Two wrestlers, two different paths, two hard-earned, herstory-making state championships on the mat.
Sophomores Grace Alagbo of Apple Valley High School and Riley Myers of Eastview High School are paving the way for female wrestling in Minnesota and they wasted no time setting the tone at the first-ever Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) girls ‘state wrestling tournament in March. Grace and Riley both pinned opponents in their championship matches to win state titles in the 145- and 138-pound weight classes, respectively.
“I feel like it’s one of those things that you don’t realize you really did it until it’s over,” Grace said. “I’m so grateful to be able to give back to everyone who has dedicated their time into who is now a state champion.”
At first, wrestling wasn’t a sport she even considered. Grace was already busy breaking barriers as a linebacker on the Apple Valley High School football team. After some convincing from her speed and strength coach and football teammates, she decided to give wrestling another look. Just three short months later, Grace was stepping onto the mat at the 2022 state tournament.
“I’ve been honoring my skills and not letting my ego get the best of me,” Grace said, “… there will always be things to improve on.”
Riley’s interest in wrestling began at a young age, alongside her brother Logan, who also wrestles for Eastview. Riley’s father, Loren, was also a high school wrestler. As her skills and confidence grew, Riley starting going to wrestling camps, spent summers training and is a familiar face at the Minnesota (Storm) Training Center for USA wrestlers in Eagan.
“This whole experience has been a mix of emotions, but mostly just exciting and happy,” Riley said. “I think this is going to be a turning point for me to grow even more.”
Grace and Riley were among the 46 wrestlers who entered the inaugural girls’ individual state tournament. They were also joined at state by teammates Hanah Schuster, a freshman at Apple Valley, and Elsie Olson, a freshman at Eastview.
During its annual meeting in May 2021, the MSHSL Board of Directors voted to approve a girls’ wrestling postseason. The amendment opened the door for girls to train and compete with boys’ teams during the regular season and have the option of competing in girls-only individual section and state tournaments.
“The more I think about all of this, the more exciting it gets,” Riley said. “Knowing that we are part of history and part of when girls wrestling was starting to grow is really cool. And hopefully more girls become interested.”
According to the MSHSL, more than 150 girls participated in Minnesota during the 2019-20 season, and nationally there are more than 21,000 female wrestlers competing. The MSHSL is the 32nd high school association in the country to offer a girls’ wrestling program.
“I know that this is only the beginning for our girls’ wrestling programs and I’m excited to see the many more that will come after me,” Grace said.
(Photos provided by David Peterson, Minnesota/USA Wrestling)