MFL MarMac girls wrestlers ready to ‘win the day’ in first sanctioned season

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The MFL MarMac middle and high school girls wrestling teams include (front, left to right) high school participants Danica Friedlein, Amelya Weigand, Kadence Pape, Mackenzie Bachman, Melody Grimm and Audrey Ruff, and middle school manager Desirae Kugel; (back) coach Brent Pape and middle school participants Charlotte Koether, Kaylee King, Harmony Grimm, Kennedy Bachman, Brooke Donlon, Emma Niedziejko and Ashlyn Blake. Not pictured is middle school wrestler Jade Cross. (Photo by Audrey Posten)

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register


Six high school athletes are participating in the first season of sanctioned girls wrestling at MFL MarMac. 


The team includes returners Kadence Pape, Mackenzie Bachman and Audrey Ruff as well as newcomers Amelya Weigand, Melody Grimm and Danica Friedlein.


It’s exciting for Pape, a senior and two-time state place winner. She’s wrestled since middle school, when she rarely got to compete against other girls.


“Then, I went to some tournaments on the weekends and saw some partial girl tournaments and I was like, ‘This could really be something, where the girls are separate from the boys.’ We’re proud to be here as a team, and not just a couple girls in the corner,” Pape said. “We’ve done a lot of recruiting and trying to get our names out there and make an impact on the program.”


“I like that everyone considers it an actual sport and are starting to appreciate us girls for doing this,” added Bachman, who’s the daughter of long-time MFL MarMac wrestling coach Chet Bachman. She feels her participation in the sport has brought the two closer.


“Sometimes, I will get home from practice and my dad and I will be in the living room and he’ll be doing some moves on me. I feel like we’ve bonded more, and I like that we can share the same sport and same memories together,” she added. “He always encourages me to do my best. I love that I can get that support.”


Pape’s father, Brent, is the coach of the girls team and a long-time proponent of sanctioning girls wrestling. He’s happy, not only as a father but as a coach, to have equality in females wrestling females. 


“I’m super excited for these girls to get an opportunity in another sport. They’re battlers just as much as the boys are. If they find a love in it, I hope they take out of wrestling what we all took out of it on the male side of it,” he shared.


According to B. Pape, the high school schedule will include a lot of tournaments—a purposeful move due to the team’s size. He wasn’t interested in co-oping with another district, though.


“No matter how many athletes I had, I didn’t want to have them battling for 14 spots. We want to get every girl every match we can. That’s why you don’t see a lot of duals for us this year,” he explained.


The girls are allowed 15 competition dates and unlimited scrimmages, meaning the team can join another school for practice without being penalized. Along with tournaments, B. Pape said the girls will piggy back off some of the MFL MarMac boys meets too. 


“I want the girls to be able to wrestle in front of their own crowd,” he stated. “That will come as more of a pop up.”


B. Pape would like the Bulldogs to host their own girls tournament, but he’s waiting for the dust to settle on the inaugural sanctioned season.


“As all this news came out, there were a ton of tournaments that all of a sudden switched. I didn’t want to flood the area,” he said. “I’m waiting to see what our date is.”


A couple weeks into the season, B. Pape is proud of the effort and commitment so far. Compared to coaching boys, he said the ladies catch on quicker.


“And the girls have a maturity level that’s a bit different. When they come in, they mean business. They want to learn,” he added.


For K. Pape, she’s excited for one more opportunity to compete—and place again—at state. She expects competition to be similar.


“There’s going to be a lot of new girls, so I think it’s a good opportunity for more experienced girls and also newer girls to get some of those matches,” she said. “I have high hopes and am going to put in the work throughout the season.”


“In this sport, you get what you earn,” noted B. Pape. “If her focus this year is building the program, I hope she earns that and gets the respect of the girls. On the other hand, if she has aspirations to wrestle further, a nice showing down at state would be good too.”


Bachman and Ruff also participated at state a season ago. But a regional qualifier will make all wrestlers work for a spot in the tournament this time around.


“I feel pretty good about this season. Having a regional qualifier to get to the state tournament will be different and new, and I’m hoping to get to state,” Bachman said.


B. Pape said Bachman’s work ethic will help her reach that goal.


“She wants to come in and learn every single night and get better. She wants to go hard. She knows that’s what it takes to get to the top,” he remarked. “I think she’s going to catch a lot of people off guard.”


