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For the first time ever, the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) hosted a girl’s state wrestling tournament. Mylei Henderson and Alexis Partida, a freshman and a sophomore respectively at West Liberty High School (WLHS), participated as two of the 100 or so girls competing in this groundbreaking event.
Ian Alke, the head wrestling coach at WLHS shared that Partida joined the wrestling team last season as a way to boost her self-confidence. Henderson, inspired by her older brother who wrestled at WLHS several years ago, decided she wanted to try wrestling for herself and joined the team this year. Henderson and Partida attended practices each day alongside the boys in wrestling and wrestled in a number of boys wrestling meets. Because the Iowa High School Sports Association (IHSSA) now has just shy of 200 girls wrestling at the high school level, they introduced several girls only brackets at some of their tournaments for the first time this year. Henderson and Partida had the opportunity to compete in two of these competitions. Through these meets and the co-ed competitions they attended, Henderson and Partida gained the experience they needed to go to the IWCOA Girls State Tournament.
The IWCOA Girls State Tournament took place at Waverly-Shell Rock High School in Waverly, Iowa, on Saturday, January 19th. In the 138-pound weight class, Henderson lost her first match to the girl who became the state champion but went on to win her following two matches to earn fifth place. Partida fought valiantly against her opponents, but after losing two difficult matches she did not place in the 106-pound weight division.
Regardless of their standings, both girls had an excellent experience at the IWCOA Girls State Tournament. Henderson shared, “It was a once in a lifetime and history making experience. It boosted my confidence and taught me how to be mentally tough.” Partida seconded her thoughts, adding, “It was a really great experience and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it.”
Alke also felt pleased with how both wrestlers did, and looks forward to using their experiences to help encourage more girls to join the WLHS wrestling program. He stated he, “couldn’t be more proud of these girls. . . . They [worked] as hard, if not harder than the boys and never once complained. They are great kids and represent West Liberty in the highest regard. They both are role models for the younger girls [in] wrestling. I truly believe in a few years our participation numbers in girls wrestling will grow and we will look back to these two girls as trailblazers!” As the girls wrap up their groundbreaking season, they will certainly serve as an inspiration, both to girls interested in wrestling and to anyone ready to push their limits and prove what they can do.

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