6 wrestlers to watch at this year's Section 1-2 girls wrestling tournament

The girls wrestling postseason — one that has been recently expanded — kicks off on Saturday at Hastings High School.

Pine Island's Lauren Elsmore wrestles Simley's Charli Raymond in a 100-pound Girls Individual Championship match Saturday, March 5, 2022, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The high school wrestling postseason begins Saturday.

For girls wrestlers in southeastern Minnesota, the second Minnesota State High School League-sanctioned section tournament starts Saturday. It will have a different look after the League's board voted to expand the section and state tournaments just last month.

The decision essentially doubles the number of participants for both tournaments.

The sport of girls wrestling has taken off around the country, but especially in Minnesota the last couple of years. The latest evidence comes in the forms of a larger postseason.

Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4 will once again hold their tournaments at Hastings High School. Last year, wrestlers from all four of those sections competed in one tournament for a chance to advance to state. This year, wrestlers from Sections 1 and 2 will go head-to-head to earn trips to state, and wrestlers from Sections 3 and 4 will compete in a separate tournament with state-meet berths on the line.

Here are some wrestlers to keep an eye on in the Section 1-2 meet:


Lauren Elsmore, Pine Island

The first-ever state runner-up at 100 pounds, Elsmore is having another terrific season. She is 12-0 this year, most recently winning the Pine Island girls tournament, collecting pins over three ranked wrestlers along the way. The title pairs well with the championship she won at the Cannon Falls boys invitational earlier this season.

Former Lake City standout grappler Jason Elsmore did not want his daughter Lauren to wrestle, but the feisty Pine Island freshman has never been one to back down from any challenge.

Elsmore is the No. 2 ranked 100-pounder in the Jan. 26 poll. No. 1 is Northfield freshman and Section 1 competitor Caley Graber, though it is assumed that Graber will compete in the boys section tournament. She is 11-4 wrestling at 106 for the Raiders' boys team. Regardless, Elsmore has to be considered a favorite for not only a section title and — with reigning 100-pound state champion Charli Raymond bumping up to 107 pounds this year — a favorite for a state title.

Diann Smith, GMLOS

Another wrestler from southeastern Minnesota who made history last year, the junior was the state runner-up at 138 pounds and has kept her momentum going this season. She was impressive in winning all of her matches at the The Clash National Duals in La Crosse last month, helping GMLOS place sixth as a team. She placed fourth individually as well, before winning a title at the Stewartville Darrell Jaeger Invitational a week later. Smith is 19-5 and ranked No. 3 at 138, but will be in a battle in a tough section. Owatonna seventh-grader Aliah Fisher knocked off Smith in the final at the Pine Island tournament and Byron's Rachel Fode is also ranked.

Noelle Barclay, St. Charles

The St. Charles senior is once again doing her best to navigate two sports this winter. She is a contributor for an improving Saints basketball team and is also the No. 6-ranked 165-pounder on the wrestling mat. Barclay placed second to Northfield's Ella Pagel at the section meet a year ago and will be pushed in a loaded weight class this year. She is one of five from the section who are ranked, joining Apple Valley freshman Esperanza Calvillo (No. 3), New Prague freshman Lily Gregory (No. 7), Byron freshman Naomi Carillo (No. 8) and Chatfield senior Marley Harris (No. 9). That doesn't include Century sophomore Eliana Callies, who could be a contender for a state-meet berth, too.

St. Charles senior Noelle Barclay is a contributor for the Saints on the hardwood and the wrestling mat.

Ella Pagel, Northfield

The reigning 165-pound state champion is viewed not only as the top 185-pounder in Minnesota, but one of the best wrestlers in the country. In the latest national rankings developed by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, USA Wrestling and FloWrestling, the sophomore was ranked pound-for-pound as the 14th-best female wrestler in the country. She has been wrestling against boys this season but is expected to make a run at a second consecutive girls state title.

Rachel Fode, Byron

Fode is ranked as the fifth-best 138-pounder in the state by The Guillotine. She won a pair of titles at invitationals in Lakeville and Hopkins in December. She most recently placed second at the Simley Invitational and appears primed to build on her fourth-place finish at sections last year.

More than 260 girls competed at the second annual girls-only tournament in Pine Island on Saturday -- one not many will forget anytime soon.


McKenna Hendrickson, GMLOS

At No. 6, the senior is one of three ranked wrestlers from a GMLOS squad that is ranked No. 5 as a team — top in Section 1. Hendrickson placed third at The Clash where she was in the same bracket as three-time Iowa state champion Lilly Luft of Charles City, who placed first. Hendrickson was stellar at the Bi-State Classic in La Crosse as well, winning all three of her matches. Chatfield freshman Eve Goetzinger is another one at 132 who is wrestling well.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at
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