Tigers take state aspirations into Friday’s regional tournament

The inaugural season of sanctioned girls’ wrestling is drawing toward its conclusion, but not before teams across the state face their biggest and toughest tests of the season.

Regionals from Sioux City to Cedar Rapids and places in between are set for Friday, with the state tournament scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday, Feb. 2 and 3, at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

The top four finishers at each weight from regionals will advance to state. Gilbert’s full team will take part in Region 4 inside Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Friday. Wrestling will get started at 11 a.m.

“Friday, yeah, it’s a big deal,” Gilbert head coach Scott Auderer said. “Our regional is tough, but they’re all going to be tough. Most of the weights, I’d say they’re pretty good one through four.”

Like Auderer said, Friday is important. But his grapplers haven’t turned their complete focus to that, not yet anyway. They’re currently focused on Tuesday night and a chance to wrestle in front of their home crowd for the first and only time this winter.

Gilbert will host Panorama at 6 p.m. Tuesday evening in the first sanctioned girls’ dual the school has ever hosted. It wasn’t on the Tigers original schedule, but when a December home meet was canceled, Auderer looked for another team willing to make the trek to compete. Panorama was up to the challenge, and it has Auderer and his pupils excited.

“Tuesday’s meet is a big deal for our program,” Auderer said. “It would be great to get that gym full for those girls and it’s something that helps to build the program.

“The girls are excited and they want to be recognized as a legitimate sport. They want people to see the hard work they’ve put in and get a chance to showcase themselves.”

Students will get into the dual free of charge, and the team would love if everyone from the community ventured to the high school to be part of the first-ever sanctioned dual at Gilbert. Most, if not all, of the 14 weights will be contested.

Auderer was still putting the final touches on his lineup for the dual and regionals Monday morning. Ten of the 14 weights have already been penciled in, but there are several challenge matches set for Monday afternoon that will decide the final lineup.

Friday’s regional will be anything but easy. Joining Gilbert in the Region 4 field will be Ames, Baxter, Boone, Cardinal, Carlisle, Chariton, Colfax-Mingo, Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont, Earlham, Fairfield, Grinnell, Johnston, Martensdale St. Marys, Nevada, Ogden, Panorama, Pella, Perry, Raccoon River-Northwest, Saydel, South Tama County, Southeast Polk, Urbandale, and West Des Moines Valley. It’s a blend of small and large schools with Gilbert somewhere in the middle in the one-class setup.

Gilbert’s lineup will look something like this for regionals:

•100 — Jaedyn Henry
•105 — Jaydan Jeppesen
•110 — Alicia Smith
•115 — Brooklynn Nees
•120 — Undecided
•125 — Undecided
•130 — Hadley Boshart
•135 — Brooke Hamers
•140 — Annika Yoder-Stoulil
•145 — Alex Harswick
•155 — Undecided
•170 — Anna Steenhoek
•190 — Open
•235 — Macy Underwood

Harswick, a senior 145-pounder, has put together a stellar campaign and she’s hopeful it will end in Coralville early next month. Harswick takes a 16-match winning streak and 22-3 overall record with 19 pins into Tuesday’s dual. She fell at the hands of second-ranked 140-pounder and 2022 state runner-up Sarah Lewis of Centerville early in the season, and her two other setbacks have both been avenged.

Auderer says Harswick’s lanky frame, strength and athleticism are all keys to her success. However, her determination is what truly sets her apart.

“The big key for her is her mental toughness and her discipline,” Auderer said. “She’s smart, she understands the diet, she understands the whole thing. It’s a priority for her and she has legitimate goals.”

Boshart, also a senior who competes at 130, is another Tiger with state aspirations, as she boasts a 19-7 record with 18 pins. She competed at state a season ago and understands the pressure the spotlight can bring.

“She’s improved a lot and she knows what she’s doing,” Auderer said of Boshart. “As long as she’s got the confidence in herself, she’ll be fine.”

Brooke Hamers, a junior 135-pounder, has dealt with injuries this season, but she’s back in the lineup and ready to take her crack at state as well. Hamers is 14-8 on the season.

“I think she has a shot on Friday, and I think a couple others have a shot (to reach state) as well,” Auderer said.

Of the 21 girls on the Gilbert roster, nine — Nees, Boshart, Hamers, Harswick, Steenhoek, Aubrey Dunn, Emma Britcher, Cecelia Bowers, and Fern Neubauer — have won at least 10 matches.

Your chance to see the team in action, right here at home, happens Tuesday evening. We hope to see you there!