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Iowa Wrestling Weekend That Was: Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union began first wrestling postseason
Gabe Arnold. Tate Naaktgeboren squared off again; Linn-Mar wins second straight MVC title; Wilton dominates RVC; ISU, UNI go 3-1 over Oklahoma teams
Girls’ wrestling hit the postseason. There were conference tournament results. ISU, UNI turned Oklahoma programs away with just one dual win. Here is the Wrestling Weekend That Was.
First IGHSAU season reaches apex
Cue up your best Paul Rudd and Sean Evans GIF, screenshot a meme or play their “Hot Ones” clip saying, “Look at us, hey, look at us. Who would’ve thought?”
Yet, here we are in the final week of the inaugural Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union sanctioned wrestling season. Thousands of “Iowa Girls” took to the mat, championing the cause of this historic season.
Wrestlers took to the mat Friday for regionals across the state. Eight at four sites that consisted of 1,307 total competitors. All trying to be one of 32 qualifiers for the first IGHSAU state tournament at their respective weights.
The action at the Alliant Energy PowerHouse was somewhat chaotic with two tournaments going on simultaneously. At the same time, the format added to the excitement as swells of cheers from fans watching above reverberated through the arena. Many stood and applauded each victory or provided encouragement with defeat.
Tweaks and adjustments will come. They always do with the first time something is done. This season is no different, but the first set of state qualifiers were successful.
“I thought overall the Super Regionals went very well,” said Erin Kirtley, IGHSAU Associate Director in charge of wrestling. “Each site offered its own highlights and potential downsides on the front end as far as venues were concerned — we forecasted many of those obstacles ahead of time. However, all tournament hosts and staffing really worked hard to provide a positive atmosphere that was well orchestrated to give the best possible experience at all four locations.”
Kirtley added delays due to weather were avoided and tournaments were run smoothly, lasting about eight hours from first whistle to completion. A good feat with more than 300 wrestlers at three of the four sites and more than 290 at the fourth.
“The officiating was outstanding, and the sportsmanship from athletes, coaches, and spectators was also fantastic across the board,” Kirtley said. “In conversations with those in attendance, the attitudes were of overall excitement to be wrestling on such a big stage. I do think it also helped prepare coaches and athletes for the pace and the feel of a state tournament. “
The popularity of girls’ wrestling is not going to wane. Flowrestling released an article about growth and popularity in girls’ wrestling. National participation numbers have increased to 52,406 this season, which is 16,753 more than last year. Iowa was the top state for growth, climbing from 1,022 in 2022 to 2,379 this year.
“It brings me joy to see how far wrestling has come since my freshman year,” East Buchanan senior regional champ Keeley Kehrli said. “It was a tournament for whoever wanted to go at Waverly-Shell Rock. Now, we have a huge arena for all of us. I think it’s amazing.”
Iowa USA Wrestling Women’s Director Charlotte Bailey was at Regions 5 and 6 in Cedar Rapids. She was thrilled with the event and how far the sport has come. She noted how girls’ divisions at Independence and Ogden were key springboards for girls’ wrestling before the first Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials state tournaments that began in 2019 at Waverly-Shell Rock. Much work still remains to improve and continue the involvement boom.
Friday was a good baseline and officials are already poring over notes from the day of the event.
“While we don’t know yet if this is the same format we will run next year, there’s still many things to be evaluated and learned from with each of the different venues,” Kirtley said. “A problem we had this year was the communication gap with coaches and (athletic directors). Many weren’t familiar with rules meetings, important deadlines, postseason processes, etc., so we had to really work to bridge those spaces to meet people where they were currently.
“My hope is that next year, people will be familiar with our system, our website, our expectations and such so that the entire season and postseason feels more streamlined.”
Linn-Mar wins 2nd MVC crown
It took 24 seasons for Linn-Mar to win a Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet team title under Coach Doug Streicher. A year later, the Lions doubled that total under the accomplished leader.
Linn-Mar scored 233 points to top runner-up Cedar Rapids Prairie by 19. The Lions received titles from Malik DeBow (113), 138-pounder Kane Naaktgeboren and Grant Kress at 152. The Lions had six in the finals, receiving runner-up performances from Nate Fish (120) Brayden Parke at 126 and 182-pounder Tate Naaktgeboren.
Balance was important. Linn-Mar had 12 wrestlers earn medals, placing sixth or better.
The MVC Super Meet promised another battle between nationally-ranked seniors Gabe Arnold, of Iowa City High, and Linn-Mar’s Tate Naaktgeboren. It delivered with another battle between the future Iowa and Iowa State signees.
Arnold improved to 3-0 against Naaktgeboren, posting a 3-2 decision in tiebreaker-1 overtime. The pair exchanged escapes in the regulation. After a scoreless sudden-victory period, Arnold scored a late reversal in the first 30-second tiebreaker period. Naaktgeboren escaped in the next 30-second frame, but it wasn’t enough.
Naaktgeboren has closed the gap each time, dropping an 8-3 match at the Dan Gable Donnybrook the first weekend of December and a 3-1 decision in a dual Jan. 5.
The fourth meeting could be for a state title.
Wilton dominates RVC
Wilton dominated the River Valley Conference tournament, crowning eight champions and placing 10 in the finals for 291 points. The Beavers topped runner-up Monticello by 160.
The Panthers received titles from Kale Hansen at 145 and 195-pounder Dylan Monk. Hansen was the first champion not from Wilton, beating Bellevue’s Jake Hiland, 18-7, in the final, improving to 45-0 this season.
Anamosa’s Austin Scranton (43-2) picked up a notable win in the finals at 170. Scranton, who is ranked sixth at 160, beat West Liberty’s third-ranked Drake Collins, 7-6, with a reversal and rideout in the third.
ISU, UNI not nice hosts
Iowa State and Northern Iowa were nice hosts to Oklahoma State and Oklahoma on their Big 12 Conference dual trip through the state. ISU and UNI won three of four against the Big 12 rivals.
Iowa State opened with a 25-12 victory over the Sooners Friday. The Cyclones won the final three matches to beat the Cowboys, 18-11, Sunday.
UNI dropped a tight one to the Cowboys on Saturday, falling 19-17. A key fall by Wyatt Sheets at 165 helped propel the Cowboys. Also in the dual, former West Delaware state champion Wyatt Voelker made his official Panthers debut at 197. The freshman gave up an escape and a point for riding time in a 2-1 loss to No. 18 Luke Surber. UNI rebounded with 23-12 win over Oklahoma Sunday, receiving a pin from 133-pounder Kyle Biscoglia.