WAVERLY - Members of the Anamosa girls wrestling team had high hopes as they entered their first-ever state wrestling tournament held inside the Waverly-Shell Rock gym Friday, Jan. 24, and Saturday, Feb. 25.
But when they walked off the mat after the second day and headed home, even the Raider girls themselves were surprised by their amazing success.
“These girls went above and beyond anything I ever expected,” said Anamosa girls wrestling coach Shania DeShaw, as the Raiders turned in a top-10 state finish taking ninth overall against the best wrestlers the state of Iowa had to offer scoring an impressive 71 points.
“I will be completely honest. I didn’t think we would do as well as we did. I know our girls work extremely hard in practice and work their tails off at morning runs and afternoon weight lifting, but I thought it would be tough for us. Early in the evening on Friday we were in fourth place as a team and I was shocked. I knew we had a lot of wrestling yet to do at that point, but that was pretty awesome to hear us in the top-5.”
Anamosa freshman Ava Scranton, who wrestled to a 2-2 overall at state at 120-pounds, felt the same way.
“I think we were all surprised to place that high as a team here at state,” she said. “It’s only going to motivate all of us to work that much harder in the off-season and get back here to state and do even better.”
The Raiders had 11 girls wrestle at the two-day event, with nine coming through with wins while Emily Watters led the way earning her way onto the medal stand placing eighth overall at 126-pounds.
“My goal was to get on the medal stand and overall I was happy with how I wrestled,” said Watters, who wrestled seven times in the two days, going 4-3 overall.
“I had a lot of nerves, especially going into my first match, but once I got that taken care of, I just went out there and wrestled and did what I have been coached to do. I stayed calm and focused and did what I needed to do to advance.”
Watters was dominant in her early round bouts opening with a quick 2:47 pin win over Atlantic’s Aliegh Bean before being handed a 1:53 pin setback against Davenport Central’s Sydney Park.
Watters quickly got back into the winning mode pinning St. Edmond’s Elly Berry (42-seconds) and Iowa City West’s Katie Hoefer (42-seconds) before rolling to an 11-2 decision over Boone’s Anna Sondall.
Watters had her winning streak snapped after being handed a 2:29 pin loss against Lewis Central’s Sophie Barnes and entered the seventh-place match against West Des Moines Valley’s Jazmyn Knutson, who ended the run for the Raider freshman with a 5:14 fall.
“I didn’t get to see a lot of Emily’s matches, but the ones I was there for she really showed up to wrestle,” DeShaw said. “Emily doesn’t show emotion much so when she found out she was medaling, she smiles and was very humble. Emily gave it all she had in that last match and just fell short. To get eighth at state, I couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Serina Norte, Bri Neuhaus and Ava Scranton all joined Watters as Raiders wrestling on the second day of the state tournament.
Norte just about joined Watters on the medal stand for the Raiders, too, coming up one-win shy of the elite honor after being handed a 3-1 overtime loss against Decorah’s Isabel Ihde in a fifth-round 132-pound consolation bout.
Norte opened her tournament with a huge 21-second pin rout over Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Katherine Hodel before Waverly-Shell Rock’s Marley Hagarty dropped the Anamosa senior into the consolation bracket after claiming a 45-second pin win in the second-round.
Norte came right back and pinned East Sac County’s Laryn Sharp (2:20) and Osage’s Sydney Muller (2:30) before claiming a forfeit win over Oelwein’s Naomi Gaede to advance to a win from the medal stand.
“Serina got slammed to the mat and trainers were checking her over for a concussion,” DeShaw said. “In true Serina fashion, she got up and went back out there to finish her match. Serina was very aggressive and wanted to win but she just fell short. Thankfully she ended up being ok.”
Norte’s four wins at the two-day event equaled Watters for tops on the team.
Scranton opened her tournament with wins over Sumner-Fredericksburg’s Kylee Jordan (6:00 pin) and Anamosa’s Maggie Wagner (6-3) before being handed a 10-2 setback against Pleasant Valley’s top-ranked Chloe Clemons in a 120-pound quarterfinal slugfest.
“That was my match of the tournament,” Scranton said. “That Pleasant Valley girl was ranked No. 1 and my goal coming in was to just not get pinned. There wasn’t a girl all year that went into the third period against her and not only was I able to do that, I was able to go all three periods with her and did not get pinned.”
Scranton was handed a 10-2 setback against Clemons and in a sixth-round consolation bout had her sensational run come to an end after being handed an 11-4 setback against Charles City’s Kiki Connell.
“My goal overall was to make it to the second day of the tournament, and I was able to do that, and just go out and do the best I could and have fun with the entire situation, and I did that too,” Scranton said. “My toughest match was the one where I had to wrestle Maggie. Honestly, that was probably the toughest match I’ve ever had. We wrestle all the time in practice, but to do it at the state tournament was a completely different thing. We both just kept thinking we have to help the team and just do the best we can, as tough as it was for both of us.”
DeShaw was extremely proud of the determination Scranton showed on the mat.
“Ava fought really hard against the eventual champion,” she said. “Ava’s last match was an emotional one, too. Ava’s dad Jon Scranton was in her corner and gave her the biggest hug when she came off the mat. Tears were definitely shed. IAWrestle set our predictions Friday morning and they stated that Ava was a ‘darkhorse’ at 120. Her loss to Clemons was most difficult for me as a coach. It’s unfortunate they had to meet up in that round, but I really could not be more proud of how Ava fought.”
