In two trips to the IGHSAU state girls wrestling tournament, Nodaway Valley senior Grace Britten has two medals to show for it. Not a bad way to end her high school career.
Wrestling for the SWAT Valkyries, a team comprised of Nodaway Valley, Atlantic and CAM wrestlers, Britten fought back on the back side of the tournament Friday for a win. That eventually led to her earning an eighth place medal. Last year she was sixth.
“I was super excited going into state this year, and having a high seed as a 3 seed helped with that. I was really surprised how much more difficult the competition was this year. Overall, my matches were difficult and they went a little longer. Last year, I felt there were four or five really good girls at my weight class. This year there were probably 10 or 15,” Britten said. “It’s bittersweet for me because I didn’t finish as high as I wanted to, but at the same time it shows how much the sport has grown in the past year.”
Britten was one of six who made it to state for SWAT.
Britten opened the state tournament with two wins by fall. She first defeated Mid-Prairie, Wellman’s Ellie Callahan in 1:06. She followed it up by sticking LeMars’ Desiree Breuer in 1:23.
“[Getting two pins] certainly helped and I was super confident going into my quarterfinals match. That didn’t end up going the way I thought it would, but I was able to wrestle back in the blood rounds on the consolation side,” Britten said. “That’s something I am super proud of, because I wasn’t able to [get another win] after losing in the semifinals last year.”
Waverly-Shell Rock’s Karissa Oldenburger edged Britten by 4-3 decision in the quarterfinals, moving her to the consolation bracket, where she bounced back by pinning Fairfield’s Samantha Lyons in 3:23.
Britten is close to making her college choice, and it will likely involve signing to wrestle at the next level. Britten finished the season 39-5.
As a whole, SWAT head coach Tiffany South commented that she couldn’t be prouder of her entire team. After they trained for it all year, the six state competitors went out and did the program proud, she said.
“I know Grace had her heart set on a higher place on the podium, however when it comes down to it, she’s a champion to all of us,” South said. “She’s been one of the smartest, toughest, most technical wrestlers we have. She’s left an imprint on us that will never ever go away.”
Atlantic senior Haley Armstrong placed third, finishing 35-10 on the year. Losing in the semifinals to Spencer’s Olivia Huckfelt by fall in 56 seconds after getting two pins and a decision win in the earlier rounds, Armstrong clawed back, winning by fall in her first consolation match, against Missouri Valley’s Jocelyn Buffum, and pinning Alyson Krum of East Buchanan in 3:41 in the third place match.
“Haley turned it on for the state tournament. She came out and wrestled like she had nothing left to lose, and it showed,” South said. “She wrestled with the type of wrestling we all knew she could wrestle with. She took charge of that match and it was an impressive thing to watch.”
At 100 pounds, Jazz Christensen of Nodaway Valley recorded her first state tournament win this year, pinning Ella Als of Mason City in quick fashion in 40 seconds in the first consolation round, after losing a close, 7-6 decision to Iowa City Liberty’s Taylor Cavanh in their opener.
“For her to go out and win a match on that state floor was a really cool experience,” South said. “I’m super proud of her.”
In other state action, Mia South (140) and Stella Beattie (155) were each 0-2 on the weekend. At 190 pounds, Ellen Gerlock opened with a win — a pin over Cadence Heggen of Boone in 4:19 — before losing twice in a row.
The Valkyries are in their second year as a program. Coach South said the wrestlers who made it to state or fell short both have a lot to look back on and be proud of. Many of them will wrestle together again at an upcoming AAU state tournament.
The two others from Nodaway Valley at the high school level were Destiny Fry and Addison Herr. Both wrestlers stood up well to the challenges of the season and will have a base to work from next season.
“Our entire coaching staff couldn’t be prouder of how our girls wrestled,” South said. “We take a team from three schools and had girls who made it from never wrestling before to being alternates at the state tournament. The camaraderie we have on our team — how we come together, train together and fight together — builds a really strong team. That desire of pushing each other to make each other better is what’s going to make SWAT a force to be reckoned with.”