Competing in a boys world Colbert is ready to take the mat at Girls State wrestling tournament

(Above) Kennadi Colbert, the only female member of the Clear Lake High School wrestling team, scrimmages with teammate Conner Morey.  Colbert will compete in the Iowa High School Girls State Wrestling Tournament this weekend in Waverly.-Reporter photo by Chris Barragy.

by Marianne Gasaway

Kennadi Colbert finds herself in rare company this weekend.

The Clear Lake High School senior will be among about 100 competitors in the second annual Iowa High School Girls State Wrestling Championship held at Waverly-Shell Rock High School.

“I am very excited to be competing at State. I have been getting some wins recently and I am feeling more confident on the mat,” said Colbert.

Although she did not reach the varsity level she had hoped for this season, Colbert did very well on the junior varsity squad.  She was a winner at the Algona JV tournament, third at a girls invite at Waverly-Shell Rock and fourth at a JV tournament held at Clarion. She has a better than .500 record this season, largely against boys.

“I didn’t start the year with a positive mindset.  I didn’t feel like I was improving and I was still on JV.  But the JV has more opportunity for success and less pressure, so it has been good for me to compete there and work to get better,” she explained.

Colbert said she has championed the sport to other girls in the school, but so far has been the only female to compete on a CLHS wrestling team.  She supports the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s willingness to consider sanctioning the sport and expects its popularity to grow. The state tournament in which Colbert will compete is put on by the Iowa Wrestling Coaches Association and not the IGHSAU.  The tournament features 10 weight classes, rather than the 14 offered at the IHSAA tournament.  She will wrestle at 138-pounds.

Earlier this year the IGHSAU initiated a process where sports can become sanctioned if 15 percent of the state’s school district superintendents or athletic directors commit to sponsoring a team at their school.   In the meantime, Iowa girls can continue to wrestle on teams comprised primarily of boys and are eligible to win conference, sectional, district and state championships wrestling against boys.

  Some consider girls wrestling to be the most burgeoning sport in the state, and quite possibly even the nation.

Through research conducted and published by Mid-America Publishing’s John Jensen, more than half of Iowa schools that wrestle have at least one girl on their roster, and over half of those have more than one. Overall, 143 of Iowa’s 281 schools offering wrestling have at least one female member on the squad. Of those, 73 schools have more than one and 13 schools have 10 or more. Most of those are the largest schools, and some of those have informal teams (or club teams) set up just for girls who want to wrestle.

This year’s total of 481 girls involved in wrestling statewide is up from 187 last year and just 92 the year before, according to the Iowa Wrestling Coaches Association.   Only six years ago, there were just 36 girls wrestling in the state. Altogether, that makes for a 1,236 percent increase over a six-year span.

Several colleges are already on board with separate wrestling teams for females, and a couple of the more successful high school wrestlers chose to go there because it was available. The state’s first 100-win girl wrestler was Felicity Taylor, formerly of South Winneshiek (Calmar), who decided to attend a university in Illinois that has a women’s wrestling team, and the second was Ali Gerbracht of AGWSR. She has decided, at least for now, to concentrate on her studies and not continue wrestling in college. Also noteworthy is that wrestler Keagan King, a South

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