Girls State experience just the latest success for MFL MarMac's girls wrestling program

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High school wrestlers Kadence Pape (left) and Cortney Schroeder are hoping to grow female interest in the sport at MFL MarMac. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Kadence Pape (left) became the first Bulldog to medal at this year’s girls state tournament. “It feels pretty good to set the bar for girls below me,” she said.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


MFL MarMac wrestlers Kadence Pape and Cortney Schroeder competed in the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Girls State Meet in Coralville on Jan. 22-23. Pape placed eighth in the 120-pound bracket, making her the first Bulldog to medal at Girls State.


“My number one goal this year was to place at state, so I had that in mind all season,” said Kadence. “I also really just wanted to get some tough matches in to see how I’d do against the other girls prior to state. I wanted to wrestle tough matches, not just a minute pin. I wanted to wrestle a whole six minutes.”


The sophomore started the meet off on a high note, pinning Piper Bartmess from Ames in under a minute. She said it felt good to get the first match out of the way.


“She made it so far as a freshman last year, and then lost right before getting a medal, so I could see it take its toll,” noted her dad, Brent Pape, who’s also the girls wrestling coach. “This year, it was get in and get this first one done to stop thinking about that. You’ve gotta start on a positive note.”


“When I stepped on the mat, it’s like my dad says, ‘It’s made out of the same thing as the wrestling room mats. Same thing we’ve been doing all year,’” Kadence added. “I went out there and just wrestled my match and did the best I could.”


She followed that up with a fall over Jacqueline Bunten of Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, before getting pinned by Bettendorf’s Alexys Petersen in her third match. Kadence rebounded on the back side of the bracket, though, earning three straight falls. The wins came against Chyann Bullerman-Yu of Crestwood, Charity Mickles of Woodward-Granger and Dakota Whitman of Independence.


“Once you lose twice, you’re done,” she explained, “so once I had that loss under my belt, I knew I had to kick it in gear or I was going to leave without that medal I’d worked so hard for.”


“To come back through on the back side, you really have to wrestle your tail off,” Brent said. “I think she wrestled eight matches in 24 hours. She had to beat three really good girls in order to get on the podium.”


Maintaining that momentum can be difficult. By her next match, fatigue was kicking in, and Kadence lost a 7-3 decision to Sioux City East’s Angeleena Rasmussen, putting her in the seventh-place match. There, she was pinned by Lexi Hennik from Central City, cementing the eighth-place finish.


For Cortney, a junior, last weekend was her first Girls State experience.


“I had lots of butterflies, especially when I was standing there waiting for my first match,” she recalled.


Being in an arena wasn’t as intimidating as she expected, though.


“There are eight mats, so people aren’t just watching one match, but everyone else. Center of attention—no thank you,” she joked.


Cortney lost her opening 132-pound match by fall to Alicia Nicolas of Ames, then received a bye in the second round. She was pinned by Treynor’s Lillia Williams in the following match, ending her tournament run.


“I feel like I could’ve done better, but there’s always next year,” she said. “This was my first year wrestling, and for me, it’s not about winning and losing. It’s having teammates and coaches who are supportive.”


Brent was proud of her effort.


“I give credit to anyone who goes and tries that,” he said. “There was an arena full of 450 girls who all had that goal to make the medal stand. You have to battle your way through 1A schools and 3A schools, it doesn’t matter. It makes for some very tough wrestling.”


Girls State is just the latest success for the MFL MarMac’s girls wrestling program, which has continued to grow over the past few years. The high school team started with five girls this season, although injuries whittled that down, and others are competing at both the middle school and youth levels.


The number of competitions available to female wrestlers also grew. As of last week, Kadence had wrestled 26 matches and Cortney 11. 


“We’ve traveled to Waverly, Anamosa, Elkader, Independence. Schools are getting more involved and opportunities are popping up,” shared Brent. “With the state tournament alone, the growth of the sport has gone from Waverly-Shell Rock being able to hold it comfortably to, last year, when they had 350, they saw the surge in numbers, so they held it at the Xtreme Arena this year, which was awesome.”


With Kadence, Cortney and teammate Haylee Guyer slated to come back next season, as well as the infusion of several eighth graders and some potential new recruits, Brent is excited for the possibilities.


“If I could have six girls competing in the high school room on an every week basis, that would be amazing,” he said. “It’s a sport everyone can participate in. Part of the process is not being in the room with the boys right away because they feel uncomfortable. Then, even though we do practice alongside the boys, we do have our own separate corner and we do moves differently.”


The girls, Brent quipped, will be the team’s best advocates. In fact, that’s how Cortney got involved.


“Kadence encouraged me to go out,” she said. “My dad was supportive, but my mom wasn’t quite sure about it. My dad said, ‘Maybe it can help you relieve some stress.’ And it did.”


Cortney said wrestling has also improved her migraine headaches and encouraged healthier eating and strengthened her work ethic—qualities she uses to entice other girls to join.

“I didn’t give up on myself and kept trying and kept going harder,” she said.


Kadence admitted some girls aren’t as open to wrestling because they don’t want to step outside their comfort zones, but the reward is worth it.


“The feeling of winning a match, nothing matches that. So I try to explain that to them,” she said. “And wrestling teaches you so many life lessons, and I feel like so many girls would benefit from that.”


“And just think of the great memories you get,” said Cortney.


Brent said the high school wrestlers may not fully understand the difference they’re making just by wrestling, by putting themselves out there.


“Kadence grew up in the gym, watching Felicity Taylor from South Winn. If you have someone to look up to and say, ‘They can do it. I can do it.’ It’s going to make a big difference,” he said. “The more we can get, the more role models we’ll have.”


Looking back, Kadence said that would have been helpful when she was younger. 


“I went out in kindergarten, but stopped. I feel like, if I had a friend in wrestling or another girl, I probably would’ve stuck it out throughout,” she said. “So I want to see even more younger girls—kindergartners, first graders.”


She hopes her success will inspire the next generation.


“It feels pretty good to set the bar for girls below me,” she acknowledged. “I’m sure girls are going to want to go and place higher than me, and I won’t be mad if they do. I want to see them succeed and see girls wrestling grow in our school. I hope they do chase that.”

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