For girls high school wrestling in Iowa, 2019 was a historic year.
Last January, 87 wrestlers took part in the first Iowa girls state wrestling tournament, and for the girls who participated, it was a memorable experience.
“It was the best feeling ever, knowing that in the moment I was making history," said Osage junior Emma Grimm, who finished sixth in her weight class. "Twenty years from now, I can pull up a newspaper article about it, and that is really awesome.”
Grimm will wrestle again this weekend in the second girls state tournament, which is being held Friday and Saturday at Waverly-Shell Rock High School. Grimm is one of six ranked Osage wrestlers who will make the trip, and is currently ranked No. 2 in the state in the 126-pound weight class.
Though she is only in her second year as a wrestler at any level, Grimm seems to have taken to the sport immediately.
Her father Heath is the head wrestling coach at Upper Iowa University, and when she heard that Osage was going to have a girls wrestling team, Emma jumped at the opportunity. Once she started, it became apparent that she had real talent.
“I instantly was like ‘I’m going to do it,'" and signed up for it before I even told my parents,” Grimm said. “I was so excited. They were in shock, and they said they weren’t sure if I was going to do it yet. Then, they were all for it, when I was just going to be wrestling girls.
"I wrestled a few girls, and then it was like 'Can you start wrestling some guys?'"
This season, Grimm has a 14-3 overall record, with 11 wins by pin. She also has a 2-1 record in JV matches against male wrestlers. Grimm says that wrestling against male wrestlers is a different feeling, not just because of the size and strength difference, but because of the social implications for the males involved.
“No guy wants to lose to a girl, so you’ve got to go out there knowing that they’re going to try to kill you, basically,” Grimm said with a laugh. “You’ve got to take them by the horns.”
Last week, Grimm was named one of seven finalists for the Iowa Ms. Wrestler of the Year award, an impressive feat for someone who has been wrestling for such a short amount of time.
“Emma comes in every day and puts in the work," coach Ryan Fank said. “She comes to boys practice afterwards, she’s doing everything she possible can. She wasn’t happy with her finish last year, and she’s done everything in her will to come away with a title.”
Freshman Leah Grimm is Emma’s younger sister, and has had some success of her own. She is 9-2 in varsity matches, and is currently ranked No. 4 in the state in the 170-pound weight class.
“I started maybe a month ago,” Leah said. “My sister was like, ‘We need your weight for the Battle of Waterloo,' and it was that coming weekend. I practiced for a couple days, and they threw me in there. I kind of naturally had the feel and got better once I kept working on it.”
Fank has been very impressed with the passion his wrestlers have shown this season. To get them to a state tournament level, the girls have wrestled in many different competitions. After starting off the year having practice only three days a week, the girls actually asked for more 6 a.m. practices, no small feat for a group of high-schoolers.
“We were originally going just three days a week, and they were all (saying) 'We want to go every day,’” Fank said. “They’ve been consistent about being there every morning. Every single one of them.”
Though the state tournament signals the official end of the season, Saturday will not be the final competition of the year for the Osage girls.
“There is another tournament, AAU girls state, and a couple other ones, and we’ve gotten a lot of input that a lot of girls want to do it,” Fank said. “We’re going to keep rolling with it after girls state. If they want to keep coming, we’re going to keep rolling with it.”
For Fank, the end goal is to have enough competitors to eventually get the sport officially sanctioned by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches Association (IWCA). It hasn’t happened yet, but Fank is optimistic that it will soon.
Though the sports isn't sanctioned, it is being overseen by the IWCA, and is run like a sanctioned sport. Fank described it as a club sport, but one that is run like a regular program.
“We’re pushing 16-17 girls right now,” Fank said. If we keep pushing the numbers the way we are, and we dip into 20, it’s going to be consistent. State tournament numbers the way they are, they nearly tripled over last year. It shows that it is going to be just a matter of time.”
Ranked area state wrestlers
• Jalynn Goodale, freshman, No. 4 at 106 pounds
• Madison Adams, senior, No. 8 at 113 pounds
• Emma Grimm, junior, No. 2 at 126 pounds
• Makayla Mostek, senior, No. 6 at 145 pounds
• Leah Grimm, freshman, No. 4 at 170 pounds
• Abigail Cockrum, No. 8 at 285 pounds
• Marissa Gallup, junior, No. 5 at 106 pounds
• Kiki Connell, junior, No. 4 at 120 pounds
• Toni Maloy, junior, No. 5 at 126 pounds
• Lilly Luft, freshman, No. 6 at 132 pounds
• Allie Cross, junior, No. 5 at 145 pounds
• Kalysta Rodriguez, senior, No. 3 at 285 pounds
• Kennadi Colbert, senior, No. 9 at 132 pounds
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