The moment was dramatic, if not perfect.
Ellie Brenneman, a senior wrestler at Mid-Prairie, was in the quarterfinals of the Iowa Girls State Wrestling Championships for the first …
The moment was dramatic, if not perfect.
Ellie Brenneman, a senior wrestler at Mid-Prairie, was in the quarterfinals of the Iowa Girls State Wrestling Championships for the first time Feb. 1.
A sellout crowd at Coralville’s Xtreme Arena roared.
It is the moment every high school wrestler awaits with great passion.
“It really is awesome,” Brenneman said later. “When all your hard work pays off and you’re here, you’re winning matches, you get to have fun. This is what you work for all season and now you’re here and now you’re just going to have fun. It’s awesome.”
The crowd roared not just for Brenneman in her 135-pound match against fourth-ranked Bella Miller of Dubuque Wahlert Catholic, but also for the seven other matches going on at the same time.
The state championship tournament is a lesson in being ready. Like now!
When you are assigned for Mat 8 and the previous match at Mat 8 is over, you immediately get to that same mat for your own match. Two wrestlers out, two new ones in. Blink and you might miss it.
Brenneman quickly reported to Mat 8 for her quarterfinal-round match. Golden Hawks head coach Randy Billups took his seat in the coaching area. The whistle blew. And here we go.
In less than a minute, it was over. Miller is that good. The match was over in 39 seconds with a pin.
After the post-match greetings, Brenneman ran over to the Match 2 area. At the same time that her match ended, teammate Ashlee Farrier was beginning her own against Mason City’s Kallie Gibbons.
There was a bond that had built all season between Brenneman and Farrier.
“Ashlee’s my practice partner,” Brenneman said. “The fact that we both qualified is amazing. We get to wrestle together and warm up together.
“I remember after regionals, when we both realized we were going to state,” Brenneman said, “we were both so ectastic, crying happy tears.”
Farrier, who had won two of her first three matches, fought and fought. But in a match that went to a tiebreaker, Gibbons won by a point.
“It was definitely a good experience,” Farrier, a junior, said. “Taught me a lot about what I need to work on and what I’m good at.”
Brenneman’s season ended the next day at Xtreme, Friday, when Kaydence Boom of Wilton defeated her in a fourth-round match.
But, really, the adventure was just in making it to the state tournament.
“I kind of had this expectation of myself. I need to qualify for state,” said Brenneman, who won more than 30 matches this season. “There’s always that thought in the back of your head, like what if I don’t? So that was probably the most terrifying part of the whole season.”
The trip to Xtreme Arena was a season highlight for three Golden Hawks. In addition to Brenneman and Farrier making it to the big show, Ellie Callahan, a sophomore, joined them for the second consecutive year.
“Having it being sold out, it’s crazy to have the wrestling environment out there,” Callahan said. “It’s definitely growing a lot.”
Once Farrier’s match was over at the end of the first day and night, a grueling stretch in which all three Golden Hawks had wrestled three times, they gathered together in the preparation gym at Xtreme Arena. The gym is almost as big as the arena itself, a giant area in which all wrestlers from all schools across the state spend the day when they’re not in the competition arena. Some are sleeping, earbuds in place; others are warming up on wrestling mats.
For these Golden Hawks, the end of the night was an emotional time. Two were done for the season. Lots of hugs. Lots of tears. And plenty of coaching.
They couldn’t wait to get back.
Farrier was a hurdler on the track team.
“Now wrestling is what I love to do,” she said.
Brenneman, who has talked about wanting to coach one day, has played a huge part in that. Not only for Farrier, but for everybody.
“She was an amazing practice partner,” Farrier said. “She is definitely somebody who pushed me and tested me. Sometimes we got mad at each other, but at the end of the day we were always the best partners we could be. I definitely wouldn’t have made it where I am now without her. She even started going to my club team with me.”
“She’s a leader,” Callahan said. “She’s so passionate. She has no care in the world what people think of her. She’s going to go out on the mat and wrestle her hardest. She is someone I do look up to.”
By the end of the night, Brenneman stood in the arena, watching more wrestling and chatting with wrestlers from other teams.
That’s what a leader does.
It’s her passion.
News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul