In Iowa we are not alone in Caitlin Clark. Decorah’s Naomi Simon became Iowa’s first high school girls wrestling four-time state title winner during Friday’s IGHSAU state championships. Details in comment!

Decorah’s Naomi Simon becomes first four-time state champion in Iowa girls wrestling history

CORALVILLE — Nearly every minute that went by during Decorah’s Naomi Simon’s historic run through the 2024 state girls wrestling championships was the same.

Iowa’s first four-time state girls wrestling champion continued along in the process that she always followed. Phone tucked away in her bag, not to be touched until the day is done. Walking and pacing, then turning to some wrestler-style movements and shot attempts in the warm-up room at Xtream Arena starting about an hour before each match to get her muscles warm.

Moments before she steps out, she says the same thing, over and over.

“You are strong enough. You can do this. Let’s go.”

After a win, it’s a brief cool-down. A slight jog around the mats and some quick movements to allow her jitters to roll out of her body following a match.

Decorah’s Naomi Simon wrestles South Tama County’s Autumn Elsbury in the 170-pound final on Friday at the state wrestling tournament in Coralville. Simon won 12-2 to become Iowa's first four-time girls state champion.

That process got Simon to 129-0, three state championships and back to the finals of the 2024 edition of the girls state wrestling tournament.

Leading into the match, that process didn’t change. No need to fix what isn’t broken. When Simon walked out onto the mat to face South Tama County’s Autumn Elsbury, she slowly paced to the center of the floor. No jog, no sprint, no motions to the crowd. She walked with a look of determination and got to wrestling.

As she always has, Simon rolled for a victory − a 12-2 major decision, her first match this season that didn’t end with a pin − and etched her name in the history books.

Then she broke from the business-like attitude and shut off her competitive switch she brings to the mat to shed tears of joy.

As she unstrapped her anklet and took off her headgear, she opened her arms to Xtream Arena and soaked in the moment. She took two laps around the mat, showing her love for the wrestling community that she has helped grow.

After taking a moment to hug family and friends, Simon made her way back to the warm-up room. Even after her final match of the high school season, Simon still went back to that routine and finished one last cool-down.

It makes sense when you understand who Simon is and how she got here. Even though much of her time on the mat and in the public eye looked easy, it wasn’t always the case. As so many in the state of Iowa experienced, she had days when she was the only girl in the wrestling room at Decorah. Boys at times didn’t want to wrestle her, so she had to spar with coaches instead. Her main mentor, Lee Fullhart, had his coaching contract terminated by the school board this season, leaving her to fill a leadership role in the room.

All those hard days and tough practices over the past few years led to this moment, which made the night that much sweeter.

“I wake up every morning, not because I have to win these tournaments, but because I truly enjoy the hard work that I get out of it,” Simon said.

As she unstrapped her anklet and took off her headgear, she opened her arms to Xtream Arena and soaked in the moment. She took two laps around the mat, showing her love for the wrestling community that she has helped grow.

After taking a moment to hug family and friends, Simon made her way back to the warm-up room. Even after her final match of the high school season, Simon still went back to that routine and finished one last cool-down.

It makes sense when you understand who Simon is and how she got here. Even though much of her time on the mat and in the public eye looked easy, it wasn’t always the case. As so many in the state of Iowa experienced, she had days when she was the only girl in the wrestling room at Decorah. Boys at times didn’t want to wrestle her, so she had to spar with coaches instead. Her main mentor, Lee Fullhart, had his coaching contract terminated by the school board this season, leaving her to fill a leadership role in the room.

All those hard days and tough practices over the past few years led to this moment, which made the night that much sweeter.

“I wake up every morning, not because I have to win these tournaments, but because I truly enjoy the hard work that I get out of it,” Simon said.

More:Live updates, results: Iowa high school girls state wrestling tournament Day 2

Prior to the tournament, Simon said it hadn’t quite sunk in yet that she was set to make history in Coralville. Speaking with reporters afterward, she was asked whether the importance of the moment had hit her yet.

“It kind of set in when I was bawling on the mat,” Simon said with some sarcasm. “But that’s OK.”

Simon completed her career with an unblemished record of 130-0, according to tournament records. She won the 145-pound weight class her freshman year (20-0). She pinned her opponent in all 25 of her matches in her sophomore season for a state title at 170 pounds before the sport was sanctioned by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. After going 37-0 last year for another title, she rolled through her senior year by pinning her opponent in 47 of 48 victories.

It was a storybook ending to the best high school career in Iowa’s short history of girls wrestling, but this was just the first chapter of Simon’s story. Not just of her story either, but the story of how Iowa girls wrestling got its start. As one of the big voices on sanctioning the sport and still fighting for equal resources for girls wrestling programs, Simon is one of the pioneers of Iowa girls wrestling. And for now, the best to ever do it.

In just a couple months, she’ll be competing for a spot in the Olympic Trials and in her first senior-level matches. Then she’ll continue her wrestling career at the University of Iowa to study human physiology.

After the warm reception she received in Wrestletown, USA, just down the road from Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Simon is ready to write the next chapter.

“Already feels like home,” Simon said.

Decorah’s Naomi Simon hugs her coach after becoming Iowa's first four-time state girls wrestling champion Friday at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

Eli McKown covers high school sports and wrestling for the Des Moines Register. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @EMcKown23.

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