DES MOINES — In 19 years as a referee, Nadine Ihde didn’t envision officiating the state wrestling tournament.
Even as a state table scorer for 24 years, she didn’t daydream of grabbing her whistle and calling the action. She was too busy doing her job to picture other responsibilities.
Ihde embraced a different role Wednesday, earning her first opportunity to work the state duals tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. She became the first female to officiate an IHSAA state wrestling tournament.
“It’s been awesome,” Ihde said. “There’s nothing more to say.”
She was one of 24 referees working duals in the first, third and placing rounds. The morning began with butterflies fluttering that disappeared as soon as the first whistle blew. She immersed herself in the action and treated it like any other match.
“That’s what I ultimately want to do,” said Ihde, noting she has enjoyed the camaraderie with other officials she has watched over the years. “I want to make sure I’m calling a good match in order to make sure the kids don’t get messed up because of something I did. I’m continually perfecting my craft to make sure I’m doing a good job.”
Ihde, of Shellsburg, received her first postseason bid three seasons ago, working a sectional at Dike-New Hartford and the Starmont district. The thought began to creep into her mind then that she might have a shot to demonstrate her craft at the biggest event of the year.
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“I’ve really been working with other officials to make sure my mechanics are good and I’m doing the best job that I can,” Ihde said. “It’s pretty amazing.”
Ihde said Supervisor of Officials Bill Roths instructed her on some improvements he wanted to see her make. She was observed during the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock in January. Ihde learned of her assignment two days later.
“I was pretty excited,” Ihde said. “I had to pull off the road to make sure I was reading it correctly.”
Ihde said she thought the girls’ state meet was a great event, praising the tournament organizers and competitors. As for herself, she said she never thought that young girls may want to follow in her footsteps. She said she isn’t caught up in being the first female referee, but will embrace it if it helps the sport grow.
“I never really thought of myself as being anybody that could be inspirational to anybody,” Ihde said. “I had a co-worker post it on her Facebook page and she had a mom message back to her that her daughter wants to wrestle now because of (me).
“I never set out to be anything other than just a wrestling official.”
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