Wrestling: South Winneshiek’s Felicity Taylor wins Junior national championship

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

Felicity Taylor capped her successful high school wrestling career with perhaps her most dominant performance to date.

Taylor, a recent graduate of South Winneshiek High School in Calmar, took home first place at the Junior women’s freestyle national championships in Fargo, North Dakota. She defeated Nevada’s Peyton Prussin, 10-1, in Wednesday’s final to win the crown at 112 pounds.

“I’ve never experienced something like that before,” Taylor told the Des Moines Register. “It’s awesome. I keep crying. I have no words. It’s amazing. I love it. I got the job done.”

South Winneshiek junior Felicity Taylor began wrestling as a freshman, and despite the late start she has quickly climbed her way up to the upper level wrestlers in the 106-pound weight class.

Taylor’s victory capped off an absolutely dominant week inside the FargoDome. In all, she went 6-0 and outscored her opponents 54-1. Taylor won her first match by pin, then her next four by technical fall en route to Wednesday’s final.

Against Prussin, Taylor continued her dominance. Two takedowns in the first period led to a 4-0 lead at the break. She added two more takedowns and an exposure turn to create more distance in the second period. The only point Taylor allowed all week was on a step-out.

“I wasn’t thinking about it during my match to not allow that point,” said Taylor, who was named the tournament’s most outstanding wrestler. “I had wrestled her before, and this time, I widened the gap. I feel like I’m on a different level.”



For the last couple of years, Taylor has carried the torch for girls’ wrestling in Iowa. During her four-year career at South Winneshiek, she won over 100 varsity matches. She was just one win from reaching the 2018 state tournament. Only two girls have ever done so.

When she competed against other girls, Taylor proved she was among the best in the country. She’s previously earned multiple All-American honors at both the Cadet and Junior levels. She won the 2017 USA Wrestling preseason nationals, the 2018 Junior folkstyle nationals, and finished second at the UWW Junior freestyle world team trials earlier this year. 

Entering this week’s tournament in Fargo, Taylor was ranked second nationally at 112 pounds by the National Girls High School Wrestling Rankings. En route to her title, she picked off four other opponents ranked in the top eight — including Prussin, who’s ranked No. 3.

“I only had one full match this full tournament,” Taylor said. “I turned it up a notch. Honestly, I wouldn’t be here without TJ (Sebolt),” referencing the four-time state champion from Centerville who now runs and operates Sebolt Academy, a successful youth and high school wrestling club.

“I’ve been working with him this summer,” Taylor continued. “I’m so thankful for that club. Without TJ, I don’t think I’d be here right now. I don’t think I’d be talking to you about how I won my finals match.”

After the final whistle sounded, Taylor gave herself two small claps as an initial celebration. Then her emotions took over, as she nearly teared up on the staged mat. The weight of her accomplishment came into focus.

Only three other Iowa girls have won Junior freestyle national titles — Rachel Watters in 2015 and 2016; Megan Black in 2012; and Lizz Sanders in 2003. Black is one of the two girls’ wrestlers that qualified for the Iowa state tournament (the other: Cassy Herkelman), while Watters has made five age-level world teams and nearly made the 2018 Senior World Team last month.

“Rachel Watters was my idol,” Taylor said. “When I first started, she was the one doing this. I always wanted to be like Rachel. I still do. This is just one step closer to being like her.”


Big things are on the horizon for Taylor. She recently signed with McKendree University, a traditional women’s collegiate wrestling power where both Black and Herkelman competed at one point. She will also wrestle at the Junior Pan-American Championships next month.

But Taylor hopes her achievement on Wednesday will leave an impact on the upcoming girls’ wrestlers in Iowa, the same way Watters’ accomplishments motivated her. Team Iowa brought five Junior women’s freestyle competitors to Fargo this week, and Taylor expects more to join them in the years ahead.

“All of those girls except me will be back next year,” Taylor said. “They're going to be tough.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

Felicity Taylor’s Path to a National Title

Round of 64: Win by fall over Nayeli Hernandez (Texas), 1:53
Round of 32: Win by tech fall over Elizabeth Schumaker (Alaska), 10-0 in 2:12
Round of 16: Win by tech fall over Mia Rodriguez (Illinois), 11-0 in 4:44
Quarterfinals: Win by tech fall over Josie Bartishofski (Wisconsin), 10-0 in 1:06
Semifinals: Win by tech fall over Stefana Jelacic (Arizona), 10-0 in 5:51
Finals: Win by 10-1 decision over Peyton Prussin (Nevada)