First Official Season of High School Women’s Wrestling Approaching with “Unstoppable” Growth


Tommy Simmons

City High’s Sydney Wilkes’ Headgear is thrown off her head as she starts the last period on top during City High’s only home women’s wrestling meet last year.

Sierra Pruessner, Reporter

This winter will be the first official high school women’s wrestling season in the state of Iowa, and TSTL’s team is ready for competition.

Until around 2004, wrestling had been primarily known as a male-dominant sport worldwide, but in Athens 18 years ago, women’s wrestling made its first appearance on the Olympic stage. Not only creating an entirely new perspective to wrestling, it also began the journey of the growing sport as a whole. Last year Iowa followed this trend, sanctioning women’s wrestling across all high schools in the state.

“Nobody even thought of it as a girl sport. I’ve always been a wrestling manager, so I’ve always been around it. And just going to practices I was like, why don’t girls do this,” Brown remarked. “At practices, the managers would always be talking about wrestling, but we never had the opportunity; and I think that once the opportunity was given, everybody started to show interest. And just not having the opportunity really made it a lot more difficult.”

Last season, Brown (‘23) led the women’s team with a winning record of 13-4, with overall match points doubling the runner-up. Her teammate, Nicole Peterson (‘25), has been putting in the extra work with the men’s wrestling team throughout the summer. Not only is she a varsity cross country/track runner, but a top wrestler as well.

“Wrestling can provide an opportunity for people who aren’t necessarily drawn to other sports for just interest or ability. It’s different because it’s one-on-one, there’s a decided win and loss, and that’s just very blunt,” Peterson states. “In other sports, you always have the opportunity to beat your own goals and to challenge yourself as a competitor. But in wrestling, it’s about outsmarting, and out-competing the other wrestler in just every single way that you possibly can.”

Peterson was one of the top freshmen on City High’s team last year, her first season. She voices the unseen element of body positivity that goes along with the women’s side of the sport.

“It’s [also] really empowering that people are thinking about their bodies in such a different way; Using every muscle and everything working in harmony to achieve a very specific goal, it’s very positive,” Peterson said. “Wrestling is mentally and physically just one of the toughest sports out there. You end up growing so much, even if you don’t think you’re going to, and you make strong emotional connections and learn things about yourself. You can even grow as an athlete; it’s lots of fun.”

This past winter, Brown (‘23) and Peterson (‘26) were both coached by Ryan Ahlers (co-head coach with Jeff Keonig), who reflects on how strong, fast and unstoppable women’s wrestling is growing.

“There’s absolutely zero things about the sport that show me that women can’t handle this. Girls are physically and mentally aggressive about it, and aggression is good,” Ahlers states. “So now just being more ‘like this is something that’s going to grow and you’re not going to stop it. If you’re against it, you ain’t changing it nor should you try.’ My goal for City High little hawks is like, come give it a shot. See what it’s all about. I know we have a lot of girls that ran and they came out, and it’s like ‘hey, this is fun’. You get what you earn, you put in the work, and you’re gonna get something out of it. And I just want to see the growth. I want to see women feeling confident about their physical, mental, social, and emotional ability in sports because I think it’s a great part of life.”