Interest in girls wrestling grows at Muscatine High School

Muscatine High School's 2020-2021 girls wrestling team.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Steadily over the past several years, girls wrestling has gained popularity at Muscatine High School. This year, the program has shown considerable growth, with three girls joining the team and competing at a number of girls meets across the region. As more and more high schools across the state offer girls wrestling, head coach Joseph Kane looks forward to the possibility of it becoming a sanctioned girls sport.

During the 2016-2017 school year, Natasha Rojas competed on the junior-varsity wrestling team, making her Muscatine High School’s first female wrestler. In the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, Emma Faust distinguished herself as the school’s first female varsity wrestler. The following year, Virginia Cacho attended the Iowa Wrestling Officials and Coaches Association Girls State Tournament and placed eighth in her weight class, making her Muscatine High School’s first state champion placing female wrestler.

For the 2020-2021 season, three girls have joined the wrestling team, Virginia, a senior returning for her third season; Malia Cook, a senior wrestling for her first season; and Bayley Hawkins, a junior wrestling for her first year. The girls on the team now have their own dedicated coach, Dani Wolfe, a counselor at the high school. The girls train along with the boys on the wrestling team while also attending several girls meets throughout the season.

Dec. 19, 2020, the trio competed in Wilton’s girls wrestling tournament. 100 girls from about 30 schools attended the meet, making it a sizable event. Each of the Muscatine girls had outstanding performances and earned first place in their weight classes. The day’s success built on wins from earlier in the season. At a meet at Mid-Prairie Dec. 14, 2020, Bailey and Virginia each earned second place in their weight class with Virginia also getting a pin.

Reflecting on the Wilton tournament and on the season so far, Kane feels Muscatine High School’s female wrestlers have come a long way. “These girls are learning quickly and the results are starting to show,” Kane said, adding: “Virginia was the only girl on the team last season, but I can already see how having other female teammates and a female coach are helping her development and confidence. Malia and Bayley are beginners learning the sport for the first time, and the biggest thing at this point is to learn from every match and build an understanding of the sport.”

On Jan. 4, after this newspaper went to press, the girls competed in a girls meet at Anamosa. Before the end of the season, they will also attend several coed junior varsity meets as well as the Girls State Tournament, which will take place in Coralville this year.

As Muskie girls wrestling grows, so do the aspirations of its wrestlers. After attending summer camp with the boys wrestling team, Virginia decided to continue her wrestling career in college. After exploring each of the five colleges offering girls wrestling, Virginia shared plans to attend and wrestle at Grandview University. “At summer camp, several of the camp counselors were female wrestlers on the Grandview team, which really sparked Virginia’s interest in wrestling at the college level,” Kane detailed.