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A family vacation to Washington, D.C. for Jeremie, Heather, Xander and Abbie Peterson, of Denver, included a pit stop in Greensboro, North Carolina for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Junior Olympics Wrestling Tournament.

Abbie, 8, brought home quite possibly the best souvenirs from their family vacation – four medals from the tournament.

With Abbie being the lone entrant in her 50-pound weight class, she brought home two gold medals in the freestyle and folkstyle divisions.

However, Abbie didn’t want to go home without stepping foot on the mat.

She bumped up to the 65-pound weight class, where she went up against Jayden Crotty of the Raider Nation Wrestling Club in freestyle and folkstyle. Even though Crotty won both matches against Abbie, she was still able to add two silver medals to her collection.

Abbie, a member of the Waverly Area Wrestling Club (WAWC), said wrestling an opponent who was three years older and 15 pounds heavier was a challenge.

But, her wrestling mindset helped her push through.

“I want to never give up, because I want to get better,” Abbie said.

Two people who have helped Abbie develop in her four-year wrestling career are her practice partners with the WAWC – Kambree Westendorf and Lily Cooper.

Abbie said working with those two girls has helped her improve her technique.

“They do a good job as a partner, so I learn and get better,” Abbie said.

Abbie has had three coaches in her corner this season – her dad, Jeremie, along with Dylan Wrage and Alino Djoumessi.

One of the lessons Abbie remembers most from her coaches is a move that her dad showed her.

“My dad taught me to grab their wrist and then grab above their elbow,” Abbie said. “Then, I pull them in and grab a leg or two.”

The 2018-19 wrestling season has been a successful one for Abbie, as she was crowned an Iowa/USA State Freestyle Champion on May 5.

During that tournament, Abbie defeated one of her practice partners, Westendorf, by fall in 2 minutes, while she also pinned Cadence Christensen of Southeast Polk in 1:46.

Abbie was elated that she won the state title.

“I was happy,” Abbie said. “It was unbelievable. It was good. It was my first time beating Kambree [Westendorf] and Cadence [Christensen] in freestyle.”

According to her TrackWrestling profile, Abbie wrestled in 12 tournaments this season and finished with one title, four second place finishes, three thirds, one fourth and one fifth.

After wrestling mostly boys in her first two years, Abbie was discouraged and considered giving up the sport.

However, her parents thought it would be best for Abbie to try the girls’ wrestling practices with the WAWC. It was during those sessions that Abbie’s passion for wrestling had re-ignited.

“When I started, there wasn’t any girls,” Abbie said. “It made me feel good [to wrestle girls]. I got what I wanted – to go to girls’ practices. It just made me feel happy.”

As women’s wrestling grows at a rapid rate across all divisions and states, Abbie has made numerous friends through the sport.

One of them, Hannah Michael, wrestled at Union High School in LaPorte City.

During the inaugural Iowa Wrestling Coaches & Officials Association Girls’ State Wrestling Tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock High School on Jan. 19, Michael placed fourth and has committed to the Grand View women’s wrestling program, which will begin its first season this academic year.

“She always cheers me on at my tournaments,” Abbie said.

A tenacious wrestler, Abbie has much of her grappling career in front of her.

But, one thing is for certain – she has a goal of wrestling at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World in the AAU Scholastic Duals.

“I want to go to Disneyland and wrestle,” Abbie said.

Overall, Abbie enjoys the sport of wrestling. After growing up watching her brothers Vincent, Sam and Xander on the mat, Abbie knew it was her turn to put on a singlet.

Since that revelation, Abbie has seen the impact wrestling has had on her.

“It’s fun,” Abbie said. “You get to do a lot of things that you can’t do in real life or at school. I get to let my anger out. I’m tired after I wrestle. It gets rid of my energy.”