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First season feelings: Girls wrestling progressing nicely

The Jamestown High School girls wrestling team is in its first year of competition this season.

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Jamestown's Alexis Erickson, right, competes against a Mandan wrestler.
Contributed / Hannah Sjostrom
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JAMESTOWN — Hannah Sjostrom obliged her father, Jon, in signing up for a second sport this winter but it wasn't exactly the sport he was expecting.

"The funny thing is my dad was really pushing me to do another sport other than soccer," Sjostrom, a Jamestown High School junior, said. "Instead of doing basketball, I signed up for wrestling just to spite him.

"Both my Mom and Dad love watching me wrestle, I would say they are one of my biggest supporters. They have yet to miss one of my matches."

Sjostrom along with her teammates Chea Baugh, Paris Eslick, Meghan Lee, Alexis Erickson, Aubrey Babcock, Marissa Fisher, Gabby Romans and Leah Torres are the eight Blue Jays who comprise the Jays' first-ever, officially sanctioned high school girls wrestling team.

"My goals this year were just to try to improve myself every week and continue to learn," Sjostrom said. "At the beginning of the season I only knew one move so I would only throw that move, and I got lucky because most people didn’t know the counter to get me back.

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"I did not grow up around wrestling. I would say my competitiveness has driven me to try to be the best me possible."

Sjostrom was on the Blue Jay basketball team in her freshman and sophomore seasons but decided to switch up the pace of her winter when wrestling became available to girls at JHS.

The North Dakota High School Activities Association announced last spring the sanctioning of the sport of girls wrestling. Twenty-four states have sanctioned the sport since 2018. North Dakota is the 30th state high school association to sanction girls wrestling.

JHS is one of 42 Class A and Class B schools that have listed girls wrestling as an official sport. While official, many of the 42 "teams" do not have complete rosters at this time.

Most recently, the Jays competed at Lisbon's Storhaug Invitational where they placed seventh out of 23 teams competing with 45 points.

Ten of the 23 teams scored zero points.

Sjostrom has tabulated a series of wins since the Jays kicked off the season in early December. Sjostrom most recently took the 190-pound title in Lisbon, as Kindred's Brooke Leedahl suffered an injury at 50 seconds. As of Jan. 25, Sjostrom is 15-2 overall.

"I don’t really have a background in wrestling, but having two other siblings really helped me cause we would fight all the time and rough house with each other," Sjostrom said.

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"I would love to do it next year," she said. "I honestly find it so much fun even though this is my first year. Now would be a great time (for others) to join, mostly everyone is on the same level."

Sjostrom added that being a part of a group of girls dedicated to developing a strong team culture is motivating for her to stay in the sport and could motivate others to try out the sport.

"Our team is pretty close with there only being eight girls," Sjostrom said. "We always try to be there for each other’s matches and cheer them on. I would say the culture is just to have fun and learn since, for most of us, this is our first year."

Baugh added:

"The team culture is so fun and goofy and we are a team of hard workers. We just wanted to have a good time and hopefully place."

Baugh, one of the Jays' standout swimmers in the fall, said she was a stat last year and watched the few girls who would wrestle boys, inspiring her to take a chance on the mat. Usually, during the winter months, Baugh said she would be working out with her personal trainer to stay in shape for track in the spring or compete with the Jamestown JAWS Swim Team.

Baugh said her fall spent in the pool prepared her for the winter season by increasing her lung capacity and keeping her active and energized.

Baugh ended up placing third in Lisbon, defeating Minot's Kylee Yetter in overtime, getting a sudden victory to win it 7-5.

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"My goals were really just to get at least one pin and win this season and I’ve done both," Baugh said. "Now I want to place more often in tournaments and win at duals."

Jamestown's next dual is slated to come on Thursday against Mandan. The team typically competes before the Blue Jay boys take the mat but there are not any official team or conference standings at this time.

The WDA qualifying tournament is slated for Feb. 11 at Jamestown High School. The Class A Tournament is slated for Feb. 17-19 at the Fargodome.

"I totally will do it next year," Baugh said enthusiastically. "It is super fun and I love the sport already.

"You have the chance to show people that girls can also do a contact sport and that it doesn’t matter how big or small you are that you can be a winner if you put your heart to it."

Related Topics: WRESTLING
Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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