The expectations have been raised for the Ankeny girls’ wrestling program.
Ankeny advanced eight wrestlers to the state tournament in its inaugural season and graduated just one of those qualifiers. The team has also added a pair of talented newcomers in freshman Hayden Bratland and junior Haylee McGrew, who both won matches over the second-ranked girls at their weights at the IA Wrestle Night of Conflict on Nov. 4.
“Last year we finished something like 40th place (at state),” said Ankeny coach Dustin Roland, whose team posted dual-meet records of 5-0 in the CIML Conference and 12-2 overall. “We had a bunch of solid athletes that were lacking mat time. We return seven of our eight state qualifiers and picked up a couple big point-scorers in Bratland and McGrew. We will start the season ranked seventh according to the (Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association)’s preseason team rankings.”
There are currently 49 girls on the roster. There are 22 from Ankeny Centennial, 19 from Ankeny, six from North Polk and two from Bondurant-Farrar.
Senior Dana Cleveland is the team’s top returning wrestler. She took fourth at 135 pounds a year ago to become the first placewinner in program history.
Cleveland had three falls in the tournament, including one in a consolation semifinal that lifted her team into 36th place overall. She finished with a 40-6 record.
Cleveland will compete at 145 this season. She is third in the preseason rankings.
Ankeny’s other returning state qualifiers are seniors Lily Hans, Ella Hron and Mallorie McGuire; junior Elyse Engebretson; and sophomores Nora Bockes and Trudy Haag.
Engebretson, who was seeded fifth and won a first-round match at the state tournament, posted a 30-7 mark at 115. She has moved up to 125.
Bockes went 38-10 at 110 as a freshman, including 2-2 at state. Hron went 1-2 at state and finished 29-18 at 105.
Both Bockes and Hron are ninth in the preseason rankings. Hron will again wrestle at 105, while Bockes has moved up to 115.
Haag compiled a 28-12 record at 120, Hans went 26-15 at 130 and McGuire went 22-15 at 145. Haag will remain at 120, while the ninth-ranked Hans and McGuire have moved up to 135 and 170, respectively.
“My only expectation is to improve and bring my best to every practice and every meet,” said Hans, who has signed a letter of intent to play softball at Missouri Western State University. “A lot of girls have been working hard all summer to improve their skills for a chance to make it to state this year. My only hope and what I will work for every day is that I can compete with them and have another shot at state.”
McGrew posted a 31-4 mark as a sophomore, when she placed seventh at 155 while competing for Des Moines Public Schools. She is ranked third at 155.
Bratland, meanwhile, is ranked eighth at 140.
Senior Melanie Martinez at 235 and junior Josie Bishop at 190 are among the team’s other returnees.
“We have a number of girls that are ranked right inside the top 10 or are sitting right outside the top 10,” Roland said. “If we can find a way to move those girls up to 5 through 7 to complement those inside the top five, it could be a special season for us. Year two was supposed to be a year that we looked for depth, but we have exceeded the expectations with our 49 girls and are setting our goal to bring home a team trophy this season.
“It’s going to be a fun season!” he added.
Ankeny will open its schedule on Tuesday at Dallas Center-Grimes, where it will face both the host Fillies and Waverly-Shell Rock.