2020-21 Girls Wrestler of the Year: Fort Osage's Haley Ward remains motivated for future
Sophomore Haley Ward came to the Fort Osage wrestling program with plenty of time on the mat and success.
She had won several youth tournaments and even won a majority of her matches while competing against boys. She rarely lost.
That translated immediately in her freshman season with Fort Osage as she finished with a 36-0 record in the 130-pound division, winning her first state championship after three pins and a decision at the state tournament.
It wasn’t until December of 2020 when she lost her first high school match against Park Hill South’s Maddie Kubicki at 143 pounds.
Warden used that loss as motivation for the rest of the season and she capped it off with a state title at the Missouri State High School Girls Wrestling Championships March 9 at Cable Dahmer Arena.
Because of her standout 2020-21 season, Ward is The Examiner Girls Wrestler of the Year for the second straight season.
She made her way through the 151-pound bracket that had two undefeated wrestlers coming into the tournament — Grain Valley’s Sevi Aumua and Webster Groves Hannah Jansen. Ward pinned her first two opponents before defeating Jansen 6-2 in the finals.
After the title match, Ward was displeased that she didn’t get a pin despite winning her second state title. She said she sets high standards for herself.
“I am proud of myself for what I have done, but there are some things I need to work on to accomplish more of the goals that I have,” Ward said. “Just a different mindset – a more positive one. Wrestling-wise, I need to work on my neutral a little more and (the top position).”
That moment against Jansen is something Ward said she plans on taking with her into her junior year, as she will be motivated to earn a pin in the state title bout.
“That’s going to be in the back of my head. I will think about it so I wrestle harder,” Ward said.
'That loss really pushed me to get better'
She also won’t forget the loss to Kubicki.
“I went up a weight class after that,” Ward said. “We just happened to be in the same weight class that day. That loss really pushed me to get better.”
While Ward received her first high school loss, she dished out the first high school loss to junior Esther Han of Wentzville Holt, winning 2-1 in a quad dual at Columbia Hickman High School.
“It was a good match. It was very technical,” Fort Osage girls wrestling coach Derek Barker said.
With two state titles under her belt, Ward’s clear goal is to become a four-time state champion.
“I didn’t know they were going to have a girls division before I came to Fort Osage,” Ward said. “After I heard there was going to be one, I knew I wanted to become a four-time champion.”
She said her experience wrestling against boys before high school has helped her become an elite-level wrestler in the girls division. Against males, she held her own. During her freshman year, high school wrestling in Missouri was still in the probation period, meaning girls could still wrestle against boys if they wanted.
“Boys are harder to wrestle because they are quicker and stronger than you,” Ward said. “I only lost one match my seventh and eighth grade year. Then in my freshman year, I was 6-2 against boys.”
While wrestling against boys was a big challenge for Ward, she had an equally big challenge for her sophomore year. Even as an underclassman, Barker looked to Ward to be a leader for the Indians. And he said it was something for which she excelled.
“I asked her to be a leader and she absolutely did that,” Barker said. “She was a great leader for us and our young team. It was a natural fit for her.”
Added Ward: “It was challenging at some points, but I really enjoyed it. The younger girls looked up to me. Tess (Kinne) passed that role on to me (after she graduated in 2020), so I really had no option, so I really liked how they looked up to me and I could set a good example for them.”
After her last two years in high school, Ward plans to wrestle in college. Right now, NCAA Division I schools do not have women’s wrestling, but she hopes they will offer it before she graduates.
Ward has another post high school goal, as well.
“I have competed for the (U.S.) Cadet World Team before and that prepares you for competing in the Olympic Trials in the future,” Ward said. “That’s a big goal of mine.”
Examiner 2020-21 All-Area Girls Wrestling
102: Ariel Adams, fresh., Blue Springs South — 12-16, Class 1 District 6 fourth place.
107: Gabby Hampton, soph., Blue Springs South — 20-10, Class 1 state qualifier; Class 1 Sectional 3 second place; Class 1 District 6 champion.
112: Sadie Waller, jr., Fort Osage — 14-11, Class 1 District 7 fourth place.
117: Adrianna McMurray, soph., Blue Springs — 13-20.
122: Allison Kraemer, fresh., Fort Osage — 14-11, Class 1 Sectional 4 fourth place; Class 1 District 7 second place.
122: Maddy Banker, soph., Blue Springs — 30-6, Class 1 District 6 champion.
127: Aroma Marrufo, fresh., Fort Osage — 18-6, Class 1 Sectional 4 fourth place; Class 1 District 7 fourth place.
132: Sydney Sullivan, fresh., Fort Osage — 15-8, Class 1 District 7 consolation semifinalist.
137: Lauren Hahne, sr., Fort Osage — 24-7, Class 1 state qualifier; Class 1 Sectional 4 second place; Class 1 District 7 second place.
143: No area wrestlers competing at district.
151: Haley Ward, soph., Fort Osage — 33-1, Class 1 state champion; Class 1 Sectional 4 champion; Class 1 District 7 champion; Examiner 2019-20 and 2020-21 Girls Wrestler of the Year.
151: Sevi Aumua, fresh., Grain Valley — 27-1, Class 1 all-state (third place); Class 1 Sectional 3 champion; Class 1 District 6 champion.
159: Triniti Greiner, fresh., Blue Springs South — 19-11, Class 1 District 6 third place.
174: Gabriella Doughty, fresh., Fort Osage — 18-23, Class 1 District 7 consolation semifinalist.
195: Mary-Mae McMillian, jr., William Chrisman — 17-4, Class 1 Sectional 4 fourth place; Class 1 District 7 second place.
235: Kiara Boldridge, soph., William Chrisman — 26-6, Class 1 all-state (third place); Class 1 Sectional 4 champion; Class 1 District 7 champion.