Redhawk wrestler Briar Blake opens season with a bang and an upset

Local teams compete at STC Girls Wrestling Invite

North Tama wrestler Briar Blake, center, has her fist raised by the referee in the STC Roundhouse last week Thursday after pinning Abigail Hatcher of Grinnell in 40 seconds for her first round win. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

TAMA – Last Thursday was an exciting night for many girls wrestlers as they took to the mats for the first time this season including Redhawk junior wrestler Briar Blake who in a huge upset took down a top-5 ranked, 2022-23 state qualifier for the 170 pound championship at the STC Girls Wrestling Invite held in the Roundhouse.

“Briar has been waiting to get on the mat since last season and then to get a win like that over a girl that was a placewinner at the state tournament was a great comeback for her,” North Tama head coach Andrew Knaack said of Blake who was back after suffering a season-ending injury in October last year.

Close to 200 wrestlers from 18 teams took to the Roundhouse’s four mats during the tournament Thursday evening including North Tama and Union-GR.

While the Redhawks are fielding six wrestlers this season, Union – which entered into a sharing agreement with Gladbrook-Reinbeck – is fielding 11.

“It was a good start to the season. The girls competed all night hard,” Knaack said. “Everyone found out what they need to work on.”


Over the course of the night, Blake went 4-0, quickly pinning wrestlers from Grinnell, BCLUW-South Hardin, and Iowa Valley (all in 40 seconds or less) before pinning No. 4 Autumn Elsbury of South Tama in the final.

Elsbury, who placed fourth at state last season, was favored heading into the championship match with Blake. Blake defeated her by fall in 1:29 for the title.

Blake’s teammates Grace Dvorak (110 pounds) and Addy Hochstetler (140 pounds) also notched stellar season-opener nights in the Roundhouse, finishing fourth and fifth in their brackets, respectively.

After a bye in the first round, Dvorak pinned Madison Ibeling of AGWSR in 39 seconds in the quarterfinal before being pinned herself in the semifinal by Tess Richards of Solon. Dvorak then won by decision (7-1) over Vinton-Shellsburg’s Paige Clemensen.

In the third-place match, Dvorak fell to Emily Pence of Solon.

Redhawk wrestler Briar Blake pictured during her quarterfinal match with BCLUW-South Hardin wrestler Kailan McEwen during the STC Girls Wrestling Invite last Thursday. Blake pinned McEwen in 38 seconds for her second win of the evening. She would go on to pin two more wrestlers including No. 4 Autumn Elsbury of STC for the tournament title. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Hochstetler, a sophomore, came out blazing in the first round, pinning Tara Crowley of Center Point-Urbana in 1:48. She won her second match as well, pinning Greer Egerton of BGM in 1:13.

In the semifinals, Hochstetler faced Autumn Elsbury’s older sister, 2022-23 state champion Maeley Elsbury of STC — currently ranked No. 1 at 135 pounds by IAWrestle — who pinned Hochstetler in 1:14.

Hochstetler lost by fall to Abigail O’Rear of West Delaware in her fourth match before beating Meika Neal of Mount Vernon by decision (8-5) for fifth place.

In addition to Blake, Dvorak, and Hochstetler, North Tama also had two freshmen on the mats Thursday evening — Olivia Youngblut at 115 pounds and Faith Dvorak at 135 pounds. Both wrestlers went 1-2 in the Roundhouse with Youngblut’s win coming from a second round bye, and Faith Dvorak’s win from a second round pin of Grinnell’s Alyssa Kreige in 1:44. Dvorak was injured in the third round.

North Tama’s Ava Monat was absent from the STC Invite.

Knights wrestler Xandra Anderson, top, looks for a way to turn Kendyll Rave of West Delaware during their second-round consolation match at the South Tama Girls Invitational on Nov. 16 in Tama. Anderson eventually pinned Rave in a time of 5 minutes, 45 seconds. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Union-GR wrestlers also saw success in the Roundhouse with Josie Bergmeier taking second place at 135 pounds, Xandra Anderson taking fourth place at 235 pounds, and Jasmine Bassett taking seventh at 110 pounds.

Union’s reigning state champion Jillian ‘Monster’ Worthen was not wrestling Thursday night.

New season continues

Both the Redhawks roster and coaching staff have doubled this season from last year’s inaugural season, with Knaack adding to his staff North Tama Class of 2023 graduate Jade Rausch. Rausch wrestled for Knaack last year in her rookie season.

“Jade and Madonna [Merchant] are both helping with the girls. I am still listed as the head coach for both boys and girls. I really enjoy coaching both. They both have things I enjoy.

Junior Briar Blake smiles while taking off her headgear after pinning BCLUW-South Hardin wrestler Kailan McEwen in the 170 pounds quarterfinal match during the STC Girls Wrestling Invite held in Tama last Thursday. Blake, who is unranked currently, would later take first place in her bracket by beating 2022-23 state qualifier Autumn Elsbury of STC. Blake saw her rookie season end early last year due to an injury she sustained in October. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

“At the end of the day it is wrestling and I love the sport and being part of it. Really all the coaches help both boys and girls. As long as we can manage it we do it that way.”

Over the weekend, North Tama traveled to Brooklyn for the BGM Girls Tournament where the team improved and then some with the Redhawks finishing seventh out of 16 teams. Both Blake and Hochstetler took first place in their respective brackets.

In addition, Faith Dvorak took third, while Grace Dvorak and Yougblut both placed seventh in their brackets.

And in what is quickly becoming a habit for Blake, she ended the long day with another bang by being voted Outstanding Wrestler of the Tournament.

Also on Saturday, Union-GR wrestlers traveled to their second tournament of the season – competing at the Independence Girls Invitational.

North Tama’s Addison Hochstetler, top, works her way toward a fifth-place finish in the 140-pound bracket at the South Tama Girls Invitational. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Xandra Anderson placed the highest for the Knights in seventh at 235 pounds, going 4-2 which included a final win by fall over North Scott’s Addison Frere in 3:35.

Union-GR is next set to see action on Nov. 28 in Elkader for the Girls Central Scramble, while the Redhawks will again take to the mats – and be at full strength with Ava Monat returning – following the Thanksgiving holiday on Saturday, Nov. 25 for the Belle Plaine Girls Wrestling Tournament.

North Tama head coach Andrew Knaack yells encouragement to his wrestler Addison Hochstetler during an early match at the STC Girls Invite last week Thursday in the Roundhouse. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER