The Holden high school girls wrestling team is scheduled to begin the upcoming season with a tournament at Versailles High School on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
This year’s Lady Eagles team is composed of 11 wrestlers, and is led by a core group of proven upperclass wrestlers who are joined by a group of determined freshmen entering the varsity program which has seen steady growth over recent past seasons.
“We will have a senior dominant team this year,” says Holden girls wrestling head coach Ron Franklin. “We have two juniors, and four freshmen that complete the team.
“The wrestling experience in the room this year is far better than it has ever been. For the most part, all these girls have been able to battle in high leverage wrestling situations, and have learned from it. Their experience is a great asset to have in the room.”
Coach Franklin enters his second season as the head coach of the Lady Eagles wrestling team, and his third season with the Holden wrestling program. He is joined by assistant coach Emily Purnell in her first season with the team.
“We were able to add a female to the staff to help with the girls. Emily Purnell is helping with the team on all levels. It is nice to have a coach who is able to share the female perspective with an old codger like myself. Ms. Purnell is a volleyball coach who is expanding her expertise into the sport of wrestling. I appreciate her perspective, and ability to adapt to the sport.”
The growth of the Holden girls wrestling team over the past three seasons feeds into this season as the roster size has grown from then-freshman Tasia Lee representing the lone Lady Eagle wrestler three seasons ago. The team grew to five members two seasons ago, and upped the number of wrestlers to nine entering last year’s schedule.
Returning seniors Lee, Aubree Castaneda, Jordan Sylvester, and Alex VanHooser are joined by senior newcomer Lilly Guinn this year.
Charlie Gregg and MaReya May both return this year for their junior season.
Incoming freshmen this season include Haley Brooks, Macey Greene, Adasyn Yoder, and Jessica Felder. All of them bring past wrestling experience to the team.
“The biggest highlight of the season was the overall growth of all the girls in the program,” says coach Franklin of last year’s squad. “Charlie qualifying for state is the highlight that everyone can identify with.”
Lee enters this season as the girls program’s first-ever all-conference medalist after wrestling to a second-place finish at the inaugural MRVC Girls Wrestling Tournament during the 2019-20 season when she was a freshman. She became the first girls all-district wrestler from Holden in her sophomore year. She backed that up by winning the sectional championship in the 137-pound weight class that season to become the first state qualifier from Holden.
Lee was hampered by a preseason surgery last year. She returned late in the season to collect a win at the district meet.
“Tasia Lee is the only four-year Holden girls wrestler,” notes coach Franklin. “She was a state qualifier as a sophomore.”
Gregg qualified for the state championships last season as a sophomore, and returns this year with all-conference and all-district placings under her belt from last year.
Sylvester and VanHooser are returning conference medalists. Castaneda is a returning letter winner, and a three-year team member.
Incoming freshmen Brooks, Greene, Yoder, and Felder are likely to make both an immediate, as well as a lasting impact on the Lady Eagles team.
“The freshmen have been wrestling for a couple of years now, and enter the season with a lot more experience than Tasia had four years ago,” says coach Franklin. “I have high hopes and expectations for this group, and they will lead us to future success in the Holden girls wrestling program.”
The depth of this year’s roster allows leadership to emerge from all levels on this year’s team.
“The room is full of leaders, young and old,” says coach Franklin. “Aubree and Tasia assume most of the visual leadership. But the goal setting, and team and individual accountability make all the girls assume some form of leadership on the team.”
Of note this season, Missouri State High School Activities Association has divided high school girls wrestling into two classes for the first time since MSHSAA began girls-only state sanctioned events in the 2018 season.
Coach Franklin sees the division of classes as a key this season.
“The biggest factor is the state is dividing the girls into two classes,” says the head coach. “This equalizes the opportunities for postseason success to that of the boys. It makes it a more realistic goal for the girls to have postseason aspirations.”
The Missouri River Valley Conference-East outlook is bright for the Lady Eagles as they look to measure up against all teams, including traditional favorite Knob Noster.
“We have never gotten past Knob Noster, so I think they are the team to beat until we beat them,” says coach Franklin. “I honestly believe that we can compete with any team out there.”
The outlook for this year’s team, and the continued success of the Lady Eagles wrestling program stands on a solid base with continued construction in progress.
“Our wrestling experience will be beneficial to our team,” says coach Franklin. “We have two state qualifiers on the roster, and another that is knocking on the door. Two of the freshmen were in the state finals in kids’ state as eighth graders.
“The biggest excitement is the girls themselves. The fact that they have taken on the sport, and are competing on an equal level to the boys. We should fill out 10 of 14 weight classes, and have experience at all levels. This is exciting to put Holden Lady Eagles wrestling on the map,” says coach Franklin. “These girls will write the record book for the Holden Lady Eagles wrestling team.”
As noted, the Lady Eagles begin this season at a tournament at Versailles High School on Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The first home meet for the Lady Eagles is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8, when Holden hosts Sherwood for boys and girls dual meets at 5 p.m.