Several WP Girl Wrestlers May Qualify for State Championship
Photos By Paul Magnuson
Now that winter break is long over, winter high school sports’ teams have jumped into the brunt of their respective seasons.
This is the time that local teams get to play and compete in league matches that count towards potential playoff action. These often tough league rivalry matches can make or break their post-season chances. The bottom line is this: Now is the time of the year when high school sports stars really need to shine if they want to compete in the playoffs and represent their hometown at the state level.
This week, TMJ takes a look at two winter sports teams, featuring notable women stars, that have good chances at ending their seasons on a high note and seeing playoff action.
Girls’ Wrestling Team Eying State Tournament
Before the winter sports season started, all eyes were on both the boys and girls wrestling teams as they are now equipped with a brand new training facility. This year both teams are rather young, but the interest has seemed high especially for the girls’ team.
The Lady Panther wrestlers are young, but the team is held together by a handful of experienced wrestlers. According to head coach Dustin Rodriguez, the team has performed better than all expectations.
As a team, the lady wrestlers have done well in tournaments and duals. Their latest feat was defeating Mesa Ridge. In fact, the team is currently undefeated when it comes to duals against other schools.
And individually, the girls are doing so well that a handful are in the top 10 statewide and many are hungry to qualify for the state championship tournament. According to Rodriguez, the coach expects to send four to six wrestlers to the state tourney in 2024, which is more than he anticipated before the season started.
Rodriguez said that (at the time of this writing) three of his lady grapplers were in the top 10 statewide in their weight classes ,and another team member was close. Grappler Arial Johns is in ninth and Haddy Waak is in eighth place in their weight classes and Cheyenne Becker is sitting in 7th.
“We have Lindsay Henggeler who is close to breaking into the top 10,” the coach said. “I’m expecting her to be in the top 10 within the next couple weeks.”
The coach also said that many of the young and more inexperienced wrestlers are vastly improving as the season progresses. He said that junior Kaylee Bowers has done very well lately, including winning a big match earlier this month.
Overall, the coach said that he thinks the new wrestling room has made a big difference in the wrestlers’ success this season. “They are really excited about it and it helps them be motivated to show up for practice every day,” Rodriguez said. “It doesn’t necessarily make them wrestle better, but they are more excited about being here every day and putting in the work.”
The coach also said that he has been getting calls from colleges interested in signing female wrestlers to compete past the high school level. Last year, seniors Trinity Diamond and Giana Roskam both signed scholarships to wrestle at the collegiate level.
Girls’ Basketball Stars Shine on the Hoop Court
The Lady Panthers ended 2023 on a high note as they picked up two “W’s” in a row before their winter break. They continued their streak once the New Year struck for two games. But then, they lost two contests in a row.
Still, much optimism on the hoop court abounds for the Lady Panthers, and with their chances of sporting a winning record and seeing potential playoff action.
The team has recently lost some really close matches, but they were hanging tough with a 5-4 record (at the time of this reporting). The team’s league record was 2-3 at press time, and they were in ninth place in their 4A/3A Tri-Peaks League. According to head coach Gary Lays, playoffs are still a possibility.
Lays is currently in his first year as the girls’ basketball head coach. And to date, he likes what he is seeing. “I think we are getting a lot of good buy-in which is really encouraging,” Lays said. “The team is really coming together.”
This year the team suffered from losing several seniors to graduation, but some younger players have stepped up to fill the big shoes left empty. Statistically, the team’s best player so far this season is sophomore Emma Larsen who averages around 12 points per game and picks up nearly 10 rebounds each match.
The team’s two seniors, Brenna Larsen and Stella Schroeder, have also helped hold the team together, the coach said. Larsen averages around 10 points per game while Schroeder picks up around eight points each match.
The coach said that they are currently taking steps to continue their success and improve before the postseason arrives. “We are working on fine tuning our skills and it’s different for every player,” Lays explained. “We are spending time in practice on things that are going to help each and every girl develop.”
The Lady Panthers have a league home game this Tuesday against the 2-6 James Irwin Jaguars. They then play a league match on the road on Thursday against the 5-5 Salida Spartans.