WAVERLY — Eighty-seven female wrestlers took the mat in front of packed stands at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.
They came from all areas of the state, representing Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, Kingsley-Pierson, Waukon, Waterloo West, Colfax-Mingo, West Des Moines Valley, Bettendorf, Van Buren, Cedar Rapids Jefferson and Iowa Valley.
These athletes served as both groundbreakers and cornerstones for girls’ wrestling in Iowa.
Jefferson’s Chloe Clemons and Iowa Valley’s Millie Peach were among the 10 individual champions at the inaugural Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Girls’ State wrestling tournament Saturday. The field was open to all eligible female wrestlers on current rosters of Iowa High School Athletic Association sponsored programs.
“It’s come a long way since I started back in seventh grade when there really wasn’t a whole lot of girls,” said Clemons, who pinned Waverly-Shell Rock’s Jacey Meier in 3:51 of the 120-pound finals. “Being able to have all of us come together in one big tournament, all the brackets and championships, it really is amazing.”
Peach, a sophomore, started wrestling in first grade. She didn’t realize the girls could have their own division. Like Clemons, she had hoped for this would happen.
“This is a great opportunity,” said Peach, who needed just 1:03 to deck Waverly-Shell Rock’s Hanna Johnson for the 195 crown. “When I was little they had tiny little (tournaments) and they were all over the place. I would always go to those.
“Getting to do this in high school and winning is really cool.”
Ackley AGWSR’s Alli Gerbracht claimed the 106-pound title and became the first individual title. Clemons stepped to the mat two weights later. The top-seeded junior fell into a quick hole, but put Meier on her back twice, ending it the second time.
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“All my practices, all my coaches, all the support and all the technique I learned has really paid off,” Clemons said. “It’s actually unexplainable how amazing it feels.”
The 10-bracket tournament produced all the elements you would expect from a competitive tournament. There were pins and dominant performances. Matches were decided with a score in the final seconds. Emotions and injuries occurred.
“We had some great championship matches,” IWCOA Executive Director and former West Delaware Athletics Director Bob Murphy said. “The atmosphere was great and we planned to make it like a regular state tournament.”
The IWCOA joined wrestling supporters to approach the IHSAA and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union about the process to sanction girls’ wrestling. Answers were hard to receive. He hopes the event and support demonstrated will lead to more meetings.
“I’ve done a lot of officiating for girls’ wrestling and I enjoy it,” Murphy said. “I think we need to keep pushing and this is just icing on the cake for this year. Hopefully, next year we expand beyond here.”
Clemons said she would love to see the tournament expand and join her male counterparts at Wells Fargo Arena, the site for the IHSAA state wrestling tournament.
“That is the ultimate goal for all the girls to wrestle beside the boys and have the big stage and all the amazing people cheering for us,” Clemons said. “That’s what we all hope for.”
Fourteen states have sanctioned girls’ wrestling and Iowa’s participation numbers climbed to 187 this season, receiving a boost from tournaments with girls’ divisions. The athletes competing are aware of their impact as a role model on younger wrestlers.
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“I hope I am because I have three little sisters who wrestle,” Peach said. “By the time the youngest gets up it will probably be an even bigger thing. She’s got 10 years to be my age … Hopefully by then it will be really big and almost as big as the guys’ tournament.”
Other champions included sisters Tateum Park (113) and Sydney Park (126), Waverly-Shell Rock’s Annika Behrends (132) and Avery Meier (138), Nashua-Plainfield’s Toyia Griffin (152), Le Mars’ Jacenta Sargisson (170) and Colfax-Mingo’s Rilee Siycord (285).
Host Waverly-Shell Rock won the team title with 144 points. Colfax-Mingo was second with 78, five points in front of Charles City.
Waukon had runner-up performances from Meridian Snitker (113), Regan Griffith (126) and Nevaeh Bushaw (170), placing fourth as a team with 64 points.
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