High school wrestling: Girls put on a show during their inaugural state tournament

Cody Goodwin
The Des Moines Register

WAVERLY, Ia. — The moment Tateum Park has long dreamed of came true Saturday afternoon.

Park, a junior wrestler at Davenport North, defeated Waukon’s Meridian Snitker, 8-1, in the 113-pound final of the first-ever girls’ high school state wrestling tournament. Moments after her hand was raised, Park ran into the stands and embraced her friends and family.

“It feels really nice to just have that feeling,” Park said.

Did she ever think a moment like that might come?

“Not really,” she admitted. “My goal has always just to make it to state against the boys, so this opportunity feels amazing.”

Davenport North junior Tateum Park gets a hug after her win over Waukon's Meridian Snitker for a 113-pound state championship on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, during the first Iowa girls state wrestling tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly.

That sentiment was shared by every competitor at Waverly-Shell Rock High School, home of the girls’ state wrestling tournament sponsored and presented by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA).

It was a first-of-its-kind event that put girls’ wrestling at the center of attention. Alongside the tournament was the Rick Caldwell Invitational, but there were moments on Saturday where a reminder was needed that the boys were even there. Iowa's best female wrestlers were given a stage on Saturday, and they put on a show.

In total, 87 girls competed, which was less than expected due to snow and injuries. Waverly-Shell Rock and Denver both led the way with 11 wrestlers. Osage brought nine and Charles City and Colfax-Mingo both brought seven.

Only 10 weights were contested instead of the usual 14 to create more opportunity. Three brackets had 10 or more competitors, including a full 16-girl bracket at 126 pounds.

“This was amazing,” said Davenport Central’s Sydney Park, the 126-pound state champ and Tateum’s sister. “This was a really good first step. Our next step is having more girl tournaments. It’s growing and that’s really exciting.”

The wrestling was excellent. There were exactly 100 pins throughout the day, some by half nelsons, some by cradles, some by headlocks. Colfax-Mingo’s Ilia Hostetter hit a spladle in the wrestlebacks at 120 pounds. At 152, Waverly’s Hedda Kveum threw Charles City’s Allie Cross in a mean headlock — then asked if she was OK.

In the end, 14 schools were represented in the finals. The Go-Hawks had two champs — Avery Meier at 138 and Annika Behrends, who beat Logan-Magnolia’s Olivia Diggins on a last-second escape at 132. The other eight champs were all from different schools. Of those, only one — Colfax-Mingo’s Rilee Slycord at 285 — is a senior.

In interviews afterward, they all shared their own wrestling stories.

Ali Gerbracht was the first champ crowned, at 106 pounds. Her father, Chad, is the longtime coach at AGWSR, and she jumped into his arms after winning.

Behrends’ father and uncles were all successful Go-Hawk wrestlers back in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She also played basketball this winter.

Iowa Valley’s Millie Peach, the 195-pound state champ, has three younger sisters who all wrestle. She is optimistic they will also get to experience the thrill of a state tournament.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Chloe Clemons, the state champion at 120 pounds, attended the September meeting at the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union (IGHSAU) in West Des Moines, when the union talked of implementing a process for adding new sports. She believes Saturday’s tournament was the first step toward something greater.

“I thought this was amazing,” said Clemons, who pinned Waverly-Shell Rock’s Jacey Meier to win. “All the girls came together. We had brackets, rankings. It really feels like it’s a girls’ sport too, not just a boys’ sport.”

Time will tell, of course. IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger was in attendance Saturday. She politely declined interviews but did say she enjoyed watching the action.

Cedar Rapids Jefferson junior Chloe Clemons won a state title at 120 pounds over Waverly-Shell Rock's Jacey Meier on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, during the first Iowa girls state wrestling tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly.

Rachel Watters, who wrestled for Ballard from 2012-16, was also in attendance. Watters now competes at Oklahoma City University but planned a trip back the moment the IWCOA announced the tournament.

Watters carried the torch for girls’ wrestling in Iowa when she competed for the Bombers. She was the first Iowa girl to win a middleweight sectional title as a senior, and won two junior freestyle national titles during her high school career. She's gone on to make five different age-level world teams.

On Saturday, Watters sat in the stands and marveled at the competition. She said she's impressed by how quickly the sport has grown even since she graduated high school, and she can’t wait to see where it goes.

“It warms my heart,” Watters said. “I’ve been sitting in the stands and watching all the girls. There’s cheerleaders cheering on the girls. I see the boys’ teams in the stands and cheering when they win matches.

“This sport is so awesome, and a lot of people are finally on board with giving these girls these opportunities. I think that’ll help the movement grow so much faster.”

Davenport Central freshman Sydney Park beat Waukon's Regan Griffith for a state title at 126 pounds on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, during the first Iowa girls state wrestling tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly.

Waverly-Shell Rock storms to team title

The Go-Hawks wrestling team stormed to the team title, scoring 144 points thanks to five finalists and two champions and a tournament-high 12 pins. In addition to Behrends and Meier, Jacey Meier (120), Hedda Kveum (152) and Hanna Johnson (195) all reached the finals.

