March 06, 2021

Clarke girls shine at IWCOA Girls State

CORALVILLE – The best from the girls side of high school wrestling was on full display at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association’s Girls State Tournament Friday, Jan. 22 and Saturday, Jan. 23.

The two day tournament saw 12 champions get crowned, some repeat winners and some first timers. In the field of 683 were two wrestlers from the OST-area.

Clarke sent Jessica Guerrero (126) and Joana Francisco (145).

Guerrero went 2-2 over the weekend. She scored a 10-7 decision win over Collins-Maxwell’s Gracie Leslie and pinned Nodaway Valley’s Erin Rhoads at 5:32.

Francisco was pinned at 1:54 of her first match against Sheldon’s Jessica Beldt. In consolation she received a bye before pinning Ames’ Leah Stagg at 5:12.

In her final match, Francisco fell to a 3-0 decision loss to Kysa Klein of Waverly-Shell Rock.

“You see the growth of the whole tournament in general, and I hope we can generate some excitement and get more girls to come out,” Clare head coach Brian Reece said. “We have one girl in middle school right now. We’ll have all three of the varsity wrestlers back, so it’s good experience for them.”

A prosperous future

One of the biggest storylines for girls wrestling across the state of Iowa is participation, and how to appeal the sport to high school girls.

The numbers have shot up as participation is seen in schools across the state. Five years ago, the tournament had 67 wrestlers, this past weekend, there was 683.

With basketball, bowling and cheerleading as other avenues of participation within schools, making wrestling an appealing activity for girls isn’t always on the forefront of athletic directors minds when it comes to trying to gain participation numbers.

But, as we go through 2021, the movement of girls wrestling has taken off – and will only continue to grow.

For the 2021 meet, hosted for the third time by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association, the talent of girls wrestling in Iowa was on display on the highest stage the high school level has to offer. With state titles on the line, 683 wrestlers laced up and hit the mats for competition.

The 683 may be small in comparison to what is seen at the boys tournaments, which is three classes and 14 weight classes.

In 2020 there was 350 girls wrestling. A year prior to that? 87.

With evident signs of growing by the numbers, the tournament is in good hands for a prosperous future.

Seven girls who wrestled in the tournament are nationally ranked. Of the 48 wrestlers who reached the semifinals, 32 schools were represented (17 different schools were in the finals). Among those 48 were 15 seniors, some of which are wrestling collegiately, 14 juniors, 12 sophomores and seven freshmen.

The number for area girls has risen up to seven as well (two from Osceola Sentinel Tribune schools), up from one last season.

Eight of the 12 state champs were first-time title-winners. Seven of the 12 will be back next season, and so will 71 of the 96 total medalists.

With the numbers trending upwards and the talent only getting better as they stick with their programs longer, the tournament will soon get the recognition it deserves by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union or the Iowa High School Athletic Union. Due to “teams” not being present at 15% of IGHSAU member institutions, the union does not recognize the sport.

It would be the first step in helping sanction the sport for the state. Once either union commits on sanctioning the sport, the sky is the limit for girls wrestling.

For more on helping girls high school wrestling become sanctioned, you can visit femaleelitewrestling.org/sacntionia.