When athletes toe the line and whistles blow to begin wrestling matches in the inaugural sanctioned IGHSAU state girls wrestling tournament, the SWAT Valkyries will have six girls there competing. They are the first of their kind, and likely not the last.
The meet will be held Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2 and 3, at the Xtreme Arena in Coralville, where the final non-sanctioned meet was held last season.
Girls qualifying from SWAT include Jazz Christensen of Nodaway Valley, Ady Lundquist of Southwest Valley, Evy Marlin of Southwest Valley, Grace Britten of Nodaway Valley, Ellen Gerlock of CAM and Haley Armstrong of Atlantic.
Of the two NV girls going, this is the first time Christensen has qualified for state-level competition in the sport. Britten, who was out for wrestling last season, qualified then.
The superregional meet the SWAT Valkyries attended was Friday in Sioux City at the Tyson Events Center.
Christensen, who wrestles at 100 pounds, said that it is a fun feeling to become the first girl to qualify for state wrestling in her family, which has a rich wrestling tradition with numerous boys who have gone to state.
“It feels really good [to be the first girl from my family to make it]. I am really proud of myself for doing that, and it feels amazing,” Christensen said. “I’ve just watched my brothers and other family wrestle my whole life and that has helped me [get to where I am].”
Christensen opened the superregional with two byes, which put her into the semifinals against Eagle Grove’s Genessis Corado. She won that match with a pin in 1:10. In the finals, Christensen matched up with top-ranked Ava McNeal of Lewis Central. McNeal came away with the pin in 36 seconds.
Britten, who wrestles at 170 pounds, came into the superregional unbeaten. After opening with a couple of byes, Britten pinned Humboldt’s Dylan Saathoff in 1 minute. Shen then beat Boyden-Hull/Rock Valley’s Aria Rensink in 3:21 to reach the finals. Louise Meyer of Central Lyon/George-Little Rock handed Britten her first defeat of the season with a pin in 1:26.
“The regional was a really neat experience. It was in a big arena, and that atmosphere is always very unique. I met some girls I hadn’t wrestled before and that was exciting,” Britten said. “My first round was no trouble at all. My second round, I had a pin in the second period and she gave me a little more trouble. In the finals she pinned me a lot quicker than I wanted to be pinned.”
Britten said that while her loss came quickly because she simply “got caught,” that might be a motivator for her going into the state tournament. Seeded 10th in her bracket and 35-1 on the season, Britten opens the state tournament with Glorious Fridley of Southeast Warren (25-12, seeded 23rd). Naomi Simon, a junior from Decorah, is the top seed in that bracket.
Christensen enters state with an 18-9 record. She’s seeded 16th and will wrestle 17th-seeded Aroura Preston, a 19-6 junior from Spirit Lake.
Lundquist has wrestled most of the season at 115 pounds, but she’ll go to state at 110 pounds. She’s the third-ranked girl in that bracket at 30-1 on the season. She faces Johnelle Gliem, a freshman from Baxter, in the first round.
Marlin comes into the state tournament 20-4 and is seeded 17th at 130 pounds, facing 16-seed Grace Leslie, a junior from Nevada in the first round.
At 190, Gerlock is seeded 10th and comes in with a 29-4 record. The sophomore will wrestle MOC-Floyd Valley junior Elvia Topete Anzua (19-8) in the opening round.
Armstrong is the fourth-seeded girl at 235 pounds. With a 25-2 record going into the state tournament, Armstrong will wrestle Mount Vernon sophomore Aly Lashley (31-6) first.
The first session of wrestling starts at 9 a.m. Thursday with first round, second round and first wrestleback action. The second section, which kicks off at 5 p.m., includes the championship quarterfinals and second and third wrestlebacks.
On Friday, the third session of the tournament will start at 9 a.m. and include championship semifinals, then fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh wrestlebacks. The final session begins at 6 p.m. and includes awards presentations, grand march, and the championship, third place and fifth place matches, as well as presentation of place winners.