GIRLS’ WRESTLING: Hoyle nabs victory in first-ever state tourney
By BRANDON HURLEY
The initial pressure of a ground-breaking moment didn’t scare Greene County’s female wrestling torch-bearer.
Safely put, Emma Hoyle valiantly exceeded a bevy of high expectations placed on her. The freshman had little trouble establishing her potential at the second annual girls’ state wrestling tournament Jan. 24, securing a second round pin in Waverly following her first round bye.
The rookie grappler’s historic victory ushered in a monumental day for GCHS, building a 9-0 lead before capturing a third period pin-fall of Colfax-Mingo’s Elayna Creech.
Hoyle embraced the grueling challenge as Greene County’s first female wrestler, and did more than hold her own in the school’s first-ever state tournament appearance. She walked away with a single win in her debut match to go with a pair of losses. The rookie compiled a 7-3 record overall across the three-month season.
Greene County activities director Todd Gordon felt Hoyle’s performance resonated well beyond the mats in Waverly.
“Emma set a great example by stepping out of her comfort zone and into the unknown,” Gordon said. “I hope she not only inspires other girls to step into the girls wrestling program but that it will also be an example to all of our students to step out of their comfort zone and become more comfortable being uncomfortable.”
Hoyle’s third round match was a daunting task, as she squared off against BGM’s Jessica Haines, who entered the tournament ranked fourth with a 13-9 record. She proved to be a tad over matched against the fellow freshman, but still stayed alive, as Haines secured a 10-0 decision, knocking the Ram to the consolation bracket.
Hoyle went head-to-head with Dubuque Wahlert’s Alaina Duggan in the second round of consolations. The sophomore entered the 2020 state tournament with a 13-5 record and proceeded to secure a third period pin of Hoyle. Duggan went on to finish fifth in the 138 pound bracket, securing victory in the fifth place match with a pin 36 seconds.
Hoyle’s action was limited throughout the year, as many of Greene County’s opponents did not feature girls’ wrestlers and the scheduled home girls’ tournament was postponed. Her breakout season was a giant leap in the right direction not only for female sports within Greene County, but across the board.
“We need to grow all of our programs and we need students to step out of their comfort zones and try some things they haven’t tried before, and commit to really becoming better, to help us grow and become more competitive and successful,” Gordon said. “Emma modeled that and has helped to set the bar. I’m hoping we will have students follow her lead.”
Lisbon’s Jannell Avila won the eventual 138-pound state championship, defeating Logan-Magnolia’s Olivia Diggins, 2-1 in the title bout. Diggins entered the tournament as the top-ranked wrestler in her respective weight division, only to finish runner-up for the second straight year.
Waverly-Shell Rock’s Macy Smith placed third. As a team, host Waverly-Shell Rock ran away with it’s second straight title, securing 156.5 points, out-lasting Charles City (128 points). The girls’ team is the only champion the young state tournament has ever known. Dubuque Wahlert rounded out the top three with 121 points.
More than 350 girls competed in this year’s state tournament, quadrupling last year’s inaugural participation of 87.
Girls’ wrestling still has some work to do before it becomes an official high-school sanctioned sport across Iowa despite the 2020 state tournament success. Right now, girls’ wrestling is considered a club sport because it is not sponsored by the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union. In order for an official sanction - which would mean more funding, more tournaments and competition as well as an increase in state-wide accolades - one-sixth of the state’s school need to fully support a girl’s wrestling team. Which, in turn, at least 50 schools must support a separate girls’ wrestling program, complete with separate coaches and a schedule. As of this winter, Gordon, who has served within the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association and within high school athletics for a number of decades, said only 15 teams have verbally committed to starting up girls’ wrestling. Unfortunately, there’s a significant hill to climb scattered with a heavy amount of red tape along the rise.
“There is a lot to think about to start a program,” Gordon said. “We would need more coaches, more transportation to compete in tournaments that the boys may not be attending which would also lead to more transportation costs. If the program grows how do you structure practice to share the one wrestling room that you have with the boys program?
I think anything can be worked out and accomplished but it will take a pretty significant investment and commitment from a number of school districts for it to become an official sanctioned sport.”
Either way, girls’ wrestling earned a hard-fought victory this winter, and it looks like popularity will continue to grow in the near future. With that, Hoyle has three years of eligibility remaining, it’s not hard to imagine the freshman becoming an eventual state place-winner.