WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty and Wilton have a history of producing wrestling teams that are the envy of the area.
Schools around the state are trying now to replicate the success the Comets and Beavers have had by building girls programs from the ground up.
At Saturday’s inaugural girls tournament in West Liberty, both area squads showed promising progress.
“Overall, it was our first time back since break — it’s been two, three weeks now — and it was our first ever (girls tournament) at West Liberty,” said Comet coach Caleb Studebaker. “I really don’t think it could have gone any smoother.”
However, the day belonged to the team Anamosa sent.
There wasn’t an official team score tallied, but the Blue Raiders took the top finish in four weight classes as well as produced two second-place wrestlers and two girls in third place.
Solon, however, put on an impressive display of depth, placing eight wrestlers in the top four of the nine classes.
“That’s where wrestling is going, it’s going to grow and grow in popularity, especially among the girls,” Studebaker said. “I don’t know what the numbers are compared to last year, but I expect it to be a lot bigger. We have six girls this season. We had five last year with two seniors, so it’s nice to always keep getting more.”
West Liberty and Wilton each produced one winner.
Isabel Morrison was the Comet winner at 147-160 and Hannah Rogers gave the Beavers a victory at 120-129.
West Liberty had a pair of competitors take second in Laney Esmoil at 126-132 and Grace Evans (168-180) while Mea Burkle took second for Wilton at 129-138.
Rogers and Morrison each went 3-0 on the day and won by a combined six pin falls.
Rogers’ pin of North Cedar’s Ashlynn Miller in 5 minutes, 31 seconds was the only match in which the Wilton freshman saw the second period. The weekend wins move Rogers to 13-3 on the season.
The junior Morrison (6-5) has found going out for the sport a revelation.
“It’s honestly been life-changing,” Morrison said. “I started last year, so this is my second year, but I absolutely have fallen in love with the sport.
"It’s just crazy how women can feel empowerment and be able to compete (on the mat). It’s been awesome.”
It was an added challenge for the Comets coming off the holiday break.
“It was kind of hard coming back,” Morrison said, “because you sit around and eat a lot. But we had a pretty tough week, so I think that helped get us back down to our normal weight.
“(Today) was pretty special. It’s just crazy how girls wrestling is changing constantly, but we had around 40 girls here today, so that’s a pretty good number for our first home tournament. So hopefully next year, for the girls that are returning, it will be even bigger.”
Morrison started with a pair of victories over Blue Raider wrestlers. Her match against Maddy Fischer clocked in at a little under three minutes and a second round victory via fall over Micaela Scranton came just seconds before the final horn sounded.
Her day was capped off with a first-period pin of Trinity Chapman of Solon.
“This was fun, the competition is what we train for,” Studebaker said. “The state tournament is coming, so we’re working toward that.”