Meet the Post Bulletin's inaugural All-Area Girls Wrestling Team
It was another remarkable year when it came to the growth of girls wrestling in Minnesota and these grapplers were a big reason why.
It has been fun to watch the rise of girls wrestling here in Minnesota.
Just one year after the MSHSL sanctioned its first ever girls wrestling state tournament, the sport has simply taken off, doubling in the number of female competitors in less than 12 months time.
It forced the MSHSL to expand both the section and state tournaments, effectively doubling the number of participants in both. A number of area athletes took full advantage, delivering a season to remember. With that being said, here is the first-ever Post Bulletin All-Area Girls Wrestling Team.
Diann Smith, GMLOS
The first-ever Post Bulletin Girls Wrestler of the Year, Smith collected her second consecutive second-place finish at the MSHSL state tournament. The junior won the Stewartville Darrell Jaeger invite and cruised through the Section 1-2 tournament, recording three consecutive pins to bring home a section title. She had little trouble in her first two matches at state, finishing one point shy of a tech fall in the quarters, before tallying a pin in the semis. She nearly secured the 138-pound state title but fell to Abby Ervasti of Bertha-Hewitt/Verndale/Parkers Prairie by a 3-1 decision in a tightly-contested match to finish the season with a 23-4 record. She will come back next year, hungrier than ever.
Chloe Berg, Chatfield
In her first season in the sport, Berg had quite a year to remember. The junior had watched her brother Javier over the years and figured she could do it. A longlife dancer, Berg brought those skills to the mat, displaying great balance and strength. It helped her capture the Section 1-2 title at 126 where she pinned Mackenzie Armagost to punch her ticket to state. She kept the momentum going at ‘The X’ as her and brother Javier both reached the state finals in their respective weight class. Javier won a title, while Chloe placed second after falling to nationally ranked Cassandra Gonzales of Shakopee.
McKenna Hendrickson, GMLOS
Another first year grappler, Hendrickson had grown up playing basketball and was a key piece for a Grand Meadow team that reached the Section 1A championship a year ago. But her father, a wrestling official, had always brought her along to meets. She ended up picking up a thing or two from those days, while bringing the toughness she had developed on the hardwood. The senior ran through the section, winning the 132-pound title with a 5-0 decision over Apple Valley's Andrea Quinones. She then won by fall in the state quarters and then won a thrilling match 18-15 in the semis. She battled hard in the finals, but fell to nationally-ranked and unbeaten Joel Makem of Shakopee.
Jerriona Marshall, Mayo
Marshall was relatively unknown entering this season, but that has quickly changed. The sophomore made history this year, becoming the first female from Mayo to qualify for the state tournament after securing the 235-pound Section 1-2 title. At state, she fell in the state semifinals, before recording a pin in the third place match.
Lauren Elsmore, Pine Island
One of the great ambassadors for girls wrestling, Elsmore collected her second consecutive state medal after placing third at 100 pounds. Two of her three losses came to No. 2 nationally ranked Caley Graber of Northfield. She won titles at the Cannon Falls invite — a boys tournament — as well as the Pine Island girls tournament. This is her second straight year on the PB’s all-area team after placing second in the inaugural MSHSL sanctioned girls state wrestling tournament a year ago.
Emma Hofschulte, Lake City
An important piece for helping the Lake City girls program become one of the more successful in the area, Hofschulte placed sixth at 145 at state this past year. The senior was able to rebound from a tough draw in the first round, facing off against nationally ranked and now two-time state champ Skylar Little Soldier of Hastings. She also won the Simley girls invite and finished fourth at the prominent Pine Island invite as well.
Noelle Barclay, St. Charles
The senior had one of the busiest schedules around this past winter. She worked at a childcare center in the mornings before school, while also competing in both basketball and wrestling. Barclay wasn’t able to make a return trip to state after placing third at sections. She had a tough draw in the semis, having to go up against nationally ranked and two-time state champ Ella Pagel of Northfield in the semis. She rebounded with a quick first period pin in the third place match after falling in the true second place match.
Katie Whealan, FCLMC
Whealan qualified for the state tournament after placing second at sections. She then placed fifth in St. Paul, registering a second-period pin in her first match in the consolation bracket, before recording a win by a 7-6 decision in a thriller in the fifth place match. Just a junior, expect Whealan to take a step up next year.
Ericka Hansen, Lake City
Another Lake City grappler, Hansen placed second at sections to join teammate Hofschulte in St. Paul at the state tournament. The sophomore dropped her first two matches in what was her first taste of state. One would expect her back at ‘The X’ next year.
Rachel Fode, Byron
The senior was a key part in helping build up a Byon girls squad that is the largest in the Rochester area. Fode won the Hopkins invite and placed second at the Simley invite. She didn’t make it to state because of the depth at 138 in Section 1. The aforementioned Smith won the section title, while Owatonna’s Aliah Fischer — who beat Smith for the title at the Pine Island invite — grabbed the other state-qualifying spot with a second place finish at sections. Still, Fode’s impact on the Byron girls program will be felt for years to come.
Mackenzie Armagost, GMLOS (fifth at state); Evangelene Chittanavong , John Marshall (wrestled varsity at times for the Rockets, placed third at sections); Miya Ebling, Century (third at sections, state-qualifier in 2022); Eve Goetzinger, Chatfield (third at sections); Eliana Callies , Century (fifth at sections); Hattie Mathre, Byron (third at sections).