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Iowa girls’ state wrestling: Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mackenzie Childers parlays hard work into state title shot
Childers reaches 125-pound final; Vinton-Shellsburg duo advance to finals; Worthen, Peach, Simon among top seeds to vie for championships; Iowa City West’s Avila returns to final
CORALVILLE – Every ounce of sweat, each droplet of blood and all the sacrifice that has led to exhaustion and sore muscles has been well worth it.
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mackenzie Childers parlayed all of her hard work for a shot at her ultimate goal.
“Training longer than everybody else,” Childers said. “Winning every sprint. Training in the offseason, obviously. I’ll go to club and participate in offseason tournaments.
“I really think that’s what it takes to get to where I am now.”
Childers became the Hawks’ first finalist at the inaugural Iowa High School Athletic Union’s state wrestling tournament Saturday at Xtream Arena. The sophomore 125-pounder handled Council Bluffs Lewis Central’s fourth-seeded Sophie Barnes, 10-2, in the semifinal.
“This is really special because I’ve been working for this for so long,” Childers said. “Every wrestler wants to win a state title. Every wrestler wants to be in the state finals. It’s great to have this opportunity.”
Childers (48-0) has pinned 40 of her opponents this season, including her first three state foes. Barnes was the first to reach the third period and go the distance at state. Childers surrendered the opening takedown and faced a rare deficit.
Her reversal with one second left in the first tied the score, reset the match and sparked a 10-0 run that propelled her into the championship match.
“Getting that reversal at the end of the first period really put the match in perspective to me,” Childers said. “We’re tied going into the second period. It’s pretty much like 0-0 where we first started. Now, I just have to score the next point to win this match.”
The feat holds a special meaning to Childers. She complemented the Prairie community for following and encouraging the wrestlers this season. Childers was proud to represent the school in the finals.
“The community at Prairie is amazing,” Childers said. “Everyone is supportive. I have teachers who are live-streaming my matches in classes. It just means a lot to me.”
Childers was one of 13 top-seeded wrestlers to reach the finals. The lone weight without the top seed in the finals was 110. Vinton-Shellsburg’s Bree Swenson played the spoiler.
Swenson handed Osage’s No. 1-seed Jalynn Goodale her first loss of the season. Swenson reclaimed the lead at 8-7 when she stuck Goodale in 4:53.
“I’ve been working for this all season,” Swenson said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Swenson rolled to the semifinals with two pins and an 8-0 major decision. She approached it like every other match.
“I stayed in the right mindset,” Swenson said. “I kept focus. I did my regular warmup and got ready for it.”
The Vikings’ Chloe Sanders joined Swenson in the finals. She has matched Swenson result for result, opening with two pins and a major decision. Swenson pinned East Buchanan’s Destiny Krum to reach the 130 final.
Vinton-Shellsburg had five qualifiers with three medalists. Ellie Weets (115) reached the semifinals and finished in the top six.
“We all put the same effort in,” Swenson said. “It’s not just them. It’s been our whole team that has put effort in to make us better and get us here, too.”
Union Community’s Jillian Worthen powered her way to the finals. The top-seeded 105-pound sophomore, known affectionately as “Monster,” pinned Sumner-Fredericksburg’s No. 4 Hillary Trainor in 3:44 of the semifinal.
“I wanted to make it quick so I could rest up for tonight,” Worthen said about resting before the final against Mason City’s No. 7 Layla Phillips.
Worthen pinned her way to the final, which gave her 23 before the championship bout. Being dominant is as important as advancing. Her approach has made her a huge influence on others.
“We practice it every day,” Worthen said. “You’ve got to have some confidence. Confidence is key. It’s mostly mental.
“Like I show every match I am dominant. It is key to all the little girls watching. They are like, ‘I want to be like her.’ I have some older upperclassmen and girls that graduated that were like, ‘Hey, I looked up to you when I started wrestling.’ ”
Similar to Worthen, Iowa Valley’s Emma Peach (145) and Decorah’s Naomi Simon (170) won Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state titles here last year after the IGHSAU announced the sports sanctioning. They both took an unbeaten record into the finals.
Peach made quick work of Ridge View’s No. 5 Isabella Deeds, posting a pin in 1:57. Simon used a second-period takedown and a reversal in the third to beat East Buchanan’s Brooklyn Graham, 4-0.
Iowa City West’s second-seeded Janell Avila returned to the state finals, avenging a regional final loss to East Buchanan’s Keeley Kehrli. Avila built a 5-1 lead and recorded a fall in 5:49. She made her first finals appearance since winning an IWCOA girls’ state title as a freshman for Lisbon.
South Tama’s No. 3 Maeley Elsbury also avenged a previous loss to reach the finals. She turned the tables on Independence’s Dakota Whitman, earning a 5-2 decision in the 135 semifinals.