Behind 8 All-Americans, Team Iowa wins team title at 16U women’s freestyle national championships

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

The state of Iowa’s ongoing girls and women’s wrestling movement reached new heights this weekend.

Iowa won the team title at the Under-16 women’s freestyle national championships on Sunday in Fargo, North Dakota. Powered by eight All-Americans, Iowa totaled 90 team points to win a heated team battle over Missouri (87) and California (86).

The 16U and Junior national championships, USA Wrestling’s biggest national-level high school competition, is really a collection of six different national tournaments. Action began Saturday and will run all week long at North Dakota State’s FargoDome.

A collection of the state’s top wrestlers, male and female, are repping Iowa while competing against wrestlers from other states — and Iowa’s 16U women’s freestyle team kickstarted the week with a record-shattering performance.

Iowa’s national team title is the first in state history for 16U/Cadet women’s freestyle. USA Wrestling added the division in 2011. Hawaii won that first year, and California had won nine in a row — 2012-19, then again in 2021 (the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 tournament). Iowa’s best finish before this week: ninth, in both 2012 and 2019.

Iowa’s eight All-Americans are the most for a single 16U/Cadet women’s freestyle national tournament in state history. Iowa only had 15 16U/Cadet women’s freestyle All-Americans all-time entering this week, and no more than three in a single national tournament, in 2011, 2019, and 2021.

Those eight All-Americans were many of the same young stars who shined at the 2022 girls state wrestling tournament in January.

Underwood’s Molly Allen went 6-0 and won a national title at 112 pounds. She is just the third 16U/Cadet women’s freestyle national champ in state history, joining Cedar Falls’ Cassy Herkelman (2012) and Ballard’s Rachel Watters (2013). Allen outscored her six opponents 51-9, and beat the second-, third-, fourth- and sixth-place finishers.

Skylar Slade, an incoming freshman at Southeast Polk, took second at 144 pounds, becoming just the fourth 16U/Cadet women’s freestyle national finalist in state history. Slade finished 4-1 overall, a run highlighted by a dominant 6-0 semifinal win over Illinois’s Sydney Perry, who’s ranked No. 5 nationally at 144 by USA Wrestling  

Behind Allen and Slade:

  • Iowa Valley’s Emma Peach finished fourth at 144 pounds. She went 5-2 overall, and joined her older sister, Millie, as both a state camp and freestyle All-American this past year. Millie was a three-time state champ and a 16U All-American in 2019.
  • Decorah’s Naomi Simon, a two-time state champ, took fourth at 164 pounds. She went 4-2 overall, including an 8-4 wrestleback win over Southeast Polk’s Bella Porcelli. Porcelli rallied to finish seventh, becoming just the third two-time 16U women’s freestyle All-American in state history, joining Herkelman and South Winneshiek’s Felicity Taylor.
  • Sigourney-Keota’s Reanah Utterback took fifth behind Allen at 112 pounds. She finished 5-2, rallying for fifth after losing in the semifinals.
  • Union’s Jillian Worthen took seventh at 106 and won four straight wrestleback matches after a first-round loss.
  • Creston’s Savannah Sistad rallied for eighth at 200 after a quarterfinal loss.
Team Iowa won the 16U women's freestyle national team championship on Sunday in Fargo, North Dakota. Iowa finished with 8 All-Americans in 16U women's freestyle, the most in state history.

This national-level success is a strong continuation of what’s been a tremendous 12 months for Iowa's statewide girls and women’s wrestling movement.

In September, the University of Iowa launched the first Division I Power 5 women’s wrestling program. Clarissa Chun was named the head coach and has assembled a star-studded coaching staff and signed some of the nation’s top young women’s wrestlers. There are now 14 women’s programs in Iowa, and more than 100 nationwide.

A record 1,023 girls wrestle statewide during the 2021-22 season, and 695 entered the 2022 girls state championships, hosted for the fourth year by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association. That weekend, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced that the addition of girls wrestling as an official sport.

Now, the state's women's wrestlers can claim national team championship — a telltale sign that many of Iowa's top women's wrestlers are also some of the best in the country.

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