Prep Wrestling

As Iowa girls' state wrestling grows, Millie Peach becomes event's first 3-time champ

457 wrestlers competed this year

CORALVILLE — Millie Peach was one of the originals.

The Iowa Valley senior was one of the 10 champions at the inaugural Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials girls’ state wrestling tournament two years ago. As the event has blossomed to more than five times the field, Peach has continued to be one of the leaders and remained in her spot atop its podium.

Peach completed another dominant run and captured her third title at the IWCOA girls’ state tournament Saturday at Xtream Arena in Coralville. Peach became the growing event’s first three-time champion, pinning Spencer’s Olivia Huckfelt in 2:52 of the 285-pound final.

“The first year I had four girls in my bracket,” said Peach, who won her first two titles at 195 and will compete at 220 for the Tigers at sectionals. “Last year, I had 21 and this year I had 13 at the next weight class up. It’s very special.”

Iowa Valley Coach Jeremy Kriegel said Peach devoted a lot of time since kindergarten, taking some beatings and overcoming being the lone girl in the practice room. She has become a pioneer for a movement that has exploded since this tournament’s inception.

“To see her accomplish what she’s accomplished for the state of Iowa (and) girls’ wrestling … It’s a surreal feeling with everything she’s done,” Kriegel said. “She’s a special person all the way around, being a leader in school, academics and setting a great example for her sisters coming up.

“To see a person like that get to where she is and reach the goals she set out and wrote the story she has is special. It’s something I’ll never forget as a coach.”

Huckfelt provided a threat at the start, catching Peach on her back for a 4-0 lead after the takedown and two nearfall. She was worried briefly but was relieved after rolling to her base.

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“I feel like I was able to collect myself well enough after getting put on my back, for sure,” Peach said.

Kriegel said he thought it was the first points she’s allowed to a girl in Iowa. He praised her resilience and composure, knowing she was in good shape with a takedown and turn for a 6-4 lead before the end of the first. Peach’s turn in the second resulted in the fall.

“It is tough to come back from a 4-0 (deficit), especially in a situation like that in the state finals,” Kriegel said. “It was good to see. Once I saw her get out and get her on her back in the first period, I knew she had settled and I had a lot of confidence in her.”

Peach has set a standard that will be tough for the wrestlers that follow to match. She has dominated opponents from the start, notching pins in all nine matches over the three years with two over competitors that were finalists this year. None of her nine matches reached the third period.

“It makes it more special,” Peach said. “I got pins out of it. I hope the next girl will do just as good and have just as much as fun as I have.”

Independence’s Rachel Eddy finished second to Peach last season. This time the Mustangs’ 195-pounder accomplished the mission. Eddy pinned North Fayette Valley’s Abby Boehm in 3:47 for the crown.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Eddy said. “I got pinned last year in the state finals, so coming back this year and pinning my way to win it felt great.”

Eddy and Boehm know each other well. The finals marked their fourth meeting. Eddy has won all four, including the last three by fall. This time, she broke a scoreless tie with a reversal and then put Boehm on her back.

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“I’m just capitalizing off her mistakes,” Eddy said. “This time, I pinned her off my offense.”

Decorah freshman Naomi Simon took the 145-pound bracket by storm. She improved to 20-0 with a fall in 4:35 over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Marley Hagarty in the final. Simon took control with a second-period escape and takedown. In the third, Simon whipped Hagarty over and finished it off for a title.

“I’m really proud of myself and really excited,” Simon said. “I worked really hard just to get here.”

Simon said Decorah Coach Lee Fullhart has made a big impact on her. She also noted that Dan Gable and World freestyle competitors Adeline Gray and Forrest Molinari are big influences, reading two of Gable’s books and attending a camp with Molinari.

She mirrored some of their dominance, posting pins in all four bouts and reaching the third period just once.

“I focused on staying in position,” Simon said. “I just wrestled the best matches I ever wrestled.”

Clayton Ridge’s Samantha Spielbauer climbed to the top of the podium after a championship effort at 160. She surrendered the first takedown to Spencer’s Morgan Griffin, but promptly reversed her. Spielbauer put Griffin on her back and recorded a pin in just 1:13.

The IWCOA girls’ state tournament experienced growth for the third straight year since its inception. According to trackwrestling.com, 457 wrestlers competed this year after a little more than 470 registered. Last season, the field was 350, which was a huge increase from 87 for the inaugural event that was impacted by weather.

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“The atmosphere is awesome here,” Eddy said. “Obviously, coming from Waverly’s gym to Xtream Arena is an amazing accomplishment. You can tell how much it’s grown. You’re going from a high school gym to an arena. It shows why it needs to be sanctioned.”

North Cedar freshman Adison Musser earned a runner-up finish. She pinned her way to the finals, including two Saturday. Waverly-Shell Rock’s top-seeded Eva Diaz thwarted Musser’s attempt at a title with a 15-0 technical fall for the 113-pound championship.

The Knights had two medalists, receiving a fourth-place finish from junior Ashlynn Miller at 120.

East Buchanan’s Keeley Kehrli pinned her way to the finals and finished second at 152.

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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