IOWA CITY — Few things are certain in life, but Waverly-Shell Rock winning the IWCOA girls state wrestling tournament seems to be one of them.
The tournament has skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years, and with the increased number of wrestlers has come even more success for the Go-Hawks.
In its first year, the tournament hosted 87 wrestlers. Last year, 376 athletes took to the mat at Waverly-Shell Rock. Now, that number has grown even more, with 457 wrestlers competing in this year’s tournament at Xtreme Arena in Coralville.
In the crowded 113 pound division, the Go-Hawks began their Saturday dominance, as 23-0 junior Eva Diaz punched her ticket to the 113 pound finals with a win over Decorah’s Anya Lovstuen. She was soon followed by Avery Meier at 126, Annika Behrends at 132, Macy Smith at 138, Marley Hagarty at 145, and Madison Diaz at 152.
In the end, the Go-Hawks came away with three trophies, as Eva Diaz, Behrends, and Madison Diaz all won state titles. Even with three new individual championships, and a team title to go with it, coach Josh Meier isn’t worried about any possible issues with storing all those shiny new keepsakes.
“We can always build more trophy cases, so that’s not going to be an issue,” Meier said. “It’s about keeping those girls hungry to get better, hungry to improve, and hungry to push themselves past what they thought they could do.”
After a tense semifinal round, Meier admitted by the time his sixth wrestler qualified for the finals, his heart was nearly beating out of his chest.
“Our hometown news guy came over and asked me what my heart rate was, and it was 147 on my Apple watch,” Meier said. “That is what you train for. For the girls to get in those grind matches, and figure out how to pull out the win.”
The Go-Hawks dominated the team standings with 256 points, clinching the school’s third consecutive state title. In 2020, the Go-Hawks won with 156.6 points, and they won in 2019 with 144.
One title is hard. Two even more so. But three? A three-peat is a near-impossible task. But not for the Go-Hawks.
“The girls are extremely coachable,” Meier said. “They’re extremely gritty, as far as being able to battle through adversity, and we have a bunch of girls that buy into the system.”
Elsewhere on the mat, Charles City wound up with a pair of champions, in 120-pound senior Kiki Connell and sophomore Lilly Luft at 126.
After Luft’s win, she pointed to the sky in honor of her late brother, Logan Luft, who died at the age of 15, and was the inspiration behind Iowa’s “Logan’s Law.”
Both Luft and Connell leaped into the arms of Comets’ head coach Robert Pittman after their victories. Pittman was emotional with pride after his team’s pair of titles.
“I am just really overwhelmed,” Pittman said. “These girls love a challenge. I wish I could have them wrestle a freaking titan, because they’d be like ‘yeah, let’s go try it and see what happens.”
At 113, Eva Diaz came away with the trophy, after a 15-0 technical fall win over Addison Musser of North Cedar. Behrends then took the win at 132, with a 7-5 victory over Alexis Ross of Fort Dodge. Macy Smith fell in the 138 pound finals to Abby McIntyre of Glenwood, while teammate Marley Hagarty was pinned by Decorah’s Naomi Simon in the 145-pound championship.
At 170, Morgan Smith of Denver came away with the title after pinning Kendall Clark of Humboldt. Undefeated Independence sophomore Rachel Eddy came out on top at 195.
In the team standings, Humboldt placed second with 124 points, while Colfax-Mingo was third at 119. Fourth place went to Spencer with 115 points, and Osage and Charles City placed fifth and sixth with 114 and 112 points, respectively.
After yet another highly successful day for his team on the big stage, Meier is hopeful that the event’s continued growth leads to changes for the Iowa girls wrestling scene.
“What I hope is for it to be sanctioned real soon,” Meier said. “What I feel is a lot of pride for the state of Iowa, and for the girls to start to get the recognition that they deserve in the wrestling community.”