Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a proclamation Wednesday declaring the date to be the “University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling Day” during Hawkeye Caucus Day at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

DES MOINES — After committing to visit the first-ever Hawkeye women’s wrestling room — maybe not to get on the mat herself, as Head Coach Clarissa Chun suggested, but to learn more about the sport and “some of the moves” — Gov. Kim Reynolds made a proclamation Wednesday honoring the team.

“Whereas the Iowa women’s wrestling team began competition during its 2023-24 inaugural season … and whereas the Iowa women’s wrestling team won the National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Tournament on March 9, 2024, bringing home the national championship title, six individual national championships, and 12 All-Americans for a historic end to its first-ever season …

“I, Kim Reynolds, governor of the state of Iowa do hereby proclaim April 3, 2024 as University of Iowa Women’s Wrestling Day.”

The proclamation came at the start of the UI’s annual Hawkeye Caucus Day at the Capitol in Des Moines — where students, staff and faculty convened in the rotunda to show off to elected officials and visitors the research, outreach, impact, honors and awards they’ve achieved.

UI President Barbara Wilson and some of her administrative team were on site for the event, highlighting the partnership aspect of the university as a public institution facing government oversight and taking legislative appropriations.

Just under a giant blowup Herky mascot pumping its fist was a table for the Big Ten championship trophy won by the Hawkeye women’s basketball team — still chasing the bigger NCAA title — and the women’s wrestling team trophy from that program’s ascent at the national championships.

The Herky the Hawk mascot stands Wednesday with the Hawkeye Women’s Basketball team’s Big Ten tournament trophy during Hawkeye Caucus Day at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

The Herky the Hawk mascot stands Wednesday with the Hawkeye Women’s Basketball team’s Big Ten tournament trophy during Hawkeye Caucus Day at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines. (Nick Rohlman/The Gazette)

Reynolds — in chatting with Coach Chun, assistant coaches Tonya Verbeek and Gary Mayabb, and wrestlers including Iowa natives Ella Schmit and Felicity Taylor — noted the attention on female athletics now and the boundaries they’re breaking down.

“You leaned in big time and really made an impact,” Reynolds said. “It’s so inspiring.”

As the first women’s wrestling squad at an NCAA Division I Power Five conference school, the Hawkeye women went undefeated in dual competitions in their first season and captured the NWCA National Duals title Jan. 6. But it wasn’t all a slam dunk — as Reynolds noted in praising them for their perseverance.

“The Cardinals led by 17 points going into the finals,” Reynolds said of the Division III Illinois-based North Central College — which was ranked No. 1 at the recent national championships, ahead of the Hawkeyes, after winning the national title last season. “And you ended up winning, 204 to 198. That’s determination.”

Chun and the athletes said they focused on bringing their best to each match.

“Well you did,” Reynolds said, asking about the upcoming Olympic trials before Chun could sneak in her question about getting the governor on a mat.

“I can’t imagine everything that that would entail,” the governor said, conceding, “That would be fun.”

As an Iowa State University graduate, Reynolds told The Gazette after making her proclamation about the Hawkeye women’s wrestling program that she expects more universities to follow.

“It takes somebody to step in and — especially with the great success that they’ve had this year — I would be surprised if we don’t see more of that happening in colleges and universities,” she said. “That’s what’s great about somebody stepping in and leading.”

Iowa's Felicity Taylor competes against King University's Montana Delawder during the NWCA/USMC Multi-Division National Dual Meet Championships on Jan. 6 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. (Chris Zoeller/Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier)

Iowa’s Felicity Taylor competes against King University’s Montana Delawder during the NWCA/USMC Multi-Division National Dual Meet Championships on Jan. 6 at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls. (Chris Zoeller/Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier)

‘Face time’ with lawmakers

Outside the governor’s office, Kate Giannini — a program manager for the UI-based IIHR, a hydroscience-based research, education and service center that for years has been tackling water-related issues regionally and beyond — waited for elected officials or anyone else interested in its work to stop by her table.

“It’s really about meeting with our decision-makers and letting them know how we’re serving Iowans and using their funding — and being able to tell them about the cool research that we’re doing and projects that we’re doing measuring floods and droughts, as we’ve been stuck in a drought a while,” Giannini said.

Her table typically gets 15 to 20 visitors.

ISU held its annual “Day at the Capitol” first, on Feb. 20, featuring an “Innovation with Impact” theme. Through a delegation of 40-plus faculty, staff and students, the Ames campus featured 18 programs — from its Veterinary Diagnostic Lab to its Mental Health First Aid program.

The University of Northern Iowa about a month ago, on March 5, held its “Day at the Capitol,” calling it an opportunity to engage students in statewide advocacy.

“UNI Day at the Capitol is also another opportunity for our UNI student government leaders to advocate for the needs of their fellow students,” UNI President Mark Nook said. “It was my pleasure to once again join UNI students, faculty and staff in advocating for UNI at the Capitol.”

Among the UI programs featured were those from its colleges of law, education and engineering. Its Graduate College was on hand, along with its fundraising arm — the UI Center for Advancement — and UI Athletics Development. That is the UI Athletics fundraising branch, raising money for — among other things — projects like a new wrestling facility and gymnastics and spirit squad training center.

“It’s been really great so far,” UI graduate student and athletics intern Kaylyn King said of the opportunity Wednesday to promote ways in which Hawkeye Athletics have benefited the state — especially recently through its women’s programs.

“We have our women’s wrestling trophy here and our women’s basketball trophy,” she said. “We’ve had lots of people take pictures with the trophy, of course.”

Vanessa Miller covers higher education for The Gazette.

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