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Vinton-Shellsburg sends trio into Iowa girls’ state wrestling semifinals
Sanders, Swenson and Weets all secure top-6 finishes; Independence’s Eddy avenges loss to reach semifinals; East Buchanan has 3 semifinalists, third in team race; Decorah leads after Day 1
CORALVILLE — Vinton-Shellsburg’s Chloe Sanders has become accustomed to a balancing act before matches.
She makes sure to prepare herself mentally and physically, but keeps tabs on her teammates, especially 110-pounder Bree Swenson and Ellie Weets at 115.
“I stay warm and watch them,” Sanders said. “I cheer them on and then I go out there and wrestle my match. It keeps the adrenaline going, for sure.”
The Vikings trio nearly posted identical results, combining to go 9-0 during the first day of the girls’ state wrestling tournament Thursday at Xtream Arena. All three advanced to Friday morning’s semifinals, securing a top-six finish and a spot on the awards stand.
“We’ve all been putting a lot of effort in, trying to excel,” said Sanders, a freshman 130-pounder. “We’ve all put in so much effort. It’s showing on the mat, now.”
Vinton-Shellsburg Coach Brandt Corcran said all three are normally staying after practice to learn a new takedown, run extra sprints to improve conditioning or push themselves to an elite level.
“They’re a good 1-2-3 punch, though they’re not back-to-back-to-back,” Corcran said. “They’re always some of our go-to wrestlers. We have faith in how they’re going to do and they showed that on the mat today.”
They were dominant through the first three rounds. Each opened with two pins before reaching the third period. Swenson and Weets wrestled in quarterfinals on adjacent mats. Weets defeated Decorah’s Kaitlyn Bjork, 11-4, to kick off the Vikings’ round. Swenson quickly followed with an 8-0 major decision over Williamsburg’s Madison Kirby.
Sanders added another major decision with a 10-0 win over Center Point-Urbana’s Lyni Gusick to move into the top six. Sanders broke open the match with a seven-point third with a takedown and five nearfall.
Sanders, who puts in extra work with Swenson at Big Game Wrestling Club, has secured her own state medal, facing East Buchanan’s third-seeded Destiny Krum for a chance in the final.
“It’s been a really exciting day,” Sanders said. “A lot of fun matches.”
Corcran recognized the potential for each to make a deep run but they had to earn it. They did and combined for 14 bonus points.
“We always preach to never let up, whether there is five minutes or 30 seconds left in the match,” Sanders said. “We’re always looking for the next point.”
Sanders shares a strong relationship through wrestling with her older brothers, Gabe and Cooper. Gabe was the Class 2A 152-pound state champion last season for the Vikings. Cooper was a state finalist at 145 a year ago and is currently top-ranked at 152.
They get along well but their success does lead to some good-natured ribbing.
“It’s been a huge part of us all,” Sanders said. “We’ve been able to bond so much more over that. We understand what each other has to go through with everything. It’s gotten us even stronger as siblings.”
East Buchanan matched the Vikings with three semifinalists. Krum, third-seeded Keeley Kehrli (155) and No. 4 Brooklyn Graham at 170 each moved into the top six and helped the Buccaneers to third in the team standings with 72 points. Decorah is in first with 82, leading second-place Waverly-Shell Rock by eight.
Decorah’s top-seeded Naomi Simon moved into the 170 semifinals, but the team’s consolation performance propelled it to the top of the team standings. Decorah went 16-2 in consolation matches with 12 pins.
Independence and Iowa Valley advanced two into the semifinals. The Mustangs’ Rachel Eddy won an Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association girls’ state wrestling tournament title two years ago. The fourth-seeded 190-pounder remains in championship contention with a thrilling 7-5 decision in sudden victory over Cedar Rapids Kennedy’s No. 5 Ella Brown.
“Mentally, this year I’ve grown a ton,” Eddy said. “I just knew if I wanted to win that match I couldn’t give up. If I give up, I’m not going to win that match. I kept fighting.”
Eddy trailed but used a key reversal, catching Brown on her back for three nearfall and a 5-4 lead. Locked hands to prevent an escape tied it and Eddy hung on for a rideout that forced overtime.
She was able to secure the winning takedown with 25 seconds left in the extra period.
“I take my offense off of a snap,” Eddy said. “I knew I had to throw that by and I stick my leg in.
“I heard my coach say ‘under the arms.’ I wasn’t maybe in the best position but it’s two in overtime. It’s all that mattered.”
The duo split two matches earlier this season with Brown winning in the regional final.
“I knew it would be tough, but avenging the loss from last week was really important for me,” Eddy said. “It was a huge step up in my confidence going into the rest of the tournament.”
Iowa Valley sisters Emma and Breanna Peach reached the semifinals at 145 and 190, respectively. Both went 3-0 with three pins.
Union Community’s Jillian Worthen (105) and Cedar Rapids Prairie’s Mackenzie Childers (125) are among the top-seeded wrestlers in the semifinals. Both remained unbeaten, pinning their way through the first three rounds. Worthen is 26-0, while Childers is 47-0 with 40 pins.