The next wave of young stars arrive at the 2022 Iowa girls wrestling state championships

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

CORALVILLE — Just before the finals of the Iowa girls state wrestling championships on Saturday night, the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association planned a Parade of Champions for all the medalists at every weight class — not unlike the Grand March at the boys state tournament each February.

The girls were organized by weight and led out by youth wrestlers from around the state. Each youth wrestler held a sign, and before the parade ended, they all flipped their signs to spell the word “SANCTIONED,” to celebrate the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s decision to formally add girls wrestling as an official sport.

But Naomi Simon remembers chatting with the youth wrestler who led her weight onto the floor here at Xtream Arena, and 10 minutes after winning her second consecutive state title, she shared a quick story from their conversation.

“That little girl that led us has been wrestling for seven years and she’s only 10 years old, and that’s really cool,” Simon, a star sophomore for Decorah, recalled. “She’ll see all of us and now they have something they can go to. They will be state champions.”

Simon may have alluded to a future youth movement on Iowa’s girls wrestling scene, but the reality is that these brilliant young wrestlers are already here. 

Of the 15 state champions crowned during the finals of the fourth-annual Iowa girls state wrestling tournament, four were freshmen and six were sophomores. Only three seniors won titles, meaning almost all of the champs will be back next year for the first IGHSAU-organized season.

The four freshmen — Union’s Jillian Worthen at 100 pounds, Underwood’s Molly Allen at 105, Sigourney-Keota’s Reanah Utterback at 110, Iowa Valley’s Emma Peach at 140 — put forth arguably the most dominant performances of the tournament.

Worthen, who goes by "Monster," went 4-0 with three pins and didn’t allow a point all weekend, outscoring her opponents 28-0. Allen, who goes by "Miss Molly," went 5-0, all bonus-point wins, and outscored her five foes 40-7. Utterback needs a nickname because she was just as dominant: 5-0 with five pins, including four in the first period.

Peach, the younger sister of three-time girls state champ Millie Peach, recorded three pins in four matches to reach the finals, then registered a fourth in a wild finals match over Waverly-Shell Rock’s Annika Behrends, a four-time finalist and two-time champ.

Peach led 4-1 in the third period, scored two back points for a 6-1 lead, but then Behrends tied it 6-6 thanks to a reversal and an additional three back points midway through the third period. But with 13 seconds left, Peach scored her own reversal on the edge and settled in for the fall in 5:53.

Iowa Valley's Emma Peach, top, pins Waverly-Shell Rock's Annika Behrends at 140 pounds in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

“There’s going to be more advanced wrestling moving forward,” Peach said. “A lot of the girls over the past few years are brand new wrestlers, but there are girls younger than us who have been wrestling for three or five years.

“It’s pretty neat. I’m excited, and I’m hoping to be one of the first four-time state champs.”

Simon is halfway there after going 5-0 with five pins to win at 170. She pinned her way to a title last year, too. She was one of six sophomores to win this weekend, joining Wilton’s Hannah Rogers (120), Ridge View’s Izzy Deeds (155), West Lyon’s Jana Terwee (190), Creston’s Savannah Sistad (220), Spencer’s Olivia Huckfelt (285).

Even more, 17 of the 30 finalists on Saturday were either freshmen (7) or sophomores (10). Add in the four juniors, and that’s 21 of the 30 finalists all coming back next season.

In short, this burst of young talent isn’t going anywhere, and if the suggestions from Simon and Peach prove accurate, it may get even better very, very soon.

Decorah's Naomi Simon celebrates after scoring a fall at 170 pounds in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Bettendorf’s Ella Schmit becomes three-time state champ

There’s only been four girls state wrestling tournaments, so these girls are still very much in the process of writing the history books. But Ella Schmit, Bettendorf’s All-American senior, joined rare company on Saturday night.

Schmit blew through the 125-pound bracket here to win her third girls state wrestling title. She went 5-0 with five pins, including four in the first period, and outscored her opponents by a combined 24-0. (She pinned her way to a title last year, too.)

In doing so, Schmit joined Millie Peach as the only three-time girls state wrestling champions. She is also one of two four-time finalists (Waverly-Shell Rock’s Annika Behrends is the other).

Peach only had three opportunities to wrestle in a girls state tournament, but should be remembered as one of the state’s titans for pushing this girls wrestling movement to where it arrived on Saturday night, with the announcement that the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union has officially sanctioned the sport and will offer it next season.

Schmit deserves a spot there, too. She also qualified for the Iowa High School Athletic Association’s state championships last season, and was one win shy of medaling. She could’ve tried for that again this season, but instead worked to build Bettendorf’s girls wrestling program.

The results: 24 Bettendorf girls came out, and 17 of them competed here over the weekend, contributing to 133 points for a fourth-place team finish. A year ago, Schmit was one of just five Bettendorf girl wrestlers to compete at the girls state championships.

“Bettendorf’s been known for wrestling for a while, and I thought it was pretty lame that we didn’t have a girls team,” Schmit said. “I’m pretty excited to leave a full team. We have a lot of freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and I’m really excited for them.

“The biggest thing I learned from this whole experience is to be a leader for those who need one.”

Ella Schmit made history with her performance on the mat, but her legacy will include the work she put in off the mat, too.

