Nebraska USA Wrestling has named Chadron’s Paige Denke as their 2018 Girls Wrestler of the Year in the high school division.
A tweet from NEUSAW on April 11 broke the news and cited several of Denke’s accolades from 2018, including her earning All-American in freestyle at the Cadet National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, in July of that year.
Also mentioned was Denke’s 5-1 record at the Disney Duals where she wrestled for the Nebraska Girls Wrestling AAU Dual Squad, her 4-1 record at Clash at the Capitol District, and her 25-13 record during the 2018-2019 high school season. NEUSAW also cited her state champion wins with Nebraska AAU and NEUSAW.
“I was really excited to get the award and I feel very honored because I know there are a lot of girls out there that are really trying hard and putting in a lot of time,” Denke said.
She also appreciates that she won the award despite being from western Nebraska and somewhat removed from the hub of Nebraska USA Wrestling on the eastern side of the state.
Speaking of her successful 2018 summer, Denke says she enjoyed her time wrestling and the opportunity to see different techniques she may not have encountered if she’d stayed in western Nebraska.
“It was so cool,” Denke said. “I got to go to a lot of cool places and see different people I wouldn’t normally see just staying in Nebraska.”
Both she and her Chadron High School coach Jamie Slingsby believe her time spent wrestling in the offseason has helped her during the high school season.
“I think it helped me with the high schools season,” Denke said, “especially when I went to Fargo and got All-American. It brought some confidence and let me know I could do it. Summer wrestling and Nebraska USA Wrestling has really helped.”
“It’s another outstanding accomplishment she’s done in the offseason,” Slingbsy said of Denke’s latest honor. “It shows everyone that she’s willing to put the time and effort into getting better and better each time.
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“It’s given her more and more confidence each time she wrestles, whether it’s against boys or girls.”
In late March Denke traveled to the Twin Rivers Girls’ High School Invitational where she placed third, but wasn’t satisfied with her performance.
“I wanted to do better; I know I could have done better,” Denke said. “I didn’t really stick to the plan. I kind of got off and mad.”
According to Denke she had the opportunity to wrestle an opponent who was third ranked in the nation at the meet.
“It kind of showed me where I need to be and where I need to improve,” she said of the bout.
This summer Denke plans to compete at the Body Bar Women’s National Championships in Irving, Texas. She also plans to visit Illinois to train with a friend before attending the 2019 Cadet National Championships in Fargo.
Denke, who is a sophomore at CHS this year, said this summer she wants to focus on freestyle since it’s the style of women’s wresting used at the college level.
“It’s a lot more beneficial to learn freestyle now than what some girls are doing where they wrestle folkstyle and get to college and learn freestyle,” she said.
Denke already has a couple of colleges in mind and has received interest from a handful of schools, but had yet to make a decision on where she might commit in the future.”