Colfax-Mingo took second with 78 points and six medalists. Slycord won at heavyweight, but Jaycie Webster and Destiny McBride-Dannels took third and fourth, respectively.  Kylie Doty placed fourth at 132, Mariah Webster took fifth at 126 and Hostetter finished sixth.

Charlies City scored 73 points and took third, despite not having a finalist. Waukon took fourth and Osage placed fifth.

Waverly-Shell Rock freshman Annika Behrends celebrates after winning a state title at 132 pounds over Logan-Magnolia's Olivia Diggins on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2019, during the first Iowa girls state wrestling tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly.

Match of the day

Behrends’s victory over Diggins was perhaps the most thrilling match of the day thanks to the action and stakes.

Behrends defeated Diggins (10-9) in the 132-pound final. The Waverly freshman led 6-3 after scoring two takedowns in the first period. Diggins, a junior, stormed back to tie the match at 9-9 thanks to a takedown and two reversals in the third.

But Behrends escaped with less than two seconds remaining to win, which ignited the Go-Hawk fans.

“I was super tired,” Behrends said, “but I just knew that if I kept going then something great would come out of it.”

Other observations

  • Sydney Park, Pleasantville’s Sayde Mull and Colfax-Mingo’s Mariah Webster all led the tournament with four pins.
  • Nashua-Plainfield’s Toyia Griffin had the day’s fastest pin, a 16-second fall in the 152-pound final.
  • In all, 30 wrestlers recorded pins in a minute or less.
  • Colfax-Mingo's Rilee Slycord recorded two pins in a combined 43 seconds to win the state title at heavyweight.
  • Union's Hannah Michael Recorded the tournament's first victory. Competing at 106 pounds, she pinned Sioux Central's Katy Unger in 46 seconds.

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

IWCOA Girls’ State Wrestling Tournament

Team Scores

  1. Waverly-Shell Rock, 144
  2. Colfax-Mingo, 78
  3. Charles City, 73
  4. Waukon, 64
  5. Osage, 59

Individual Results

106 pounds

1. Ali Gerbracht (AGWSR) 2. Ella Schmit (Bettendorf) 3. Chloe Krebsbach (Osage) 4. Hannah Michael (Union) 5. Sayde Mull (Pleasantville) 6. Karley Havener (Hinton)

113 pounds

1. Tateum Park (Davenport North) 2. Meridian Snitker (Waukon) 3. Kari German (Starmont) 4. Rylee Rodish (Waukee) 5. Madi Adams (Osage) 6. Emily Ruby (Denver)

120 pounds

1. Chloe Clemons (Cedar Rapids Jefferson) 2. Jacey Meier (Waverly-Shell Rock) 3. Ashlynn Miller (North Cedar) 4. Brynn Miller (Pleasantville) 5. Anna Sondall (Boone) 6. Ilia Hostetter (Colfax-Mingo)

126 pounds

1. Sydney Park (Davenport Central) 2. Regan Griffith (Waukon) 3. Marley Hagarty (Charles City) 4. Toni Maloy (Charles City) 5. Mariah Webster (Colfax-Mingo) 6. Clarissa Huisman (Osage)

132 pounds

1. Annika Behrends (Waverly-Shell Rock) 2. Olivia Diggins (Logan-Magnolia) 3. Evah Owens (Central City) 4. Kylie Doty (Colfax-Mingo) 5. Rylee Vercande (Mid-Prairie) 6. Emma Grimm (Charles City)

138 pounds

1. Avery Meier (Waverly-Shell Rock) 2. Maddison Buffum (Missouri Valley) 3. Makayla Mostek (Osage) 4. Abby Bechtel (Waverly-Shell Rock) 5. Mylei Henderson (West Liberty) 6. Carlie Frost (Waterloo West)

152 pounds

1. Toyia Griffin (Nashua-Plainfield) 2. Hedda Kveum (Waverly-Shell Rock) 3. Haley Eckerman (Waverly-Shell Rock) 4. Allie Cross (Charles City) 5. Gabby Corday (Denver) 6. Brittany Shover (Denver)

170 pounds

1. Jacenta Sargisson (LeMars) 2. Nevaeh Bushaw (Waukon) 3. Lila Meyer (Denver) 4. Josie Matgen (LeMars) 5. Rachel Roose (Waverly-Shell Rock) 6. Cassie Rizer (Denver)

195 pounds

1. Millie Peach (Iowa Valley) 2. Hanna Johnson (Waverly-Shell Rock) 3. Sydney Peterson (Charles City) 4. Claire Ohlrichs (LeMars)

285 pounds

1. Rilee Slycord (Colfax-Mingo) 2. Iliana Yanes (Riverside, Oakland) 3. Jaycie Webster (Colfax-Mingo) 4. Destiny McBride-Dannels (Colfax-Mingo)