Autumn Flanigan put a cap on back-to-back undefeated seasons by taking her second State Champion title on Feb. 22 at the Mizzou Arena.
Her opponent in the final match, Mary Belle Harrell of Hickman brought a very offensive style to the mat, so Flanigan said she adopted a more defensive posture to counter.
“My main focus was pretty much to play defensive because of the style she [Harrell] wrestles, I felt like I had a better chance if I played defense rather than offense,” Flanigan said. “Because she’s super funky and she likes to throw, and so really I just wanted to stay focused and catch her mistakes.”
She’d faced off against Harrell before at the districts finals match, and also wrestled her at the 2nd Annual Wonder Woman Tournament on Jan. 4. She said that those matches may have caused her teammates some anxiety to watch, because of Harrell’s throw-heavy wrestling style.
“Every match she threw me, but I didn’t give her control, but it scared everyone,” Flanigan said.
Flanigan wrapped up 56 wins and zero losses during the last two seasons, an achievement she said makes her feel “accomplished.”
“It definitely makes me feel good, because it just goes to show when you put in the hard work, it shows,” Flanigan said.
For the 2019-2020 season, Flanigan bumped up two weight classes, from 110 to 120, which brought out bigger and stronger opponents. Her preparation was similar to last year, though, with lots of training and careful study of her opponents ahead of matches.
“I try to see how my opponents wrestle so I can counteract that,” Flanigan said.
With her senior year of wrestling behind her, Flanigan said she’s committed to Augsburg University in Minnesota, and plans to wrestle on their team. She also plans to sign up for the ROTC program and enlist in the National Guard.
“It’s [the wrestling program] is really good,” Flanigan said. “They only have seven girls, but they have Emily Shilson who has six Fargo titles – which is a huge national tournament. She has been on the world team for a long time, she won Junior Olympics and just qualified to wrestle in Olympic Trials.”
Vayle-Rae Baker is another wrestler up at Augsburg that’s been on the world team and competed at higher-level tournaments, Flanigan said.
“They’re around my weight, so they’d be my wrestling partners,” Flanigan said.
Jumping up to a higher level of competition isn’t fazing Flanigan – she said she’s “nervous but ready,” adding that she’s wrestled opponents at that level before in the off-season.
“I know it’s a lot harder, and I’ve got to step up my game more, but I’m willing to accept the challenge,” Flanigan said.