Neuhaus advanced to the second day at 132-pounds as a key 44-second pin over North Scott’s Maia Glover got her tournament started on Friday.
“Bri is a very aggressive with her wrestling,” DeShaw said. “She’s very strong and smart with her decisions, but when she fell short at the end it was another emotional moment when she walked off the mat.”
Central City’s Evah Owens handed Neuhaus a 1:43 pin loss in the third round before Neuhaus bounced back to pin Interstate-35’s Josephine Wearmouth in a mere 57-seconds. The tournament came to an end for the Anamosa wrestlers with a tough 12-3 setback against Cedar Rapids Jefferson’s Gabby Guenther.
Starr Kirk was yet another Anamosa wrestler to have multiple wins at state, going 3-2 overall at 120-pounds, with all three coming via the fall.
Kirk got things started for the Raiders with an impressive 4:43 pin win against Charles City’s Emma Perez before suffering a 1:47 pin loss against Pleasantville’s Sayde Mull. In the consolation round, Kirk turned things around pinning Oelwein’s Isabella Reinhart (47-seconds) and Osage’s Katelyn Johnston (5:38) before her tournament came to a close with a 14-second defeat at the hands of Crestwood’s Lexi Hoppe.
Wagner added to Anamosa’s state success posting a 2-2 overall state record at 120, opening with a 3:40 fall over Iowa City West’s Tremeice Carter before the Raider wrestled upped her mark to 2-0 with a wild 12-10 decision over Crestwood’s Jacy Kriener.
“Maggie had been wrestling at 126 all season and decided last-minute to wrestle 120 for state,” DeShaw said. “She did a spectacular job with her opponents. Her last match against Foy from Waverly-Shell Rock was a nail biter. I thought Maggie had her beat for sure but Foy caught her really quick and got the pin.
“Maggie had to wrestle Ava too, and that had to be tough as those two are not only partners in the wrestling room but are best friends. That was a tough match for all of Anamosa to watch, but they both fought hard until the end and remained happy for each other.”
Scranton handed Wagner her first loss of the state meet dropping a 6-3 decision before Foy ended Wagner’s run with the 4:13 pin setback.
The state tournament got off on a sour note for Cali Koppes, who after receiving a first-round bye, was injured in her second-round bout against Charles City’s Elizabeth Oleson and would be unable to return.
“Cali’s second-round match lasted only 40-seconds,” DeShaw said. “Her opponent went in for a takedown and Cali stuck her arm out to brace herself from the fall and dislocated her elbow and her state experience was over.
“Cali was an absolute champ despite all the pain she was in. She took a trip to the local hospital and was released that night with a sling. She came back Saturday to cheer on her teammates.”
Jasmine Jacobson was another one of the slew of Anamosa wrestlers to win their first bouts at state, pinning Oelwein’s Isabelle Reinhard at 120-pounds with a 3:35 rout.
“Jazzy had a lot of good matches,” DeShaw said. “She had an ankle injury and still managed to push through the pain.”
Losses to North Cedar’s Ashlynn Miller (2:00) and Charles City’s Emma Perez (3:32) ended Jacobson’s tournament.
Katie Murdock also added early wins to the Raider total on Friday, coming through with a thrilling 2-1 decision over Iowa City West’s Amelia Stevens at 120-pounds. Back-to-back pin loss against Sioux City East’s Yareli Morales and Logan-Magnolia’s Catrina Sears brough Murdock’s tournament to an end.
Jordyn Erickson wrestled at 138-pounds and after being handed a narrow first-round 6-4 loss against Humboldt’s Deni McDaniel, fought right back to pin North Scott’s Maddie Gottschalk in 2:55.
Erickson was her tournament end with a 12-9 loss against Colfax-Mingo’s Elayna Creech.
Maya Ludwig, like Erickson, wrestled at 138 and after receiving two byes, was handed losses against Humboldt’s Kali Beaman (6-1) and Decorah’s Mairi Sessions (1:55).
Anamosa boys wrestling coach Trever Greene was also on hand to help out at the state tournament, along with several parents who also coaches from the sideline when needed.
“For our girls to go out and compete like that on that kind of stage was amazing to be a part of,” Greene said. “That environment inside the Waverly-Shell Rock gym was crazy all night on Friday, and our girls handled it all so well and with complete class. I’m sure there were plenty of nerves going around, but you would have never known it with the way the girls wrestled. We got off to a great start and went on to place in the state top-10, which is an amazing feat.”
DeShaw was in complete agreement.
“The girls were so nervous on that chaotic Friday with two gyms being used, but I am proud of them for helping each other out and make sure they were mat-side for as many of their teammate’s matches as they could.
“At the end of the tournament on Saturday, Coach Scranton, Bill and myself told the girls how proud we were. There were lots of tears from the girls and myself, but in my eyes, they are all winners.”
Watters had a message for Anamosa girls wrestling fans as well.
“When I was on the medal stand at the end of the tournament, my only thought was I’m going to get back here next year and do even better,” shew said. “I wasn’t that surprised that we placed in the top-10 as a team here at state, but what did impress me was some of our performances. We have a lot of very good wrestlers on this team and this top-10 finish is just the beginning. We’ll be back for more next year.”
Host Waverly-Shell Rock claimed the girls’ state wrestling team championship scoring 156.5 points while Charles City was runner-up with 128 points.