Luedtke, Griffiths honored by A-Club

May 3—OTTUMWA — Jasmine Luedtke wasn't too surprised to hear her named called as the 2024 Ottumwa High School Senior Female Athlete of the Year.

Becoming a two-time state wrestling champion, winning her final 71 matches of her high school wrestling career, while also qualifying for the state cross-country meet for the first time gave Luedtke a decided edge in a class of quality finalists. It made it even more special for Luedtke to be honored along with a longtime friend and fellow wrestler, as well as Ottumwa's head wrestling coach, on Monday.

Braylon Griffiths, who grew up wrestling within the Ottumwa Alpha Dogs youth program alongside Luedtke, was honored as the Ottumwa High School Senior Male Athlete of the Year on Monday as part of the annual Ottumwa A-Club awards ceremony. Ottumwa High School's head wrestling coach, Jeremy Frueh, was also honored on Monday as the recipient of the Dan Staggs award established in honor of the former OHS high school tennis coach and physical education teacher.

"(Ottumwa wrestling coach) Karston (Van Velsor) actually came up to me last week and told me he thought there was a chance that two wrestlers might be able to sweep the athlete of the year awards," Luedtke said. "Braylon and I have grown up wrestling together. It's been an important part of both of our lives. I'm glad we got to be honored together. Coach Frueh has coached me. He's coached both my brothers. It's been kind of cool tradition to share in. I'm glad he got to coach me for the two years I was part of the boys wrestling team."

Luedtke was selected as the OHS Female Senior Athlete of the Year out of a group of finalists that included state championship bowling teammates Hannalee Songer and Katelin Valentine as well as Vada Monaghan and Sydney Rockhold. This school year alone, Luedtke is the only female senior athlete from Ottumwa to qualify for multiple state events posting one final dominant season on the wrestling mats finishing a 33-0 senior season taking the 110-pound championship for the second straight year with an impressive 8-1 win over second-seeded Osage junior Gable Hemann in the finals after earning an elusive trip to the Class 4A girls state cross-country meet securing one of the five fastest individual times outside of the three state-qualifying teams finishing 21st overall in 21:04.8 earning the fourth of the five individual qualifying berths at the regional meet hosted by Southeast Polk.

"I think that this year, I accomplished almost everything I've ever wanted to," Luedtke said. "It's just been like a huge roller coaster. I hope I can carry on the Ottumwa tradition to Wartburg College next year and continue to compete at a higher level there."

Frueh joins elite company in being honored as the recipient of the Dan Staggs Award, joining Ottumwa's Hall-of-Fame softball coach Frank Huston and Ottumwa head girls bowling coach Doug Techel, who just this past season led the OHS girls bowling team to an 11th state title. Frueh, an Ottumwa graduate, has overseen the successful growth of the Bulldog wrestling program that has included multiple trips to the Class 4A regional team tournament with several individuals including Luedtke and Griffiths that have qualified for the traditional Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament.

"I know what Coach Staggs meant to this school. He was an awesome man. It's an honor to receive this award," Frueh said. "Seeing Jasmine and Braylon also be honored on the same night is pretty fitting. They're both athletes that have put in a lot of work to earn their achievements.

"Jasmine's resume alone, qualifying for six total state wrestling tournaments (two IWOCA, two IAHSAA and two IGHSAU), is one of the best in the history of the state. Braylon is a gym rat that work hard and has had a lot of success in wrestling, baseball and football. It's been an honor to be able to coach both of them."

Griffiths was selected as the OHS Senior Male Athlete of the Year out of a group of candidates that have all competed in multiple sports together. Griffiths was joined by football and wrestling teammate John Hardin, football and baseball teammate Javen Rominger as well as Roman Laux and Rahsha Pope among the finalists for the award.

"I kind of had dreams about it and I thought about it a lot, but I was going to be happy with whoever had their names called as the athlete of the year," Griffiths said. "My hard work definitely showed, so it was nice."

Griffiths was named a second-team all-Iowa Alliance conference linebacker for the Bulldog football team this past fall just months after earning honorable mention all-conference honors for the Ottumwa baseball team during the summer. What put Griffiths over the top was his senior season on the wrestling mat for the Ottumwa boys, qualifying for state and earning a medal for the second straight year after finishing sixth in Class 3A at 150 pounds going 45-4 this season winning three matches in his final trip to state.

"I think it's pretty great for younger kids to see two wrestlers be honored as the senior athletes of the year," Griffiths said. "Hopefully, it serves as an inspiration for those kids to go out for wrestling. It's a great sport. It'll help you with other sports and teach you to improve yourself in life. Our coaches always talk about using wrestling to help become a better person both on and off the mat. You have to be just as dedicated in the classroom, because real life in the real world will be coming up pretty soon for all of us."

Griffths and Luedtke were also recipients of the Martin Rupe Memorial Scholarship while Javen Rominger received the Bernstein Memorial Scholarship during the awards ceremony. Hardin received a pair of scholarships, joining Griffiths as a recipient of the Jeremy Allen Scholarship as well as the William Hopkins Scholarship which was awarded to the Ottumwa senior by coach and friend Kurt Hopkins.

"Kurt has been there through thick and thin for me," Hardin said. "He was the first coach that took a chance on me and that I'd be the one to make something happen."

Other awards given out on Monday included the Bernie Saggau Award, which was presented to Ottumwa senior girls swimmer Ava Johnson. Heather Thompson was honored with the Gene Schultz Volunteer Award while Lisa and Tom Morgan, owners of Godfrey's Ale House, received the Howard Eslinger Award.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.