Edison's Nari Miller wept when she won at 152 pounds. Photo by AARON LAVINSKY, Star Tribune
There was never a question about whether Charli Raymond was going to be a wrestler. It was more about how soon she could start.
The Simley seventh-grader became Minnesota’s first state champion in girls’ wrestling when she beat Lauren Elsmore of Pine Island 10-0 in the 100-pound finals Saturday at Xcel Energy Center.
This is the first season the Minnesota State High School League has sanctioned a girls’ wrestling state tournament.
“This means a lot,” Raymond said, her comment fitting for both her individual victory and the bigger picture. “I’ve been wrestling ever since I could walk. I think I was 2.”
Simley’s Will Short has coached dozens of state champs. He said the most notable thing about Raymond’s victory is that he doesn’t see a girl when he looks at her. He sees a wrestler.
“She trains with the guys, she does all the work along with them. It was just a wrestling match. She just happens to be a girl,” Short said. “She’s a great first-time state champion.”
Miller wins, weeps
Nari Miller couldn’t help but cry after winning the girls’ 152-pound title. The Minneapolis Edison senior had just defeated New Ulm’s Elizabeth Dake 12-5 and was realizing the enormity of what she had done.
She hadn’t been strong, she said, in previous non-sanctioned state events.
“Man, it was never an easy road for me,” she said through tears. “I’ve been more successful in nationals than I have been in the state. It’s always been a dream of mine to win it.”
To become a champion in a meet of such significance was almost overwhelming, she said.
“I was so nervous. I knew I had to trust the work I put in and did so much work,” she said. “My coach told me not to look at the crowd, but I looked. There were so many people. This just feels so good.”
Siblings pull it off
After a strong start, the road to a state championship got a little bumpy as the match went on for Stillwater eighth-grader Audrey Rogotzke.
But Rogotzke simply leaned on her extensive wrestling training, much of it courtesy of her father, Perry, and pulled out a 5-2 victory at 120 pounds.
“He always says it’s not who you are or how old you are or who’s stronger,” she said. “It’s who wrestles better.”
Rogotzke’s victory, combined with older brother Ryder’s victory in the Class 3A 182-pound finals, made the Rogotzke siblings the first brother and sister champions in the state meet.
Ryder, who watched Audrey’s final intently before he took the mat, said he was more nervous for his sister than he was about his own match.
“I just had to sit there quietly, which make you more nervous,” he said. “In the first period, she got a headlock and I thought it was over. But it just kept going.”
After winning, Audrey admitted to being glad the pressure to win was off her, knowing her brother had not yet wrestled.
“It’s special because now the pressure is off me, it’s on Ryder,” she quipped. “Now, it’s his time to win.”