Nov. 10—Since being sanctioned last season, girls wrestling has become the fastest growing female sport in Iowa.
In the second year of the Highway 34 wrestling program consisting of girls from Creston, East Union and Lenox, a new coach has taken over. Maggie Arnold, cross country and track and field coach will now add a third sport to her repertoire as she heads the Highway 34 team.
"We have 15 girls out this year which is great numbers," Arnold said. "The girls are excited to be a part of history."
The program is expected to continue to expand as the Creston Junior High program alone had 20 girls attend their start-of-season meeting.
Returners from last year include Mila Kuhns, Zoey Vandevender, Grace Keeler, Quynn Foster, Hope Woods and state medalist Savannah Sistad. Woods was injured for a majority of last year, but all others competed at the regional competition in Des Moines.
The team will be led by three seniors — Woods, Sistad and Brylea Woollums.
"Savannah is the one who has had the most success in girls wrestling in our program," Arnold said. "We look to Savannah to continue to be great for us this year."
Arnold said she hopes to keep Woods healthy this year, so she will be able to participate in more matches. This will be Woollums first year on the mat. "It's a brave thing for a senior to do, go our for a brand new sport," Arnold said. "She's having fun learning."
Despite having more girls than weight classes, there won't be enough variety in weights to consistently fill all 14 classes. There are three girls in the 125 range and three in the 135 class, though numbers are likely to change as the season goes on.
The team also gains Evy Marlin, an experienced wrestler coming from the SWAT Valkyrie team after transferring from Southwest Valley to Creston.
"Look for her to be outstanding," Arnold said. "All the returners, coming back with that year of experience is huge."
Also new to the team this year are Khloe Parker, Sydney Hoffman, Alainah Galanakis, Tesi Hudson, Cheyenne Dike and Ale Villanueva.
Though this is the team's second season, it will be their first time on the mat at home as the team hosts a quadrangular Dec. 12 against Glenwood, Treynor and West Central Valley.
Fans will have two more times to see the Hwy 34 wrestlers at home as they also host Indianola Dec. 21 and a tournament Jan. 12.
All three events will be done in conjunction with the boys team. The boys will wrestle at the same time Dec. 12 and 21. For the tournament, the boys will wrestle Saturday, Jan. 13.
"For a girls wrestling program to take off, it has to have a connection to the boys program that's are already established," Arnold said. "It has to be grown from the bottom up. A lot of tournaments we go to, the boys wrestle the next day. We tried to create our schedule to line up with the boys a little bit. The boys coaches serve as assistant coaches for us."
Arnold said boys coach Cody Downing has been instrumental in getting the program running this year.
"He has helped me tremendously," she said. "Wrestling was not a sport I could do when I was in school — it wasn't available for me. It's great to work with Cody and follow his lead in the room."
Though she never wrestled, Arnold is very familiar with the sport. "My dad was a wrestling coach my whole life," she explained. "This has just been a huge blessing to be around all of that."
As the boys wrestling team waits for the football season to continue their historic playoffs run, the assistant coaches have also been helping the girls team, putting a coach with each pair of wrestlers to help in practice. Arnold said it's helped her gain a ton of knowledge.
The girls season begins Monday as they wrestle in a scramble at Nodaway Valley. Then it starts for real as they travel to Nevada for a tournament Nov. 18.
"With such a huge core of newcomers, we're going to see a lot of great things," Arnold said. "Some of them were in the middle school program as well, so they are not all new to wrestling."
Projected weight classes
100 — Hope Woods
105 — Quynn Foster
110 — Khloe Parker and Sydney Hoffman
115 — N/A
120 — N/A
125 — Alainah Galanakis, Tesi Hudson and Grace Keeler.
130 — Evy Marlin
135 — Mila Kuhns, Zoey Vandevender and Brylea Wollums
140 — Cheyenne Dike
145 — N/A
155 — Ale Villanueva
170 — N/A
190 — N/A
235 — Savannah Sistad