'Never crossed my mind': Byron's Rachel Fode commits to Wartburg College to continue wrestling

Byron senior Rachel Fode had only wrestled for 16 months when she received a message from Wartburg College wrestling coaches. They wanted her to join their team.

Byron Wrestling
Byron wrestler Rachel Fode on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — It had been just a little more than 16 months since Rachel Fode decided to take a leap into the sport of girls wrestling, when she received a Direct Message in her Instagram account.

The message came from Wartburg College women's wrestling coach Brady Kyner, who had a question for the Byron senior: Has she ever thought about wrestling collegiality?

Fode was more than surprised. Until that day, she had never even pondered that question.

"Even doing wrestling in high school was a crazy idea to me," Fode said. "Now to do it in college? Honestly, the thought never crossed my mind, but I'm going to look into it now because he's got that idea in my head."

Yet, the more Fode thought about it, the more it made sense.


She had just started this sport that had wrongly been long considered just for males. She wasn't ready to give up on it now for a number of reasons.

"I hadn't done this for a number of years, right? So I'm not burnt out at all," Fode said. "I just feel like I have so much more left, that I just can't accept that high school would be the end of my wrestling career."

She soon made the trip to the wrestling hub of Waverly, Iowa, to check out the new program that became Iowa's first Division III women's program when first announced in October of 2021.

She loved everything about it, from the actual college itself as well as the wrestling program, which will have its first sanctioned dual meets starting next season. The Wartburg men's program is one of the best in Division III, with 14 national titles.

Guerrilla Wrestling Club
Girls wrestlers, including Rachel Fode, 17, center left, and Hattie Mathre, 14, both of Byron, work on a drill during a Guerrilla Wrestling Club meeting Wednesday, March 29, 2023, in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

"I toured the facility and it just felt right," Fode said. "I was like, yeah I'm going to do this."

Fode made it official on Wednesday, signing with the Knights to continue her wrestling career.

Fode certainly sees this as more than just an opportunity for herself.

When she first went out for wrestling after the Minnesota State High School League officially sanctioned the sport last year, Fode was one of just four girls in the Byron wrestling room. Yet, she became a valued role model for her teammates by first placing in the top four at the first-ever sanctioned section meet, paving the way for others to join the team by having success on the mat.


She soon became the captain of a room that consisted of 12 girls — Fode being the only senior. She was essential for the budding program whether that be by offering tips, advice or rides to the next generation. She happily gave a number of girls a ride home from a training session at the Guerrilla Wrestling Club on Wednesday. For her, it's all part of it as she continues to try to lead the next generation of powerful female grapplers.

"Girls wrestling empowers women," Fode said. "And I'm glad that I'm part of that group of people that may inspire younger girls to feel comfortable wrestling in a male dominated field."

The next step now is to do that at the college level.

"It's going to be a whole other experience in college," Fode said. "I'm excited for it."

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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