Girls wrestling gets a big intro with the Central Iowa Kickoff Tournament

Stepping inside Nevada High School’s field home on Saturday, you couldn’t help but feel the excitement and energy.

The Central Iowa Kickoff Tournament featured high school girls’ wrestling in its first season as a sanctioned sport in Iowa. 29 teams lined up in front of a gym that was filled with an energetic crowd all day waiting for the girls’ wrestling to get the 2022-23 season off to a rousing start.

“It’s amazing to be able to do something this big,” said Ames wrestler Allison Metschke. “There were almost 300 girls here, that’s crazy.”

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Girls’ wrestling in Iowa has come a long way in recent years. A few years ago, the girls had to compete on the boys’ teams and struggle to find wrestlers who could fill in the girls’ tournaments that they could work on during the season.

It was difficult to find a vacancy in the Nevada High School fieldhouse on Saturday.

“To see everyone and get sanctioned is really exciting,” said Gilbert wrestler Alex Harswick. “I’m really excited to see what the future holds for girls’ wrestling.”

All four Ames-area girls’ wrestling programs — Ames, Ballard, Gilbert and Nevada — attended Saturday’s celebrations in Nevada. Nevada Wrestling Coach Head Girl Tawnia Leslie, Athletic Director Dustin Smith and several volunteers and helpers all gave their all to make the tournament a great success.

“It’s a big deal,” Leslie said. “We had a lot of help. The ECS (East Central Story Wrestling Club) came in and helped us run it. Many parents came and helped us. Dustin Smith, our AD, did an excellent job of setting it all up and I think it all went pretty smoothly.”

No wrestler from the area won a singles championship on Saturday. But four made it to the finals and five others ended up in third place.

Ames let three wrestlers take second place.

Metschke finished second at 170 pounds. She scored four pins before falling to Southeast Polk’s Bella Porcelli in the championship game.

“I just went into my match with the thought that I’ll just do my best and see where I get,” said Metschke. “I know where I stand in terms of my skills. I have goals that I want to achieve and I know I need a better plan to get there.”

Alexis Winkey was second with 130 for Ames. She went 3-1 through the fall with three wins before being pinned by Saydel’s Colbie Tenborg in the final.

Caroline Orr gave Ames a third silver medal with 190. Orr fell four times before being pinned by Boone’s Cadence Heggen in the championship round.

Lexa Rozevink took third place for Ames with 130 with a 4-1 record. She scored three pins, lost to Tenborg via fall in the semi-finals and then won the third-place match via injury to Perry’s charity Mickles.

Brooklyn Greenlee (110) and Sarah Higgins (130) both tied for sixth place for Ames.

Harswick carried the banner for Gilbert Saturday with a career best performance. She just competed for Ames in the girls’ state swimming and diving competition last week but couldn’t wait to get on the wrestling mat for the Tigers.

“I’ve been debating whether or not I want a break?” said Harswick. “I’ve already missed two weeks of training, so I just wanted to get into it and get going.”

She showed no signs of rust on Saturday. Harswick went 3-1 with three pins before losing to Centerville’s Sarah Lewis by fall in the championship game.

“It’s great, especially, to be able to have a great swim season with great support and just jump right in,” said Gilbert wrestler Alex Harswick. “I’m just excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for me.”

Jaydan Jeppesen (105 pounds), Brooklynn Nees (115) and Brooke Hamers (140) all placed fourth and Hadley Boshart (135) placed fifth for Gilbert during the tournament.

Ballard had a wrestling spot. Senior Noelle Boettger was 4-1 with three pins and a win by decision to finish third at 145 for the Bombers. Boettger’s only loss came in the semifinals to South Tama County’s Maeley Elsbury.

Nevada had five wrestlers who achieved a top 8 finish.

“Our girls from Nevada did very well,” Leslie said. “We had a lot of them who were first-time wrestlers and they came here and wrestled their hearts out. They left everything on the mat.”

Leslie’s daughters Ashlyn and Gracie both took third place. Ashlyn was 3-1 with three pins at 115 and Gracie 4-1, with all four wins coming through the fall at 135.

Miah Huff finished fourth with 110 points for a 3-1 record and Emma Lennie (115) and Dakota Hastings (130) each finished eighth for Nevada.

Ames finished sixth, Gilbert eighth, Nevada ninth, and Ballard 22nd in the final team standings with 111, 102, 81, and 34 points, respectively. Perry won the team title with 190 points.

Given the huge success of Saturday’s tournament, coach Leslie said she can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings for her team and all the girls wrestling in Iowa.

“This is just a great opportunity for all of these girls in their freshman year of sanctioned wrestling,” said Tawnia Leslie. “This is definitely a good start to the season. You can see where everyone is and next Monday we will go in and attack to fix whatever we can to be ready for our next meeting.