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Decorah’s Naomi Simon closes unbeaten season with IGHSAU state wrestling title
Simon’s 170 title run ends with pin; Iowa Valley’s Peach continues family title string; Childers, Worthern among top-seeded and undefeated champion
CORALVILLE – Naomi Simon’s walk to the mat was slow and deliberate.
The kind of stroll that resembled someone stalking their prey. The Decorah junior was focused solely on the job at hand.
“We’re on a business trip,” Simon said with a chuckle. “Actually, our bus driver … he’s part-time coach, part-time bus driver. He’s an awesome guy. Every time we come down, like when we came down (here) for (Dan Gable) Donnybrook, he always says, ‘Hey, girls, we’re on a business trip. Let’s go seal the deal.’”
Simon completed the mission, capturing the 170-pound title at the inaugural Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state wrestling tournament Friday night at Xtream Arena. She completed a perfect season with a 37-0 mark.
Her post-match stroll was more animated as she approached excited Decorah fans and teammates, waiting for her in the stands. They all had reason to celebrate, placing three on the awards stand and finishing third as a team with 108 points.
“My team is awesome,” Simon said. “I love my team. They’re great. They work incredibly hard to get where they’ve been.”
Simon tallied three pins during the two-day event, sticking Mount Vernon’s Libby Dix in 1:35 of the finals. She added an IGHSAU title to go with 145 and 170 crowns at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state crowns. Simon moved to 82-0 in her career.
Some wrestlers have wrestled longer, but few have been better. The reason is rather simple and why she was triumphant.
“I want it,” Simon said. “I want it and I work for it. I don’t stop until I get there.”
Iowa Valley’s Emma Peach and Union Community’s Jillian Worthen won IWCOA championships as freshman. Both matched Simon with back-to-back titles.
Peach pinned her way through the 145-pound bracket, capping her performance with a second period fall over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Haidyn Snyder.
“It feels great,” Peach said. “It’s always a rush after you win. No matter how many times you’ve won a big match it’s awesome.”
This one took a little longer than the previous four. Peach built a 7-0 lead with a takedown in each period and three nearfall before turning Snyder a second time for a fall in 3:58.
“I feel like after the first period riding her out, I wouldn’t say it was easier…,” Peach said. “After I kind of football tackled her I think she kind of gave up a little.”
Peach (39-0) comes from an accomplished wrestling family. Millie Peach was the first to win three straight IWCOA titles from 2019-21. Peach has extended the family string of titles to five straight years. With freshman sister, Breanna, placing fourth at 190, the possibility exists to reach six consecutive years.
“It’s fun to keep the streak going for sure,” Peach said. “It’s fun to see how long we can keep it going. Maybe next year there’s going to be two Peaches on top.”
Worthen was one of the first to visit the arena floor between sessions. She earned her spot in the finals, left to eat and rehydrate. Worthen returned to watch peers compete and started imagining her match.
“I went down there, knowing I was going to be in the center of the mat,” Worthen said. “People want a show. I wasn’t going to do anything too risky but I always visualize myself out before I’m out there.”
Worthen (28-0) pinned her way to the finals where she majored Mason City’s Layla Phillips, 10-1, for the 105 title. She was also business-like, despite a target on her back that attracted opponents’ best. Just what she expected from herself.
“Treat every match, every tournament like the state finals,” Worthen said. “I knew after winning last year girls were going to want to step it up against me. Overall, I wrestled a really good tournament.”
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mackenzie Childers recalled how she fell one spot short of her goal at last year’s IWCOA, placing fourth instead of third. Friday provided the sweet taste of a task complete.
“It feels good to actually accomplish the goal I set for myself, but there’s two more years,” Childers said. “I have two more years of high school as a sophomore, so my goal is to win state both of those years as well. So, I’ve got to get back to work.”
Childers reached the finals by beating Lewis Central’s Sophie Barnes, who beat Childers for third last season. For an encore, she pinned Wilton’s returning IWCOA state champion Hannah Rogers in 3:18 for the 125 title.
“I was really, really happy,” said Childers, who finished with four pins and a major decision to move to 49-0. “I want to prove that I am better than them, so I want a pin. I’m always looking for pins or major decision. I don’t want it to be close. I want everyone to know that I’m better than them.”
Childers recalled Prairie great Barry Davis holding a small clinic at the school. She has etched her name among the Hawks’ hallowed group of state champions.
“It’s amazing,” Childers said. “I’m so glad I can leave my mark on Prairie.”
South Tama’s third-seeded Maeley Elsbury knocked off the top-two seeds to claim the 135 crown. Elsbury (46-1) scored two nearfall in the third to beat Fort Dodge’s No. 1 Alexis Ross, 2-0, in the final.
The win followed Elsbury’s 5-2 decision over Independence’s Dakota Whitman in the semifinal, avenging an earlier loss.
Vinton-Shellsburg duo Bree Swenson (110) and 130-pounder Chloe Sanders were state runners-up. Iowa City West senior Jannell Avila returned to the finals for the first time since winning an IWCOA title as a freshman for Lisbon. Avila placed second at 155.
Fourteen schools produced a state champion Friday, meaning none had multiple titlists. Waverly-Shell Rock’s Kiara Djoumessi won by fall in the 140-pound final, sealing the Go-Hawks team title with 123 points. East Buchanan was second in the team race, scoring 113 points. The Buccaneers had five medalists, including third-place 155-pounder Keeley Kehrli.