Girls wrestling team wins team state championship

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Ty Harris, News Editor

In its second year of existence, the Baldwin High School all-girls wrestling team emerged as champions from the KSHSAA Girls Division II State Tournament in Salina. It is the second state championship for BHS wrestling and the first ever for girls.

The team had four individual placers to lead them to the title: sophomore Audrey Darnell was 3rd place in the 138 lb. weight class; senior Emma Grossoehme was 4th in the 143 lb. weight class; freshman Hayleigh Wempe was 5th in the 170 lb. weight class; and sophomore Madi Hargett was 3rd in the 235 lb. weight class.

The team’s other two state qualifiers were seniors Daniela Kozacova (155 lbs.) and Jasmine Renyer (191 lbs.).

The team came in with high hopes after winning team titles for three straight weeks at Districts, Regionals, and Sub-State. But in the first round of state, the Bulldogs went 2-4 losing some key matches. Although the tournament did not go as the team planned at first, they continued to push forward.

“I think this group of girls experienced a true taste of what adversity looks like when things don’t go as planned,” assistant coach Jesse Austin said. “The first round of wrestling did not go how any of us planned and we knew that it was going to be a tough day to get where we wanted to be.”

“Composure was 100 percent a crucial part to our success,” Grossoehme said. “The beginning of the tournament did not go as planned but we never gave up and continued to work forward. Our goals were reached because we relied on one another and trusted the process.”

When the team fell behind in the team score early, sitting in 7th place, they rallied each other to finish as high as they could on the backside of the brackets to try to bring the team back to the top.

“A key moment of turnaround was the girls rallying together, and saying we needed these backside wins for the team,” assistant coach Sarah Johnson said. “It wasn’t coming from us coaches, but the girls pulling each other aside, encouraging each other, and having those conversations to go do this for the team… even though they were out of the running for a first place win as individuals.”

At the end of the day, after all the rounds had been wrestled, Baldwin had 54.5 points to finish ahead of Pratt’s 49 points and Paola’s 46 points.

Darnell and Hargett each had pins in their 3rd place matches to put the Bulldogs out front for good.

Wrestlers on the team felt that their success can be attributed to a lot of hard work and maintaining the right mindset.

“I learned at state that if you want to win, you need to want it more than any other girl there,” Darnell said. “You can be a great wrestler, but you won’t win if you don’t work hard and don’t want it as much. Wrestling is such a mental game more than physical.”

In addition to their success all season, the team members felt the experience brought them closer together as a team.

“The chemistry our team had was amazing,” Grossoehme said. “I have never felt a stronger bond with a group of girls. We not only had tons of fun every day, but we pushed each other to be the best versions of ourselves.”“This team became a family very quickly, we all became friends and there are so many inside jokes,” Renyer said. “These girls have become some of the strongest people in my life. This team started from the very beginning together, and we won a state title together. Everything we did this season was together; we are one big family and will always be together.”

Head coach Kit Harris was named the state Coach of the Year and also became the first Kansas coach ever coach to win a boys and a girls state wrestling championship.

“I am very proud of the girls, all of them,” Harris said. “Not just the girls at state, but the entire team. They were all a part of this, everyone contributed. It was a tough season with a lot of extra practices and film sessions and weightroom sessions with Coach Austin and many had to overcome injuries. They all did that by sticking together as a team and being one. They picked each other up when needed and pushed each other every day to keep working hard. It was a very fun season coaching them all.”