Bettendorf's Ella Schmit reacts after scoring a fall at 125 pounds in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Lilly Luft gets revenge for second title

Lilly Luft, Charles City’s wildly-talented junior, scored a revenge win to claim her second state title.

Luft beat Waverly-Shell Rock’s Macy Smith, 9-3, to win at 130 pounds. In doing so, Luft capped her season with a 24-2 record. One of her losses came to Schmit, at the Battle of Waterloo. Her other came to Smith, a 3-1 decision in early December.

On Saturday, Luft reclaimed her spot atop the podium. She scored a pair of takedowns in the first two periods, but led just 4-3 midway through the third period. But with 12 seconds left, Luft took Smith feet to back, scoring five total points to ice the match.

“You learn so much more from losses, and I’ve learned that losses don’t define you,” Luft said. “It just makes you want to work harder. Never stop. No fear. I feel really good about it.”

Charles City's Lilly Luft celebrates after scoring a decision at 130 pounds in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

From runners-up to state champs

Two wrestlers who finished second last season took the next step to win gold this year.

Fort Dodge’s Alexis Ross and Spencer’s Olivia Huckfelt both blitzed their respective brackets to claim their first state titles this weekend. Ross, a junior, went 5-0 to win at 135 pounds, while Huckfelt, a sophomore, went 3-0 to win at heavyweight.

Ross took second last year at 132 pounds, to Waverly-Shell Rock’s Behrends. Ross led 5-2 in the third but then Behrends reversed Ross to her back in the final seconds to win, 7-5. This year, it was Ross who scored late to win a title, adding a takedown with four seconds left to beat Centerville’s Sarah Lewis, 3-0.

Huckfelt ran into Millie Peach in last year’s finals — and actually took Peach to her back and nearly pinned her in the first period. But Peach rolled through and ultimately pinned Huckfelt in the second period. On Saturday, Huckfelt navigated a scoreless first period, then scored a takedown and locked up a fall in 2:35 for her first state title.

Waverly-Shell Rock wrestlers celebrate after winning the team title in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.

Waverly-Shell Rock pulls away late for fourth-straight team title

The Go-Hawks remain the standard in Iowa girls wrestling, cruising to their fourth-straight girls state team championship this weekend. Waverly-Shell Rock amassed 219 points to win, led by senior Eva Diaz winning at 115, her second in as many years. In all, the Go-Hawks finished with seven medalists, all of whom took fifth or better.

It wasn’t until Saturday’s semifinal round that Waverly-Shell Rock finally pulled away. The Go-Hawks and Colfax-Mingo were locked in a tight team race through the first day and Saturday morning.

After Friday’s preliminary rounds, the Go-Hawks led 100-99 over the Tigerhawks. After the quarterfinals, they were tied at 120-all. Waverly-Shell Rock carried a 130-129 lead entering the semifinals, where a 3-0 performance pushed them ahead for good.

Colfax-Mingo hung on to second place, with 159 points behind six medalists. Osage claimed third with 135 points, followed by Bettendorf (133) and Decorah (124). Sixth through 10th: Charles City (115), Lewis Central, Spencer (tied for seventh with 114), Mid-Prairie (98) and Vinton-Shellsburg (90).

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

2022 Iowa girls state wrestling championships

Team Scores

  • Waverly-Shell Rock, 219
  • Colfax-Mingo, 159
  • Osage, 135
  • Bettendorf, 133
  • Decorah, 124

Finals Results

  • 100: Jillian Worthen (Union) dec. Gable Hemann (Osage), 3-0
  • 105: Molly Allen (Underwood) maj. dec. Hannah Davis (C.B. Lincoln), 12-1
  • 110: Reanah Utterback (Sigourney-Keota) pinned Jalynn Goodale (Osage) in 3:12
  • 115: Eva Diaz (Waverly-Shell Rock) dec. Jasmine Luedtke (Ottumwa), 1-0
  • 120: Hannah Rogers (Wilton) pinned Maddie Black (E-B-F) in 1:57
  • 125: Ella Schmit (Bettendorf) pinned Rylee Vercande (Williamsburg) in 2:55
  • 130: Lilly Luft (Charles City) dec. Macy Smith (Waverly-Shell Rock), 9-3
  • 135: Alexis Ross (Fort Dodge) dec. Sarah Lewis (Centerville), 3-0
  • 140: Emma Peach (Iowa Valley) pinned Annika Behrends (Waverly-Shell Rock) in 5:53
  • 145: Alana Duggan (Dubuque Wahlert) dec. Tatum Wolford (Wapello), 6-3
  • 155: Izzy Deeds (Ridge View) dec. Aine Moffit (Pleasant Valley), 6-3
  • 170: Naomi Simon (Decorah) pinned Bella Porcelli (Southeast Polk) in 3:57
  • 190: Jana Terwee (West Lyon) dec. Mackenzie Arends (Nevada), 3-2 (TB1)
  • 220: Savannah Sistad (Creston) dec. Jocelyn Buffum (Missouri Valley), 3-0
  • 285: Olivia Huckfelt (Spencer) pinned Rylee Coyle (Humboldt) in 2:35
Wilton's Hannah Rogers, right, celebrates after pinning EBF's Maddie Black at 120 pounds in the finals during of the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) girls' state wrestling tournament, Saturday, Jan. 22, 2022, at the Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa.