. She is viewed as one of 12 starters, who all have winning records and have contributed to South Winn’s 20-2 dual mark.
“She’s a great teammate,” Elsbernd said. “I don’t even think about it anymore. The guys don’t treat her any different.”
One door closed, allowing a door to the Warriors practice room to open. Now, she will look to kick down the district door. She has put herself in a position to advance.
“The worst feeling after losing is regret,” Taylor said. “I know I put in all the work I could.”
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