November vote brings promise to Mid-Prairie wrestling

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 11/19/23

Ellie Brenneman of Mid-Prairie stood proudly one early February day at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

She had won her first match in the first state tournament for girls wrestling. More than 440 …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

November vote brings promise to Mid-Prairie wrestling


Ellie Brenneman of Mid-Prairie stood proudly one early February day at Xtream Arena in Coralville.

She had won her first match in the first state tournament for girls wrestling. More than 440 female wrestlers from 156 schools in Iowa made history that day and every seat at the arena was sold out. Remarkable.

“It was just so cool,” she said. “To actually participate in the first sanctioned girls wrestling tournament, that was such a moment for me.”

These are your tax dollars at work.

One shining moment for a teenager who has found a sport she absolutely loves.

How much does Brenneman love this sport? A senior now, a Class of 2024 member who is considering the dreams of her future, Brenneman wants to come back to help other Golden Hawks.

“One thing I know for sure,” she said, “I want to come back to Mid-Prairie and I want to be a wrestling coach. I fell in love with this sport and watching this sport grow. I mean, I’m not the most experienced right now because I’m only a senior, but I would love to come back and be a wrestling coach. Maybe some of the girls that are freshmen right now, I could maybe be back by their senior year. I think that would be really cool.”

And those are your tax dollars at work, too.

Voters in the Mid-Prairie school district passed a referendum Nov. 7 that will allow the district to use a bond issue of up to $8.7 million to finance the construction of a wrestling and multi-purpose center at Mid-Prairie High School, along with proposed parking projects at East and West Elementary.

You helped to pump some life into the dreams of Brenneman and a growing group of girls, and boys, at Mid-Prairie. Brenneman drummed up support for the vote. She wrote a letter to her local paper, this one, The News. She talked it up around town. How many high schoolers actually do that?

Ellie’s brother, Brock, was previously an assistant coach. Her sister, Bronwyn, a Mid-Prairie grad, is a nationally ranked wrestler at Iowa Central Community College in Fort Dodge.

The sport is exploding in a state that loves wrestling.

Brenneman was one of 11 female wrestlers at Mid-Prairie last year and one of five that made it to the state tournament. That number has doubled this year and Golden Hawks head coach Randy Billups thinks the girls team alone could top 30 next year.

One day last week, the team squeezed into a loft area on the second floor of the school’s indoor athletics facility to practice. Wrestlers bumped into each other as they learned and practiced maneuvers. When they’re not in the loft, they’re in a small wrestling room located next to the main high school gym, where there is room for one big wrestling mat.

The new wrestling facility will fix all that.

“We need this facility really bad,” said Billups, who has been Mid-Prairie’s wrestling coach, boys and girls, for 29 years.

“It means everything to our wrestling program,” he said. “We’ve been going here and there, everywhere. We’ve wrestled in practice in numerous different places over the years. But the last few years, as we’ve been growing, we’re just strictly running out of space. We don’t have enough space.”

The sport is also growing at the middle-school level and it could result in two head coaches, one for the boys and one for the girls, when the 2024-25 season begins.

When Ellie was in middle school, the Golden Hawks had a girls team of just four. After meeting some of them at her house, she was sold. Her older sister wrestled. And a younger sister will, also.

The season began more than two weeks ago with the start of practice. And before that, Brenneman and her teammates talked up the sport in the hallways at school. The result? A record turnout.

“I have built so much character from wrestling,” Ellie said. “It’s been just incredible.”

She hopes to wrestle collegiately at William Penn University in Oskaloosa. There’s a subtle hint, Statesmen coaches.

Or maybe at Iowa Central, where her sister is finishing up her Associate Degree this school year.

She’ll leave Mid-Prairie with a good feeling. A new wrestling facility is coming.

“I’m not going to be able to appreciate it right now,” Brenneman said, “but maybe if I come back as a wrestling coach for the girls. I can be there and experience it, which I think would be really great.”

Yes, tax dollars at work and making a difference.

News columnist Paul Bowker can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @bowkerpaul

Mid-Prairie, wrestling, Mid-Prairie bond, Ellie Brenneman, Randy Billups