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Forged from a dream, the Rapid City coed was the impetus for DWU’s women’s wrestling program – Mitchell Republic

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the first in a regular series on the formation of the Dakota Wesleyan women’s wrestling program.

MITCHELL – Madeleine Sargent always wanted to get on the mat.

Wrestling has been a big interest of hers since her days at Rapid City Stevens High School. And it’s an interest that brought her to Dakota Wesleyan, where she spearheads the founding of the DWU women’s wrestling program – the first collegiate women’s wrestling program in South Dakota.

The story is curvy. Of course it is, considering Sargent came to DWU to play softball.

College-level wrestling was an afterthought, but the flame for donning your headgear and competing on the mat never died. When it became clear that women’s wrestling could have a future at DWU, she made it happen with nothing but a powerpoint and a dream.

In that light, it’s fitting that she’s the first to compete with the Tiger logo on her undershirt.

Late in her freshman year of high school and into her sophomore year, Sargent wanted to wrestle more than ever. She was on the Stevens softball team and her coach, Travis King, happened to be a former South Dakota state national wrestler and Stevens’ wrestling coach.

It started with just hanging around the team as a manager, but Sargent quickly realized that wasn’t going to be enough. As a junior, King let her participate in training, and after convincing her father, Sargent was ready to start grappling.

“My dad kind of found out that I wrestled and he was like, ‘You know what? Rather than just being there, we’re either going to do it or not,’” Sargent recalled. “He started working with me personally after hours to get me where everyone else was their junior year of high school. And then my senior year was full of competition.”

While she was in high school, King saw her passion and mentioned that she worked hard and had a “great attitude” with “great effort.” And when she competed in high school, she competed in folkstyle wrestling—a contrast to the freestyle wrestling used in college competitions.

But Sargent was recruited to DWU for softball, and she agreed to give up wrestling when she went to college. When her freshman year began, Sargent focused solely on softball. But that didn’t last long and Sargent wanted to get back into wrestling.


Dakota Wesleyan wrestler Madeleine Sargent (right) and trainer John Lynch (left) work on hand to hand during a wrestling practice Wednesday, November 16, 2022 at the DWU/Avera Sports and Wellness Complex.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

However, with friends on the men’s wrestling team, a situation similar to what happened in high school happened. She hung around the team, but soon realized that just being on the team wasn’t enough.

“I missed the (wrestling) world too much,” Sargent recalled of her days before wrestling with DWU. “I have to be able to get back in there, one way or another.”

But of course Dakota Wesleyan didn’t have a women’s wrestling team. No other school in South Dakota did either, and in 2019 the Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended the NCAA for emerging sport status for the first time, with the NAIA not following suit until 2022.

So Sargent took matters into his own hands.

With the help of her parents, Sargent, who was still a freshman, put together a 20-minute presentation to pitch the idea of ​​a women’s wrestling team to athletic director Jon Hart, as well as then-president Amy Novak and executive vice president Theresa Kriese. And it was just the perfect storm.

“We’ve always been in sport exploration mode. … So we felt like it was time to introduce a different sport to Dakota Wesleyan,” Hart said. “At the same time Madeleine came on board and she proposed to us and we felt that a lot of the things we were looking for from a sporting perspective really matched what she brought to the table.”

The response to their pitch was more than Sargent expected, with Novak and Kriese arriving at the meeting with articles and notes about women’s wrestling prepared.

“She really validated all of the things we were looking for,” Hart said. “So I really feel like she brought us closer in that way, to get us where we want to be and ultimately add it as a sport.”

When the university decided to include women’s wrestling as a sport in September 2021, it was just the beginning. There was still a coach search to take place, which Sargent helped with. And after some waiting, DWU found John Lynch in February, Lynch being a former national qualifier and assistant coach at Northwestern College.

But it wasn’t in time for last year’s season, so a sophomore, Sargent wrestled independently from Dakota Wesleyan and traveled to open events but didn’t wear a tiger on her singlet.

Still, she worked with men’s assistant coach Kevin Kelly, often after a day of softball workouts and drills, which she remembers training until she was exhausted.

“She would be exhausted,” Kelly recalled of his training with Sargent. “She’s coming in after (softball workouts earlier in the day) to train with me. She did about three workouts (per day). That is their determination to do this.”

After wrestling independently from Dakota Wesleyan for a year, Sargent got her first taste of what it was like to represent the Tigers as a wrestler on November 5th.

Competing at the Women’s Pointer Open in Stevens Point, Wisconsin was her first official representation of DWU as a women’s wrestler, although she was admittedly nervous ahead of the event.

“It’s nerve wracking but it’s amazing; I’m so excited,” Sargent said ahead of her first event.

Now she has two events behind her as she also competed in the Waldorf Open in Forest City, Iowa a week later on November 12th.

“It felt really good to show off everything I’ve worked for, which is having Dakota Wesleyan on my chest,” added Sargent, after attending two events. “It was really cool that I got to do that.”

For Lynch, who watched her wrestle at an unaffiliated event last year, seeing all her hard work come to fruition in a match took her nerves along with the excitement.

“[It was]exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” Lynch said as he watched Sargent compete. “As a coach it’s my job to make sure she’s ready to go out there. … I probably get more nervous than she does at times.”


Dakota Wesleyan Women’s Wrestling Coach John Lynch looks on during the woman’s wrestling practice on Wednesday, November 16, 2022.

Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Although she’s still on the hunt for her first win after two events, she believes she’s improving and making progress every time and hopes that carries over into January – the next time she competes.

She’s most confident in her snaps right now – a move USA Wrestling describes as something “typically, coaches teach athletes with a headband to fake on the legs and quickly follow the leg fake with a snapping motion on the headband.” . “It’s an area she said her father taught her before she even started wrestling, while Lynch has found that she’s vastly improved in being able to see things more quickly on the mat.

But regardless of the outcome, Sargent jumped at the chance to wrestle for Dakota Wesleyan and really enjoyed training and warming up with her coach the night before the competition.

“You break everything and prepare yourself mentally and you can just see it. And it’s in those moments that you absorb everything,” she said. “You can just see the open mats and see what you’re working for.”

As a junior at DWU, Sargent has two years to officially wrestle for the Tigers, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop being there. After graduating from high school, her goal is to go to graduate school to study physical therapy.

But after that, she believes she’ll be close enough to the area to get a front-row seat to see the DWU program grow. Her short term goal is to see the program grow while she is still enrolled at DWU and have the program a full roster by the time she graduates.

“Actually to be able to compete in duals and get that opportunity for as much mat time as possible,” Sargent said of her goals. “And even if I don’t get the opportunity to do things like post-season stuff like national teams just because we don’t have enough girls, I’d love if other girls could get that opportunity.”

No matter what the program looks like, when Sargent leaves DWU, she will be a pioneer in women’s wrestling in South Dakota after starting the first collegiate program. Other institutions have followed suit, with the University of Sioux Falls slated to launch its women’s wrestling program in fall 2023.

“What she did at DWU and at Mitchell is just a testament to her as a person,” King said. “It showed her passion and motivation.”