ST. CLAIR, Mo. – Mikayla Whatley dominated the competition to become the first state tournament qualifier for the North County girls wrestling program.
The sophomore pinned each of her four opponents to ascend the awards podium as district champion at 121 pounds during a historic weekend for the sport across Missouri.
MSHSAA officially sanctioned a postseason for girls beginning this winter, joining 12 other states and the U.S. territory of Guam as popularity among female athletes continues to climb.
And although Whatley was the lone entrant for the Lady Raiders at the two-day event, she has solidified her place among the top contenders for the upcoming state meet in Columbia, Mo.
The same can be spoken about sophomore Kaylee Gross of Ste. Genevieve, who remained unbeaten this season while standing alongside teammate Maggie Myracle as inaugural district champs on Saturday.
The Dragons maximized a roster of five wrestlers to finish third among 38 attending schools. Lafayette (Wildwood) earned the team title while Northwest was runner-up.
Whatley improved to 23-1 overall by recording each of her falls in less than four minutes. She topped Corinne McClure of Seckman at the 2:20 mark of the title bout.
Gross received a first-round bye based on her high seed in the 152-pound division, and prevailed in just 28 seconds during her initial match.
She followed with a 16-6 major decision, and wrapped up her championship by pinning Emma Schreiber of Kirkwood late in the first period. Her record jumped to 17-0.
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Myracle (187) closed out each of her matches by fall, and downed Ryan Schlareth of Hancock at 2:30 in the finale after thriving in a three-period semifinal battle
The Dragons picked up a third state qualifier as Genevieve Nickelson (131) rebounded from a Friday loss to win three straight elimination matches in 95 seconds or less.
Sophomore Claira Wampler carried the Farmington banner as its lone representative, and secured a state berth by reaching the 143-pound district final.
She scored a fall against Etta Heller of Ste. Genevieve after facing her two nights earlier, and won twice more by decision before losing to champion Emma Cole of Lafayette by major decision.
Central brought five athletes to the tournament, and Karlee LaChance (103) collected two falls before defeating Sarah Murray of Seckman 7-0 in a third-place clash to qualify.
Senior Amber Mitchell (116) went 3-2 on the weekend, and was one victory shy of moving forward after placing fourth in a punctuating loss by fall.
Karli McFarland and Kenzie Branch were eliminated after contributing points for the Lady Rebels. Emma Johns of Ste. Genevieve met a similar fate.
All girls wrestling programs in Missouri comprise one classification, regardless of school size, until the number of participating members is large enough to mandate a separation.