116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — No regrets.
No could have, would have or should have.
No need for Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior Lexi Byrne to reflect on and overthink her performance, which she admits is her tendency.
“Today, I didn’t do that at all,” Byrne said. “I’m really proud, because I met my goal. Tomorrow, my goal is the same and be even more aggressive.”
Byrne was dominant in her opening day of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state wrestling tournament Friday at Xtream Arena. Byrne recorded pins in each of her first two matches, advancing to Saturday’s 140-pound quarterfinals.
“I did really well today,” Byrne said. “I surprised myself a little bit. My last match I got a few lift and returns, which I haven’t been too good at this year but I’m working on it.
“I’m really excited for tomorrow, though.”
Unlike many of the 700-plus wrestlers in the field. Byrne has experience in sanctioned girls’ wrestling. She placed third as a freshman at state in Oregon, where girls’ wrestling is sanctioned. She moved to Iowa and joined the Kennedy program last year. She was a win shy of placing last season, wrestling more than one match with a big cut by her eye.
Byrne takes a 16-0 record into Saturday’s match against Nevaeh Briggs of English Valleys/Tri-County.
“I realized I was so hard on myself,” Byrne said. “This year, I just need to go out there and do it.”
The impressive first day started with a 43-second pin over Mid-Prairie’s Marissa Cline. Byrne followed with a fall in 1:31 over East Buchanan’s Andelyn Cabalka, scoring five points on a headlock and getting a later turn to end it.
“There was nothing but confidence,” Kennedy assistant coach Craig Mallicoat said. “She knew what she wanted to do. She set everything up. She showed how much work she’s put in. It was just fun to watch. We have to continue that into tomorrow.”
Byrne is more than a leader in competition. She has assumed an unofficial “athlete-coach” type role, taking many of the younger or inexperienced wrestlers under her wing. Byrne helps run morning practices before school and has shown technique to her teammates. She has built camaraderie, starting a team chat group and planning activities outside of wrestling.
“She shows a lot of leadership, going above and beyond,” Mallicoat said. “She’s gotten all the girls together. It’s more than what you’d expect from a wrestler to not just say come and wrestle. It’s off the mat, too. She’s really become a good leader and mentor for the other girls.”
Breaking down moves and explaining them for teammates to understand has made Byrne a better wrestler. Mallicoat said she is a big reason for the team’s improvement and has reaped the rewards of repeated demonstration.
“There are a lot of moves I have never done before that I learned from the coaches,” said Byrne, who began wrestling with her brother, Liam. “I got to help the girls work on those, as well. I think it did help me become a better wrestler.”
Coaching is a way she wants to remain involved in the sport she started when she was about 7 years old. She plans to get a coaching certificate during the summer. Ideally, she’d return to the Kennedy practice room and demonstrate moves like she has already.
“My goal is to become a coach next year,” Byrne said. “At first, I was a little iffy about it, because it’s hard for me to explain things to people.
“When I started coaching some of the girls, I realized how much I loved it and want to stay around the sport.”
Byrne was joined in the quarterfinals by freshman teammate Ella Brown (12-0) at 190.
Four area IWCOA state champions remain in the running for another crown. Independence’s Rachel Eddy (190), Naomi Simon (170) and Clayton Ridge’s Samantha Spielbauer (170) won titles last year, while Iowa City West junior Jannell Avila (155) won as a freshman.
Top-ranked Rachel Eddy is in the 190 quarterfinals. She made quick work of Gilbert’s Alissa Clark, recording the pin in 1:51.
Simon (22-0) is the No. 1 seed, while Spielbauer (14-2) is the second seed. They recorded two pins apiece, maintaining a chance for a battle of champions in the finals.
Avila improved to 9-0. She won all three of her matches by first-period fall.
Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mackenzie Childers knocked off Anamosa’s fourth-ranked Ava Scranton, 10-5. Childers improved to 22-4.
Ally Jelinek, of Linn-Mar, advanced to the quarterfinals. She recorded two pins, including one in just 10 seconds, and a technical fall at 120. Jelinek is 18-3.
North Cedar’s duo of Adison Musser and Ashlynn Miller returned to the quarterfinals. The returning medalists combined to go 5-0 Friday. Musser (18-1) notched two pins at 115, placing second here a year ago. Miller (19-4) posted three pins at 130. She was fourth in 2021.
East Buchanan pushed three of its five entrants into the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Keeley Kehrli (25-0) had two pins at 155. Destiny Krum (120) and Alyson Krum (220) remained in the winner’s bracket.
Action begins at 10 a.m. Saturday with the finals slated for 5 p.m.