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Lange grapples to No. 5 spot in national rankings

EARNING A FALL — Katie Lange of Martin County West High School presses her opponent’s shoulders to the mat for a fall during Minnesota high school girls club wrestling action as a member of the Storm program. The No. 1-ranked female grappler in the state and No. 5-ranked wrestler in the nation also is a starter on the Mavericks’ girls basketball team. (Photo courtesy of Katie Lange)

SHERBURN — Pound-for-pound, there’s no better girls wrestler in Minnesota.

Martin County West’s Katie Lange holds the top spot in The Guillotine’s Minnesota High School girls wrestling rankings, and the No. 5 spot nationally in her 144-pound weight class.

Lange said she has wrestled since she was 3 years old with support from her father Kevin Lange, a former collegiate wrestler, and brother Tristan Lange, a former Martin County Red Bulls grappling standout.

“I come from a family of wrestlers,” Katie said. “It was just something that I found to be interesting and I was lucky that I had parents who supported me as well.”

Like her brother, Katie was a member of the Red Bulls’ roster until her sophomore year when she decided to give high school basketball a try.

MCW head girls basketball coach Roger Taylor said Lange has the talent and drive to be great at whatever she takes on.

“Considering the limited time she’s been playing basketball, she’s been very solid at both ends of the court,” Taylor said. “If she’d been out for the duration (of her high school years), she’d be even better and she’s pretty good right now. She’s shown more growth than a lot of players due to her incredible work ethic and positive attitude.”

Although Lange has seen success on the court, after she talked to Chad Shilson — one of the major advocates for girls and women’s wrestling in Minnesota, she learned about Storm, a wrestling club team with a women’s program, and decided to join last summer.

She said Storm led her to her current club, Twin Cities Regional Training Center.

Though she picked wrestling back up after a year off, Lange continues to play with the MCW Mavericks’ basketball team, starting as a forward.

Lange said during her busy winter sports season, she has basketball practices and games Monday through Friday, then goes up to train with TCRTC on Saturdays before going to private training in Storm Lake, Iowa, on Sundays.

With her success in both in-state and out-of-state competitions on the mat, Lange has an opportunity in The Last Chance tournament, an Olympic Trial qualifier. If Lange wins her weight in The Last Chance tournament, she will have the opportunity to wrestle her way onto the USA Women’s Olympic team, which has competed during the Summer Games since the women’s competition was introduced in 2004.

The Last Chance qualifier was scheduled for March 27-28 in Millersville, Pennsylvania, but has been rescheduled to a yet-to-be determined date and location after the continued rescheduling of what was originally the 2020 Games.

Lange said the drive needed for wrestling is what draws her to the competition.

“It’s like such a mental thing,” Lange said. “It’s takes such a certain kind of person to have the focus and the mental drive to keep going in a wrestling match. … I think it’s the biggest challenge. I like to challenge myself every day, in and out, and just see myself get better and continue to work.”

Alongside her national and international competition, Lange plans to use wrestling to further her academic career as well.

Lange said she will attend Augsburg University in Minneapolis and join the school’s women’s wrestling team — the lone collegiate women’s team in the state.

She said Shilson has played a big role in helping her move on to Augsburg, where he is an assistant coach, and set up her collegiate career, along with Auggie head coach Max Mejia.

Augsburg started its women’s team in 2019, but already has become a program to watch. Because the Auggies don’t have other local programs to compete against, they spend their season traveling around the upper Midwest competing against schools such as Waldorf University, Missouri Valley and North Central College in Illinois.

Last season, the Auggies took part in their first Women’s Collegiate Association Wrestling National Duals and went 3-2 as a team. One Augsburg competitor, Emily Shilson, became the Auggies’ first national champion, while two more Auggies finished second in their weight classes.

Before she joins Augsburg, Lange will continue to enjoy the limited time she spends with her wrestling teammates during the winter season. She said getting extra time with them outside of the winter sports season is her favorite part of out-of-state camps and tournaments.

Lange said next up for her is the United States Marine Corps Girls’ Folkstyle Nationals & Junior Women’s Folkstyle Duals in Oklahoma City in March.

Whether in national tournaments, Olympic trials or just weekend training, Lange said she will keep working hard and look to continue her dominant performance on the mat.

“I joke all the time that Katie leads our team in conditioning drills because she’s so gung-ho and works her tail off,” Taylor said. “She only has one speed — ‘GO.'”

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