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Iowa girls’ state wrestling notes: Fans pack sold-out Xtream Arena for inaugural IGHSAU tournament
Linn-Mar senior Lavia Mzuma kicks off the tournament with national anthem performance
CORALVILLE — The fervor came to fruition.
All you had to do was look at the masses of people inside and outside Xtream Arena.
The inaugural Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state wrestling tournament occurred in front of a sold out crowd that was abuzz and frenzied throughout two sessions Thursday.
“I’ve never experienced anything like it,” said Iowa City High 130-pound quarterfinalist Clare Brown, noting that soccer is her main sport. “This is my first state tournament that I had to work to get into. Having a ton of people here is super rewarding.”
Fans flocked to the arena Thursday morning. Just 1,600 tickets were sold at 10 p.m. Wednesday. By 10 a.m. Thursday there wasn’t a ticket to be had. All 4,315 seats in the lower bowl were filled. The pre-owned suites bumped the total attendance to a little more than 5,000.
“We knew it in the wrestling world,” Think Iowa City President Josh Schamberger said. “It demonstrated that everybody was ready for girls’ wrestling. It’s incredible.”
West Delaware’s Kylie Shoop competed in the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state tournament a year ago. The atmosphere was electric.
“It’s probably the biggest crowd I’ve wrestled in front of,” Shoop said. “Even last year, there were more girls but not as big of a crowd. This was pretty big.”
Western Dubuque head coach Tom Danner has experienced many state tournaments over multiple decades as a former Bobcats boys’ head coach and assistant. He likened it to a miniature Wells Fargo Arena.
“The girls are making the sport grow,” Danner said. “It’s ballooning. It’s on fire.
“The enthusiasm level is amazing. You don’t see many stall calls.”
This was even a little more special for Brown, who opened with a pair of two-point victories, including one in sudden victory. The first ever state tournament was right in her backyard.
“It’s definitely special,” Brown said. “It makes it more convenient for family and friends to come to watch. We do have friends who own a suite, so having a whole suite for our City High team is special to us. Being able to sleep in my own bed, that’s just better than any hotel.”
The first sanctioned girls’ state wrestling tournament consisted of 448 wrestlers from 156 schools in 14 weight classes.
“I think it’s cool because it’s the first one,” Center Point-Urbana freshman Lyni Gusick said. “I’m glad to be a part of the first sanctioned tournament. I think it’s good we’re getting the support and it will help grow the sport.”
Linn-Mar’s Mzuma opens with national anthem
Linn-Mar senior Lavia Mzuma delivered the national anthem to open the first IGHSAU state wrestling tournament. An accomplished singer, she even had butterflies before the historic tournament.
“I was nervous,” Mzuma said. “I kept telling myself to look at the flag and sing it so people can feel it.”
Mzuma has performed the song at multiple events after visiting Linn-Mar Athletics Director Tonya Moe’s office to inquire about performing at Lions events. Moe submitted a video of Mzuma to the IGHSAU. She was selected to sing the national anthem at the state volleyball tournament here in the fall.
Mzuma made such an impression that they asked for an encore Thursday. She jumped at the opportunity to share her gift.
“I wanted to do it again,” Mzuma said. “My passion is singing. Any chance I get to do I’ll take it.”
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Mzuma said she felt some pressure but she delivered a stirring rendition. She also recognized the important role she played, kicking off the inaugural event.
“I never thought I’d get this far doing something I love,” Mzuma said. “It makes it better, and bigger, than it was.”
Peach of a session
Iowa Valley’s highly-ranked sister tandem of Emma and Breanna Peach rolled into the quarterfinals together. They didn’t waste much energy or time to advance.
Breanna Peach, a freshman at 190, recorded pins of 14 and 42 seconds. Emma Peach, a top-seeded sophomore at 145 and an IWCOA girls’ state champion last year, had a 20-second fall in the first round followed by a pin in 1:03.
Breanna said they don’t compete but she declared herself the winner.
“No,” Breanna Peach said about the competition. “I think I’m going to win it.”
They are a combined 66-1 with Emma Peach leading the way at 36-0. Their older sister, Millie, was the first three-time IWCOA state champion, and one of the leaders in the current boom of girls’ wrestling.
The Peach sisters push each other in and out of practice. They ranked among the best because of one another.
“In wrestling, we just push each other to be better,” Breanna Peach said. “She’ll help me out with some moves. Then, I just give her more competition since I’m heavier and move faster sometimes.”
Top wrestlers thrive
During the opening session, all 14 top-seeded wrestlers advanced to the quarterfinals. They were dominant, with all but two posting consecutive pins in the first two rounds. Jalynn Goodale was the most impressive with pins of 20 and 21 seconds.