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Lilly Luft wins third-straight girls state wrestling title

Lilly Luft wins third-straight girls state wrestling title
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City senior Lilly Luft takes down Vinton-Shellsburg freshman Chloe Sanders on way to winning a 9-0 major decision in the 130-pound championship match at the Girls Wrestling State Tournament. Luft finished the season undefeated (40-0) while claiming her third-straight state title — first sanctioned.


By John Burbridge

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CORALVILLE — For wrestlers, it’s all about the entrance music.

And perhaps there has never been a more appropriate walkout song for a wrestler than when Lilly Luft came out for the 130-pound championship match at the inaugural IGHSAU Girls Wrestling State Championships to the tune of Flo Rida’s “My House”.

One of the most celebrated female wrestlers in the state, the Charles City senior showed the near-capacity Friday night crowd at Xtreme Arena why she’s among the top-rated pound-per-pound wrestlers in the nation when she capped an undefeated 40-0 final prep season with a 9-0 major decision victory over Vinton-Shellsburg freshman Chloe Sanders.

It was Luft’s third-straight state title when including the previous two at the unsanctioned Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Girls State Tournaments in 2021 and 2022.

Luft went 5-0 during the Thursday and Friday two-day event in Coralville, winning her first two bouts by first-period falls before rolling off three-straight MD victories.

You couldn’t help but feel for Sanders, who was emotionally distraught backstage after becoming Luft’s latest victim. Yeah, the vanquished do tend to cry at the Girls State Wrestling Championships … almost as much as the boys do.

Sanders will likely someday stand the tallest on the podium in state tournaments to come as she proved to be one of Luft’s more worthy challengers.

Both wrestlers were tied at nil at the end of the first period. Luft finally got on the board with an escape from the down position early in the second period.

With nimble footwork and quick and active boxer-like hands, Luft added to her lead with a takedown in the second period.

A pair of three-point near-falls in the third period got Luft into MD territory and nearly had Sanders pinned at the end of regulation.

“It was a great way to cap off my (high school) career,” Luft said after her final prep match. “It made it worth all the work that went into it … practicing and training three times a day … having faith in myself, my family and my coaches.”

In reference to the lyrics “Welcome to My House”, Luft is in the process of becoming a part-time resident of southeast Iowa as she is to continue her career with the University of Iowa, which recently became the first “Power Five” school to incorporate an NCAA women’s wrestling program.

“You can say now I’m officially a Hawkeye,” said Luft, whose future “new house” is a chip shot away from the Xtreme Arena.

Before the championship bouts commenced, Luft was honored with the Iowa Bankers Association Student Athlete Achievement Award.

Luft has dedicated her wrestling career to the memory of her older brother, Logan, who would have likely been an outstanding high school student athlete himself if it weren’t for an ATV tragedy that took his life July 4, 2017 during the summer before his would-be freshman school year.

Logan had previously signed up to be an organ donor, and his death inspired “Luft Tuff”, a grassroots movement to encourage more people to be organ donors.

The recipient of a heart transplant made possible from Logan’s donation and her family were on hand in Coralville to cheer Lilly on in her quest to be a three-time state champion.

Luft was accompanied by four of her teammates who qualified for state by way of their top-four placings at the Super Regionals. They included seniors Morgan Maloy (145) and Elizabeth Oleson (135), junior Ava Thompson (235) and sophomore Leah Stewart (190).

All four won at least one match in their respective brackets, but were eliminated before Friday’s session for a chance at top-eight podium placement.

“I wish we could have gotten more of our girls (to wrestle on Friday),” Charles City girls wrestling head coach Robert Pittman said. “I feel bad for our seniors and I know they were disappointed. But disappointment is part of wrestling, and that’s what makes it so special when you do make it to the next round.”

Maloy, who comes from a strong wrestling family, wrestled for Charles City all four of her years in high school.

Oleson is another four-year wrestler and should get some credit for Luft’s success as the two were often sparring partners during Comet practices.

Thompson, who placed sixth and third in the heavyweight brackets at the IWCOA state tournaments, is due to be back for the Comets. So is Stewart, who nearly advanced to the quarterfinal round of her bracket but was stopped short when Independence senior Rachel Eddy advanced by way of a 4-2 ultimate tiebreaker victory.

“And this was Leah’s first year of wrestling,” Pittman said. “The girl she lost to was an experienced wrestler.”

Wrestling juggernaut Waverly-Shell Rock placed first among nearly 160 participating schools with 123 team points, 10 points ahead of runner-up East Buchanan. Charles City placed 23rd with 44 team points.

Other champions from the inaugural IGHSAU Girls Wrestling State Championships include Racoon River-Northwest freshman Katie Biscoglia (100), Union sophomore Jillian Worthen (105), Vinton-Shellsburg junior Bree Swenson (110), Riverside sophomore Molly Allen (115), Pleasant Valley freshman Abigail Meyrer (120), Prairie CR sophomore Mackenzie Childers (125), Fort Dodge senior Alexis Ross (135), Lewis Central sophomore Mahri Manz (140), Iowa Valley sophomore Emma Peach (145), Southeast Polk freshman Skylar Slade (155), Decorah junior Naomi Simon (170), Nevada sophomore Mackenzie Arends (190), and Spencer junior Olivia Huckfelt (235).

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