CENTERVILLE — In less than two years, the Indian Hills women's wrestling program has achieved so much success.
On Saturday, the Warriors finally got to showcase their skills to their fans in the program's first-ever home meet. Before doing so, a dozen returning sophomores and three coaches were awarded the spoils of their early success as the IHCC grapplers were awarded their junior college national championship rings before taking the mat for the first time inside the Multipurpose Center on the school's Centerville campus.
On a historic day for the top-ranked Indian Hills women's wrestling program, the Warriors swept all three of its dual opponents. Indian Hills defeated Iowa Western 36-9, Hastings 35-13 and Chadron State 34-12 moments after receiving the rings signifying the amazing success the program achieved last year in its first year of competition.
"You try to stay in the moment so often in life," IHCC head wrestling coach Cole Spree. "To have that opportunity to think about and reflect on everything we went through last year. Between the challenges of dealing with COVID-19 and the challenges of being a first-year program with so many girls learning the new rules of freestyle, it was an awesome moment to share with so many people."
Spree, current IHCC assistant coach Jordan Roths and former IHCC assistant coach Alijah Jeffery received their championship rings as did returning wrestlers Ginamarie Ayala, Annalease Barraza, Chloe Clemons, Kari German, Heaven-Leigh Jackson, Alondra Rosado Martinez, Jamesa Robinson, Sofia Rubio, Celeste Tellez, Angelique Torres, Mya Turnmire and Brittney Zenteno. Jeffrey, now in his first year as head coach of Chadron State, is looking to build his own successful program at the Nebraska school bringing six wrestlers to compete in a dual for the first time.
"They officially hired him two weeks before school started. That gave him two weeks to put a team together, so to put a team of six girls in that short amount of time is incredible," Spree said of Jeffrey. "He's got three more girls transferring in at semester.
"He's going to be one of the best coaches in the business. There's a reason we had the success we had as a program last year. It wasn't just Cole Spree. Alijah Jeffery committed to the women's side, put a lot of time into recruiting the wrestlers and helped make those girls better wrestlers. It was awesome having him here to share the moment with us."
The skill of the wrestlers that have made Indian Hills the No. 1 team in the country, according to Team USA Wrestling, was on display right from the start. Kennedy Shropshire got the honor of being the first Warrior female wrestler to compete in a match at home, pinning Loreli Wydra in 2:33, the first of three straight falls scored by IHCC wrestlers.
"I feel like, if I remembered that I was the first wrestler to compete, it might have put a little bit more pressure to kind of set the tone for the dual," said Shropshire, currently the nation's second-ranked 109-pound wrestler. "It felt good to be the first wrestler to represent the program at home."
Celeste Tellez, ranked sixth in the nation, scored a fall at 2:40 in the 143-pound weight class over Brianna Membreno. Alonda Martinez added a 14-1 tech fall in 4:20 over Abbie Ahrens at 136 pounds.
Jamesa Robinson, ranked second in the 116-pound weight class, won by fall at 1:47 over Callista Watebly. At 123 pounds, nationally top-ranked defending 116-pound national champion Heaven-Leigh Jackson was victorious with a pin at 3:33 over Rodneisa Smith-Carter.
"I'm so happy I got to be a part of this," Jackson said. "When I finally saw that national championship ring, it was quite a feeling. I worked hard to earn it. It shows me how far I've come from where I started at. It's been a long path. I've come so far."
Shropshire scored her second fall at 109 pounds over Tiana Savino as Indian Hills against jumped out to a commanding lead against Hastings. Martinez earned tech fall against Tabitha Wood, clinching a 12-2 win with 80 seconds left in the 136-pound match, while Ginamarie Ayala scored a tech fall with a 10-0 win in 2:27 over Mary Jane Barley at 155 pounds.
Lynexa Adams, ranked sixth in the 155-pound weight class, turned an early 3-0 deficit into a fall at the end of the first period against Aaliya Fisher wrestling up at 170 pounds for IHCC's final win against Hastings. Tellez scored an 11-0 tech fall in the final minute of a 143-pound match with Kastin Hollen of Chadron State while eighth-ranked Muscatine freshman Malia Cook scored a fall in 42 seconds against Jeslyn Jindra at 155 pounds.
"What I really like about the day was it gave a lot of girls the opportunity to compete," Spree said. "We were able to get about 16 or 17 girls out on the mat to wrestle. There were some solid performances.
"We look at every chance we get to compete as a chance to get better. The girls will learn from the mistakes we're making. We've got to get better if we want to repeat what we accomplished last year."
Brittany Zenteno finished out the day for Indian Hills (4-0) by securing a 10-0 tech fall in 3:40 at 170 pounds over Kamila Montenegro. The Warriors will next compete in the program's second-ever home dual on Tuesday, Jan. 11, against Central Methodist starting at 7 p.m.
"We always come out and dominate. That's what we did here," Jackson said. "Last year was like a path with three trails. You can go the right way or the wrong way. You never knew where it was going to end.
"So far, we've chosen the right path to follow."