Clarke wrestlers Jessica Guerrero and Metzli Yañez will have to wait another year to wrestle in their first appearance at the girls state tournament, but that doesn’t mean the two – and many others like them – haven’t been waiting for their chance.
Not only would the state tournament be a first for both wrestlers, but it also potentially could represent the first time Yañez will have faced another girl in competition.
“It was going to be my first time wrestling a girl. I didn’t have an opportunity to do that either in middle school or in my freshman year,” said Yañez.
Guerrero and Yañez are both freshmen at Clarke Community High School, but each spent at least a year in the middle school ranks before stepping onto the mat at the high school level.
Guerrero is in her third year grappling on the mat while Yañez in competing in her second.
The first girls state tournament in Iowa was held Jan. 19 at Waverly-Shell Rock High School, but poor weather kept the two from being able to make the trip to the inaugural event.
“Oh yeah, I cried. They made an event page on Facebook so I was getting notifications on it how everyone was doing,“ said Guerrero. “I was just upset at home in the cold.”
The girls state tournament was presented by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, featuring 10 weight classes that ranged from 106 to 285 pounds.
According to the IWCOA, 157 girls participated in wrestling across the state up from 93 a season ago. A total of 87 female wrestlers participated in the inaugural event.
Even though they missed the tournament this year, the goal for next year is the same as it would have been for this season – to compete.
“It’s a really big goal. Ever since I heard that we we’re going to go I’ve been working my butt off at practice,” said Guerrero. “This is what I’m working for is to get first at state and so I wasn’t able to go this year, but next year that’s going to be my main goal, to do well.”
Evening out the playing field and competing against other female wrestlers is something both Lady Indians think will encourage more participation in the sport and bring a level of equality that’s been long awaited.
“My brother was in wrestling too so we came out together cause I didn’t like any of the other sports …. Everything came together and I joined,” said Yañez.
Guerrero was originally going to be a manager at the middle school level, but an extra push from a friend brought her directly into the circle.
“She was like ‘wouldn’t it be cool if we did wrestling?’ ‘Like haha that’s really funny’ then I don’t know it was like an impulse thing and I just signed up,” Guerrero said.
The addition of the tournament wasn’t a small deal for the two freshmen, who were both inspired by the new opportunity.
For Clarke wrestling head coach Brian Reece, the girls state tournament has been long overdue.
“For them to have something to aspire to is a big deal. You can tell when our girls actually wrestle other girls its a completely different situation for them than when they have to wrestle guys,” said Reece.
With the number of girl wrestlers in middle school continuing to grow, Reece wants to see the up-and-coming wrestlers with their own goals to push for.
As someone who has been around the sport since an early age, Reece knows the life lessons of wrestling are valuable to anyone who can participate.
Both wrestlers and their head coach believe they would be more turnout for the sport if the girls state tournament had been around earlier.
“Oh I think so, absolutely,” said Reece. “Even back to when I was wrestling we had girls wrestling in Mat Club. There was just no place for them to go.”
“I think just them knowing there are things out there that they can wrestle girls I think they’re going to be more encouraged to join,” Yañez said.
For now, Yañez and Guerrero will continue working on their technique and pushing themselves to make sure they take full advantage of a long awaited opportunity at next year’s state tournament.