For Ruff, the requirement to qualify motivates her. She’s also looking forward to bonding with her teammates.


“When you’re wrestling other girls, it is so much more fun. You can have the connection as a team,” she said. “I believe this is going to be a fantastic group of girls this year.”


For MFL MarMac’s three returners, Weigand and Grimm were encouraged by B. Pape to join the team.


“I came to a few practices, and I think it’s fun. I plan to stick with it,” Weigand said. So far, her eyes have opened to the amount of technique involved. “I feel, when you look at it and don’t know what it is, it’s just a lot of people shoving each other around, but it takes a lot of strength and work and technique.”


Weigand’s stature will make her a difficult opponent, according to B. Pape.


“She’s a long, lanky girl and will probably be wrestling at 115 pounds this year. That is going to be tough to manage for some of those smaller, 115-pound girls,” he said.


B. Pape called Grimm, a freshman, a superstar in the middle school Bigger Faster Stronger class he taught. That will translate well to wrestling.


“She’s very coachable and super strong and athletic,” he said.


Friedlein has wrestled since middle school. Early on, it helped her through a rough time in school.


“It kind of just dug me out. It was a happy spark for me, and I was able to find something,” she said. “I think it will be nice to have an all-girls wrestling team.” 


B. Pape said Friedlein has come a long way since she started.


“Now, she knows some stuff and is a little dangerous,” he quipped.


The motto, said the coach, is always to “win the day.”


“Get in and be able to battle and get better each and every day,” B. Pape reflected.


Excitement hasn’t just mounted for girls wrestling at the high school level, though. Eight middle school girls are currently participating in the sport, and B. Pape estimated another 15 to 20 girls are in the youth program.


“I think there are a lot of girls who see us older girls or middle school girls doing it. And when their friend sees them doing it, they’re going to do it,” Bachman said. “My sister started doing it this year because I’ve been doing it now. She’s loving it.”


As the elder stateswoman, K. Pape hopes she’s encouraged girls to join the team and that they, in turn, will continue to grow numbers. 


“Our high school program isn’t huge right now, but hopefully in the years to come it will be pretty big,” she said.


The seventh and eighth graders are competing on nine dates this season, all of which will be completed by Christmas. Participants include Brooke Donlon, Kennedy Bachman, Kaylee King, Charlotte Koether, Emma Niedziejko, Ashlyn Blake and Harmony Grimm. They were all inspired to join for a variety of reasons. 


Bachman was encouraged by her sister and Donlon was, in turn, encouraged by Bachman. Grimm was also pushed by friends, and Koether and Niedziejko simply thought it looked fun. 


“I’ve always wanted to join, but my parents wouldn’t let me if I had to wrestle a guy,” Niedziejko said. “It’s been hard work, but it’s worth it in the end.”


King’s inspiration was her brother. While at his meets, she envisioned herself on the mat.


“I was like, ‘Wow, I want to do that when I get older,’” she recalled.


Blake looks up to the Iowa Hawkeyes women’s wrestling team. She sees the sport’s popularity continuing to grow now that girls can wrestle their own gender. 


“It might give more opportunities,” she said, “and it can also show how strong girls are.”


— — —


Bachman leads Bulldogs at Decorah Girls Tourney


The MFL MarMac girls wrestling team kicked off its 2022-2023 season on Nov. 19, at the Decorah High School Fall Girls’ Tourney.


Sophomore Mackenzie Bachman placed first at 140 pounds, after winning all three of her matches that day, including a 6-1 decision over Osage’s Katelynn Huebsch for first place.


Senior Kadence Pape took second in the 120A bracket, earning a pin in the semifinals before losing by fall in a nearly six-minute match against Hope Chiattello from Cedar Falls.


At 125 pounds, freshman Melody Grimm began the tournament with a fall, but lost her final three matches to finish sixth.


Sophomore Audrey Ruff started the day with a decision loss in the 155B bracket, but rebounded with two consolation round victories, including a fall and a medical forfeit. Ruff later lost the third round consolation match, but edged Postville’s Evelyn Martinez 5-4 in the seventh place bout.


Freshman Danica Friedlein, wrestling at 145, lost two hard-fought matches by fall and did not place in the tournament.


The Bulldogs continue their season Nov. 22, at the Cascade Girls Invitational. They’ll next wrestle at Central on Monday, Nov. 28.

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