Pella qualifies trio for state girls wrestling

Jan. 29—DES MOINES — Year two of the official girls wrestling super regional took place on Friday inside a packed HyVee Hall where hundreds of girls were battling for a top four finish in their weight class to qualify for state. Oskaloosa and Pella were both in action with the Lady Dutch securing three state qualifiers for a second year in a row.

Pella finished sixth out of 25 teams in their regional with 99 points while seeing 11 girls wrestle on the day. Seniors Emmalee Spurgeon (155) and Elaine Babcock (190) went undefeated on the day to win their brackets while sophomore Serenity Turner (105) ended up with a third place finish.

"It's been a good day," Pella head coach Adam Hale said. "We're about where we thought we might end up. We thought we might sneak another one through, possibly two, depending on if things went right. But we're in a good spot and we're really happy with today and how everybody wrestled. I thought even in some of our losses, we had girls wrestling the best we've ever seen. Getting two champs was nice, especially against some girls that have beaten us in the past."

Oskaloosa had three representatives wrestling for them in Des Moines as they continue to try to build up their women's program. Their highlight of the day came from Jaylynn Kerr (115), who bounced back from a first round loss to earn a tough pin in the consolation bracket to get her second win on the season. She finished the day with a 1-2 record while teammates McKayla Hansen (125) and McKeny Nance (235) both finished 0-2 in the tournament.

Pella had four girls advance to the latter stages of the tournament with Spurgeon and Babcock moving deep into the winners bracket while Turner and returning state qualifier Isabella Smith (115) were battling in the consolation bracket.

Smith won her first two matches but would drop her next three matches to fall a couple wins short of a return trip to state and would grab sixth overall.

Turner, who has been known for her aggressive style of wrestling which has resulted in just two of her 41 matches to go the full six minutes this year, had another quick day at the office. Her first two rounds featured pins of 13 seconds and 57 seconds to quickly advance to the semifinals. There she would match up with Albia's Brianna Wolfer and would get pinned in the second period to fall to the consolation side. Turner bounced back with a 28-second pin and earned a spot in the third place match where she only needed 17 seconds to get her third pin on the day and clinch a spot at state.

"Serenity has definitely had some quick pins and a lot of pins," Hale said. "When she's aggressive and shooting, she is tough. She's beaten some tough girls in the state so third was nice for her here."

Spurgeon has been dominant all season for Pella and that didn't change on Friday. The senior 155-pounder earned a first period pin in her opener and followed with a second period pin in her quarterfinal matchup. Next up she would scrap to a 4-0 decision in the semifinals before facing off against the top seed of Haylee McGrew from Ankeny who entered with only one loss on the season. Spurgeon led 2-0 after a takedown in the first period. McGrew elected to start on top in the second and Spurgeon was able to work a reversal and a turn to get the pin and snatch the regional title and return to state while also staying undefeated and improving her season record to 41-0.

"it's been fun to see," Hale said of Spurgeon's season. "We're really happy with where she is right now and she puts in a ton of work in the room and does everything that we expect. Then any extra opportunity that we offer, promote or put out there she's there working her tail off seeking out good practice partners and being a good practice partner in the room. She's put in a ton of effort and a ton of work to get to where she is and it's nice to see those efforts rewarded in a good way like this."

Babcock was also looking to get back to state and was able to earn a bye to the quarterfinals in her bracket. She wrestled well in her first two matches to get pins and advance to the finals where she would face off with DCG's Halley Beaudet, who pinned Babcock earlier in the season. Babcock handled the rematch very well leading 2-1 after a first period takedown. Beaudet scored an escape in the second period and tied things up at two going to the third. There Babcock started on bottom and wiggled to a great reversal that also led to a three-point nearfall as she went on to win 7-3 and celebrated with a big hug with her coaches and teammates.

"I really liked Elaine's mindset going into that finals match," Hale said. "She really did a good job of getting that set and getting ready to go. She did a much better job of moving during this match than she did the last one the last one. She did a really good job of addressing those things and just wrestling her match and not getting in her own head about it. Beaudet is a quality opponent and we know she's tough. She's been in the rankings and obviously beat us before so it was really good to see Elaine winning a lot of those battles that went the other way last time."

The IGHSAU has released the seeds and the brackets for the state tournament. At 105, No. 14 Serenity Turner (Pella, 36-5) will take on No. 19 Lakin Evans (Saint Ansgar, 31-18) in the first round. At 155, No. 4 Emmalee Spurgeon (Pella, 41-0) will wrestle No. 29 Tamson Budden (Sheldon/Sibley-Ocheyedan, 22-11). At 190, No. 10 Elaine Babcock (Pella, 37-4) will battle No. 23 Gabby Rasmussen (Central Lyon/George-Little Rock, 16-10).

Turner will make her first appearance at state while Spurgeon and Babcock will try to improve in their returns after both finishing 1-2 in Coralville last year.

"I think wrestling in big tournaments like this during the season and against tough opponents helps prepare them that way," Hale said. "Some long days and everything where you're kind of hanging out a little and you've got to stay ready in small space and all that. So preparation wise in that regard, it's good. You get the bigger venue and sometimes the lights get bright and everything so it will be a lot of just talking about how we always just say our expectations are to wrestle your hardest, do the things we've been working on in the room and stay positive towards your teammates. That's the consistent message that we've had from day one all the way through today. You choose how much pressure to apply to yourself. You're here because you belong and you can make some noise while you're here."

The Pella trio will compete at the Girls Wrestling State Tournament at Xtream Arena in Coralville on Thursday starting at 10 a.m.

Colin Peters can be reached at 641-672-2581, by email at or on Twitter @ColinPetersOH.