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Union’s Jillian ‘Monster’ Worthen seeks a state title in inaugural IGHSAU tournament
‘Monster’ has won 41 straight matches entering Thursday’s first round
Jillian Worthen earned her nickname as a rambunctious child.
She has validated the “Monster” moniker her dad tagged her with and even embraced it. After all, it serves as an apt description of her intensity and competitiveness.
Opponents are well aware of Monster and what she is like on the mat.
“I like it,” Worthen said. “That’s all everybody knows me as now. I still hear it at tournaments. ‘You have to wrestle Monster.’
“It’s a big deal. I have a bunch of people telling me they like the name. It really goes along with my wrestling.”
Worthen is considered one of the top wrestlers in the state and is nationally ranked. She will attempt to capture the 105-pound title at the inaugural Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union state wrestling tournament Thursday and Friday at Xtream Arena in Coralville.
The Knights’ sophomore is the top seed, entering the historic event with a 23-0 record.
“I’m pretty excited but it’s basically a business trip,” Worthen said. “I have to focus on going in, weighing and getting it done and rest for the next day. I’ll save all my emotions for after it.”
Worthen received the label before she was in sports. She remembers her dad using it when she competed in youth swimming. He still uses it to address her, occasionally.
“It really came down to I wasn’t like a very good little kid,” Worthen said. “Instead of swearing at me, he’d call me a little monster. It just stuck the whole time. He’ll yell it in stores if he can’t find me. Instead of my name he just goes, ‘Monster!’”
Wrestling has been a family affair for the Worthens. Older brothers Jacob and Hunter also wrestled for the Knights. Hunter was a two-time state medalist with 148 career victories and is a freshman on the Oklahoma State wrestling team.
Like many siblings, Worthen was often dragged to her brothers’ competitions. One of Hunter’s AAU duals at Bode was a cornerstone in her wrestling career. She was so enthralled in seeing girls wrestling that she ignored her brother’s action.
“It was the first time I ever watched girls actually wrestle right alongside the boys,” Worthen said. “I went over to watch the girls the whole time,” Worthen said. “I was glued right next to the mat watching them. I asked my dad if I could do that. He said yeah.”
The sport has taken her all across the state and beyond, including a national tournament in Fargo, N.D. Worthen even traveled to France in 2022, staying in camps and witnessing how senior-level athletes train.
“It was actually fun,” said Worthen, who incorporated what she learned into her own training. “You have to be a whole lot more aware of your place when you’re wrestling in the circle. You definitely have to be accustomed to different training types.”
Worthen has won 41 straight varsity matches, winning the 100-pound title at last year’s Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state meet. “Monster” has tortured most of her competitor this season. She has 19 pins, including 11 in the first period, a technical fall and one major decision. Only two matches have gone the distance and just four that have reached the third period.
“Quick and aggressive,” Worthen said. “I also try to be aware of where I am at, how many points I have and always looking for the next score, whether it’s a takedown, tilt or turn.
“I try to wrestle smart and stay in good position.”
The target rests solely on her back. She doesn’t mind getting the best her opponents have to offer. Preparation has her ready to take on all comers who want to prevent her winning another title.
“I don’t think there it is a pressure thing but I know there are some girls who want to beat me,” Worthen said. “They’ve been working all year just like I have. I definitely have confidence that I will be able to do it again. I just have to believe in my training. I trust my high school and club coaches.”