Prep Wrestling

Iowa Wrestling Weekend That Was: Girls' state tournament keeps getting better

Work remains for girls' wrestling to become sanctioned sport

The Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association held its third girls’ state tournament and it was filled with memorable moments. The key is for it to continue to evolve. The Border Brawl between Iowa and Minnesota turned into a straight beatdown. Some prep results will catch your eye. Check out the “Wrestling Weekend That Was.”

Girls’ state tournament bigger and better

The third installment of the IWCOA girls’ state tournament was bigger and better than ever, moving from Waverly-Shell Rock High School to Xtream Arena in Coralville. The expansion has been well documented. The tournament began two seasons ago, featuring 87 competitors as winter weather that weekend prevented about 30 others from making it. Last season, it blossomed to 250. Last weekend consisted of 457 wrestlers in the two-day event.

This time, there was more pomp and circumstance that surrounded the tournament. More bells and whistles, you might say. Similar treatment as the boys. They wrestled in a larger venue. Six mats under the bright venue lights on Saturday. Large screens on display.

They even had a large backdrop that impressively served as background for the awards podium used for a similar awards ceremony to the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s at the traditional state tournament. This was special, even if these wrestlers may have experienced bigger events outside of the high school season.

Iowa Valley’s Millie Peach was one of the original champions in 2019. She became the first three-time champion, pinning her way through the tournament again. During the inaugural event, Peach said she hoped one day this would be held in Wells Fargo Arena, like the boys’ tournament. Make no mistake, she’s witnessed and contributed to the success, paving the way for future wrestlers, like her sister, to have this experience.

“I think this is definitely a big step to getting there,” Peach said. “This is an arena now and that’s a very big step.

“Eventually get into Wells Fargo and it’s great that we get to use this facility for this tournament.”

The tournament was filled with memorable moments, including a rousing speech from Iowa legend Dan Gable, who noted that women’s wrestling has helped save the sport’s Olympic status. Wrestlers like Decorah freshman 145-pound champion Naomi Simon idolize Gable, as well as standouts Adeline Gray and Forrest Molinari.

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There were upsets, last-second or overtime thrillers that produced the excitement of victory and the shocking disappointment in defeat and dominating performances. Titles were spread out to nine different schools and 16 total schools were represented in the 12 finals.

There were also lump-in-the-throat moments that may have tugged at heart strings. Like when Charles City’s Lilly Luft pointed upward after winning the 126-pound title to acknowledge her late brother, Logan, who died in an ATV accident in 2017.

Don’t forget Samantha Spielbauer (160) winning Clayton Ridge’s first individual state title in wrestling.

There were grandmothers and mothers jumping, cheering and celebrating while brandishing smiles and tears at the same time. Enthusiastic fathers that could be heard all the way to Williamsburg, urging their children. It was simply fantastic.

The tournament was a shining example of how far the girls’ wrestling movement has come. Now, what’s next? Wrestlers and coaches need to keep recruiting athletes. Kids’ clubs need to continue to attract girls. Schools need to find a way to drum up money to support their students interested in the sport and then commit to providing the resources to sustain it.

Continued growth can then lead to qualifying tournaments like every other state championship, making it a truly elite tournament.

This weekend was great. It was a product of a lot of hard work from the wrestlers to the organizers and supporters. More work is still needed to become sanctioned.

Iowa Hawkeyes trounce Minnesota

I won’t mince words. Iowa throttled Minnesota, 35-4, in its second Big Ten Conference dual. The Gophers’ program is a shell of itself, even though it is 2-2. The Hawkeyes are also soaring like many thought but their dominance is mind-boggling. It all starts with Spencer Lee. He worked over Patrick McKee, who was ranked ninth. He led 14-0 in the first period when he used a bar arm and half to put McKee on his back. Had he not gotten the fall in 1:53, it would have been an 18-0 technical fall.

Lee’s performance has been common, but it’s really so uncommon it is hard to fathom. Hard not to believe others don’t thrive off it as well. He was a dynamo and Austin DeSanto and Jaydin Eierman followed, combining for 43 match points. That’s two shy of Minnesota’s dual total.

American Rivers Conference returns to action

American Rivers Conference wrestling teams returned to competition Saturday. This marked the first conference action this season, except for Iowa State’s duals with Wartburg and Loras. The regular-season schedule consists of conference double duals.

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Unfortunately, some schools had to cancel duals, but the second-ranked Knights took the mat against Dubuque. Wartburg trounced the Spartans, 37-6. Former South Tama prep Brady Fritz (149) and former Cedar Rapids Jefferson prep Kyle Briggs posted technical falls for Wartburg.

Buena Vista, Simpson and Nebraska Wesleyan was the only triangular to remain intact. The Beavers went 2-0, dropping the Storm, 22-19, and Prairie Wolves, 37-17.

Michigan wrestling halted

The University of Michigan announced Saturday that it has halted athletic activities for all of its sports, including the Wolverines’ second-ranked wrestling program. All Michigan sports will be shut down for two weeks, meaning the Wolverines will not travel to Iowa City for a showdown with the top-ranked Hawkeyes.

Tenth-ranked Illinois will still be at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and that dual has been moved up to 11 a.m. (BTN).

Hopefully, this will be an isolated necessity for college wrestling programs this season.

Cedar Rapids Washington wins Anamosa title

Cedar Rapids Washington captured the team title at Anamosa’s Denny Christiansen Invitational on Saturday, topping Iowa City Liberty by four points.

Washington, which has had individual success but little as a team, scored 167 points. The Warriors received titles from Erich Winderknecht (132) and 138-pounder Joe Foreman. Zach Novak was a runner-up at 220.

Lions of Linn-Mar and Lisbon roar

Linn-Mar crowned four champions at the Bob Lueders Invitational Saturday. The Lions’ freshman 138-pounder Grant Kress notched a notable win in the finals. Kress scored 14 points in the final two periods to overcome a four-point deficit and defeat Davenport Assumption’s Class 2A third-ranked Michael Macias, 14-7. Kress had pinned his way to the championship match.

Bryce Parke (132), Abass Kemokai (152) and state finalist Tate Naaktgeboren (160) all won titles for Linn-Mar.

Lisbon won the team title with six champions, including Brandon Paez (120), Robert Avila Jr. (145), Max Kohl (170) and 220-pound Cole Clark. Heavyweight Brant Baltes won an all-Lisbon final, pinning teammate Wyatt Smith.

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

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