Feb. 2—CORALVILLE — There are any number of ways for wrestlers to celebrate a significant win.
Some leap into the arms of their coaches. Some leap into the air. Some receive a hug from their teammates. Some hit their knees in utter amazement of their accomplishment.
Jasmine Luedtke and Reanah Utterback will save their celebrations for Friday night at the Iowa Girls High School State Wrestling Tournament. Despite 83 combined wins this season the good friends accumulated in order to make it to the state semifinal rounds in their respective weight classes, there's still more to do heading into the second day at state as both Luedtke and Utterback have state championship glory in their sights.
Luedtke, seeking to add to the history she's already made as Ottumwa High School's first girls state wrestling champion last season, improved to 36-0 on Thursday scoring first-period falls against Clarinda sophomore Kambry Gordon and Midland sophomore Karlena Buford before securing an 11-0 major decision over Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont senior Abby Jager in the 110-pound state quarterfinals. Utterback, meanwhile, improved to 47-0 in her first season of sanctioned high school girls wrestling as the Sigourney-Keota junior pinned 115-pound rivals Waterloo West junior Kammie Gleiter, Sergeant Bluff-Luton sophomore Josie Lennon and Pleasant Valley senior Caitlin Reiter in just over three combined minutes.
"It's just another tournament. It's just another day to go out there and wrestle," Utterback said. "There's really not much more to it than that other than to put in the work, go out there and compete.
"It's felt like every other tournament," Luedtke added. "I'm trying to soak up the whole experience with this being my last high school state tournament."
Utterback, Luedtke and Cardinal senior Ajaah Cox were the first three area wrestlers to clinch state tournament medals on Thursday, winning three matches to reach the state semifinal round. Cox scored three falls at 155 pounds, knocking off 14th-seeded Vinton-Shellsburg junior Dakota Cornell in 2:14 and third-seeded Mason City senior Kyleigh James with 37 seconds left in what had been a wild second-round match that was tied at 8-8 after two periods.
Cox wasn't done scoring dramatic pins on Thursday. In the state quarterfinals, sixth-seeded Decorah sophomore Lauren Luzum built a 7-1 lead after one period before Cox responded scoring a pair of takedowns in the second period with the second coming in the final seconds, leading to a fall with just two seconds left on the clock.
Not bad for a wrestler that wasn't even sure she wanted to compete in last week's state-qualifying Region 4 tournament in Des Moines. Thankfully, Cox got the motivation she needed from her brother, former two-time Ottumwa High School boys state medalist and current OHS head girls wrestling coach Isaiah Cox.
"I had a couple of losses to girls I shouldn't have lost to right before regionals. I was in a mental slump," Cox said. "When I told Isaiah I wasn't going to wrestle at regionals, he told me that I had to keep pushing. You never know what the future holds. That really motivated me to just keep going no matter who I'm wrestling or how tough the match is, I needed to keep pushing and keep fighting."
Four more area wrestlers remained in the hunt for state medals heading into Friday. Albia senior Brianna Wolfer picked up two straight wins in her first and only state tournament appearance, scoring first-period falls at 105 pounds over Sioux City North freshman Khloe Eliesa and Don Bosco freshman Erica Irvine.
Despite a tough 12-8 quarterfinal-round loss to undefeated Durant senior Lainey Shelangoski, Wolfer achieved a dream that was a year in the making by competing at state after falling one win short in last year's regional tournament.
"Ever since getting sixth at regionals last year, ever since that day all I kept telling myself was that I was going to make it to state," Wolfer said. "I did everything in my power to make that goal. I wanted to make it to state and place at state. I'm giving it everything I have and I leaving it all out there on the mat."
Jager, one of the first five wrestlers to qualify for EBF this season, put herself within a win of a state medal on Thursday scoring a pair of falls in her first two 115-pound state matches improving to 29-11 on the season. Pins in 2:25 against Kuemper Catholic senior Grace Hoffman and 5:25 against South Central Calhoun senior Evelyn Kramer made Jager EBF's first state quarterfinalist less than a year after picking up the sport.
"This was something I've never tried before this year and I was certain I'd be terrible at it," Jager said of wrestling. "I was pretty terrible during the first couple of weeks. As I improved more and learned my way around the sport, I realized this was something I could pursue to a higher level."
Moravia junior Layla Ewing's bid to return to a state championship match ended on Thursday night after losing by fall in the first period to Bettendorf senior Lexy Petersen in the 130-pound quarterfinals. Ewing, who returned to the mat just two weeks ago after battling back from a knee injury, scored falls against Denison-Schleswig senior Taya Adams and West Delaware junior Kylee Shoop.
"It's been a struggle this year not being able to be in the wrestling room or be out there on the mat," Ewing said. "I'm just very grateful that I was able to get fit enough to wrestle at all this season and find a way to make it to state again."
Fairfield freshman Samantha Lyons also extended her first season of high school wrestling by an extra day, bouncing back after suffering a first-period fall against South Tama sophomore Autumn Elsbury. Lyons edged Iowa City High sophomore Molly Carlson, 7-5, on a takedown with 28 seconds left before pinning Algona freshman Reagan Haynes with 18 seconds left in the first period of a third-round consolation match.
"I personally didn't think I'd make it this far," Lyons said. "If someone had told me at the beginning of the year that I'd be wrestling at state, I would have told them they were being funny."
— Scott Jackson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.