Storjohann, Muller are Grundy Center's first girls state grapplers

A-P/GC’s Kayden Muller has Braelyn Meyer of North Fayette Valley in a predicament during their 130-pound consolation semi in Decorah on Friday. (Jake Ryder photo)
Jake Ryder
The Grundy Register

DECORAH – Grace Storjohann remembered well her first meeting with Anamosa’s Ava Scranton earlier this season.

It was a 12-3 major decision for Scranton at a Sumner-Fredericksburg scramble on Jan. 17, memorable for all the wrong reasons.

“She used me to mop the mat,” Storjohann said. “I spent more time trying to crawl out of the mat than actually wrestling.”

When the two met again 10 days later in the semifinals of the Region 7 120-pound bracket on Friday at Luther College, Storjohann, a freshman wrestling with Aplington-Parkersburg/Grundy Center, felt more prepared.

The result was a 5-2 decision for Storjohann, making her the first Grundy Center girl to qualify for the IGHSAU girls state wrestling tournament, which will begin its first-ever sanctioned tournament on Thursday, Feb. 2 at 9 a.m. for the first of two days at the Xtream Arena in Coralville.

“I knew I had to do a lot of different things,” Storjohann said. “I’ve been training, rewatching matches, and this time, when she pulled her moves, I was reacting before she even did them.”

Storjohann finished second at 120 pounds after a loss by fall to MFL MarMac’s Kadence Pape. Storjohann, a freshman, will go to state with A-P/GC teammate Kayden Muller, who finished third at 130 pounds, and A-P senior Lia Hovenga who qualified in fourth at 110 pounds.

It’s Storjohann’s first year as a wrestler, moving over from basketball, where she said she was “genuinely so awful.”

Instead, she looked at another conditioning-heavy sport in wrestling, which has proven to be a perfect fit for the state cross country qualifier who is also looking to make a splash this track season.

“I mean, what sport can make you more mentally and physically tougher than wrestling,” Storjohann said.

Storjohann said what may have separated her from other first-time wrestlers was her work ethic, including joining two wrestling clubs in Des Moines. Grundy Center sport performance coach Chris Conger took to Twitter to praise Storjohann, and Muller in equal measure, for their commitment in the weight room after their performances on Friday: “Both are [two] of our most accomplished and dedicated lifters this winter.”

“I really want it. And I’m willing to do things that others won’t do,” Storjohann added. “I don’t take any days off. Every day I’m doing something. … Lifting weights, running, training after school, waking up at the crack of dawn. … I’m willing to do it.”

Muller started in eighth grade wrestling against boys, and even competed in last year’s IWCOA state meet in Coralville.

But the scale of Friday’s event, just one of four super-regionals across the state, and the growth of the sport was surprising to Muller.

“It didn’t feel real walking into here and seeing all the girls here,” Muller said. “It’s insane.”

Muller pinned her way to the semifinals, but was pinned by West Delaware’s Kylee Shoop in the first period. She kept battling on the consolation side, eventually pinning Alexis Hoeft of Mason City in the opening seconds of the second period of the third-place match to punch her ticket to Coralville.

“I made sure I was eating healthy this week, keeping energy up and staying confident in myself,” Muller said. “This is such a tough sport, you have to be mentally strong.”

Hovenga earned a bye into the quarterfinals on Friday and topped Taylor Hedeman of Union by an 11-2 major decision.

With an automatic state berth on the line in the semifinals, second-seed Emma Hall of the North Central Trailblazers pinned Hovenga in the second period. But Hovenga rebounded with a pin of West Fork’s Teaghan Bird in the consolation semis, allowing Hovenga to wrestle for third.

That was a key victory, as a loss to Mason City’s Lila Sheehan was no big loss for Hovenga when Bird won the fifth-place match at 110, ensuring Hovenga’s status as true fourth place out of Region 7.

“I’m just being aggressive and knowing how to defend,” Hovenga said.

She’s seeded 23rd out of 32 girls competing at 110 pounds and will take on Nevada freshman Ashlyn Leslie in the first round.

Storjohann is seeded 14th and could see Pape again as soon as the second round of the 120-pound bracket in Coralville, if she can get past Sergeant Bluff-Luton’s Kendra Berglund in the first round.

Muller earned the 21st seed and will take on Humboldt’s Baylie Beers in the first round on Thursday at 130 pounds.

Two other A-P/GC seniors wrapped up their seasons on Friday.

Shayla Barrett finished sixth at 145 pounds with a strong finish to her inaugural season on the mat. And Ella Luebbers went 1-2 at 140 pounds to close out her first season of wrestling.

Sophomore Avery Freund finished sixth at 135 pounds after going 3-3 on the day. Freshman Ali Burkhalter gained some valuable experience after going 0-2 at 125 pounds.


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