The level of competition in the Dan Gable Donnybrook was every bit as tough as Dustin Roland expected.
His Ankeny girls’ wrestling team placed fourth among 43 squads in the two-day event that concluded on Friday at Xtream Arena in Coralville. Ankeny finished with 338 points.
The tournament featured many of the top wrestlers in the Midwest. Decorah claimed the title with 408 points, followed by Waverly-Shell Rock with 367 and Bettendorf with 363.
“We had a great two days at the Donnybrook,” said Roland. “Anytime you take 14 girls to a high-level tournament like that and everyone comes home with a win, it’s a good thing. We left day one in fourth place and had a very rough quarterfinal round Friday morning. It was great to see our girls rebound on the backside and keep pace with the top teams in the state. That made our coaching staff extremely proud.”
Ankeny was led by junior Haylee McGrew, who placed second at 155 pounds. McGrew recorded three consecutive falls before being pinned by Zoey Barber of Omaha (Neb.) Westside in 2 minutes 51 seconds in the finals.
Barber was one of six wrestlers from outside of Iowa to capture a crown. It was the first loss of the season for McGrew, who now boasts an 11-1 record.
“I felt pretty good about the way I wrestled this week, but there was some mistakes that I will be taking back to the wrestling room,” said McGrew. “I set high goals and standards for myself, so with every win and loss I always feel there are things I can improve on.”
Ankeny got fifth-place finishes from Lauren Watson at 100, Hayden Bratland at 140 and Dana Cleveland at 145. Both Bratland and Cleveland bounced back after losing in the quarterfinals to the eventual champions.
“In the final round we went 3-2, which was a huge improvement from going 0-5 in that round last year,” Roland said. “Our girls are getting better and are really starting to buy into the concept of competing every time they step on the mat.”
Cleveland suffered her first loss when she dropped a 7-1 decision to Eve Skrocki of Dubuque Wahlert. She eventually pinned Olivia Bonnema of Solon in 1:14 in the fifth-place match to improve her mark to 11-1.
Bratland, meanwhile, dropped an 11-3 major decision to Iowa recruit Kiara Djoumessi of Waverly-Shell Rock. She then rebounded with a pair of falls, capped off by a pin over Izzy Giza of Bettendorf in 1:33 to raise her record to 10-3.
Watson also lost in the quarterfinals before bouncing back with a pair of major decisions in the consolation bracket. She defeated Elizabeth Burns of Cedar Rapids Prairie, 9-0, to lift her mark to 12-2.
“Shout out to our freshmen trio of Lauren, Hayden and Allayah (Shade) who went a combined 11-3 (in the tournament),” Roland said. “It was also great to get two other freshmen–Audrey Lucas and Aysia Moser–some great high-level mat experience.”
Elyse Engebretson placed sixth for Ankeny at 125. Nora Bockes took eighth at 115, Trudy Haag was 10th at 120, Mallorie McGuire placed 12th at 170, and Lily Hans finished 13th at 135.
“We have a few girls who are their own biggest opponent right now,” Roland said. “Once we get the mental part of the sport figured out along with cleaning up some areas of physical improvement, we we should be sitting in a good place. It was also great to see our girls support each other throughout the tournament. We come to this tournament to get a taste of what it might be like at the state tournament, and that is a valuable thing right now. We have some girls stepping up as leaders, and it helped everyone this weekend.”
Ankeny will compete in the Ankeny Centennial Duals on Dec. 9 at Northview.
“We are looking forward to that tournament next weekend as we start to get some girls back from being injured,” Roland said.