National, state champion Foeller adding to girls wrestling chain

By Jeremy Jacob, Sports Editor
Posted 6/13/24

Jaycee Foeller has been wrestled to success on various stages and was in Mexico’s wrestling room this past weekend.

Foeller Wrestling Mexico Camp Photo Gallery

The three-time state …

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National, state champion Foeller adding to girls wrestling chain


Jaycee Foeller has been wrestled to success on various stages and was in Mexico’s wrestling room this past weekend.

Foeller Wrestling Mexico Camp Photo Gallery

The three-time state champion with a 121-0 undefeated record at DeSoto and three-time individual national finalist — including last year’s national championship season for the University of Iowa — led a girls wrestling camp on Friday and Saturday at Mexico High School. Girls at various ages and levels of experience hung on Foeller’s every word and move in the former UMCS cadet national champion’s latest camp.

Foeller said she started leading camps since her freshman year in college, when she was with NCAA Division II McKendree University, and continued through her career as a sophomore at NAIA Central Methodist University and now coming off as a junior at Iowa. She said the number of kids has grown as girls wrestling has grown in Missouri and was delighted to have one in Mexico after Mexico girls wrestling head coach Tony Senor reached out.

“I thought it was a great opportunity,” Foeller said. “Our mantra back in Iowa is, ‘For her.’ It’s to help those that come before us, after us and with us. There weren’t very many female clinicians whenever I was coming up in wrestling so I want the opportunity out there for those girls to have and realize there are people that want to give back to the sport, even though I’m still competing in it.”

Foeller’s camp is just the one of six she has planned for this summer after she has typically done three in previous years. Her camp in Mexico brought girls from the area such as Mexico, Centralia and North Callaway and farther places like Rolla and Branson after holding ones in other areas of the state like Springfield, DeSoto and El Dorado Springs. She said giving girls more opportunities to improve and interest in the sport is important after years of it being a male-dominated sport.

Before Foeller began wrestling in eighth grade, she said she participated in competitive cheerleading since she was five years old but became intrigued with wrestling when her younger brothers hit the mat. A coach at a practice encouraged her to try it, her parents supported her as she stuck with it and Foeller devoted countless hours on the mat for her career and then the careers that have followed.

“I definitely have learned to read a room and see what the girls are actually picking up on and what we’re struggling with,” Foeller said. “I do a pretty decent job now especially of doing a show-and-tell so people realize, ‘Hey, I’m having some issues, and it’s not just me.’”

The knowledge that girls need in wrestling has been passed down the chain, and Foeller said many aspects of the sport became second nature to her after understanding chain wrestling. There are many specific situations and mechanics involved in wrestling that Foeller jam-packed into her three two-hour sessions in Mexico. The hope is for the girls to eventually be able to chain, or put all of the aspects together, to result in more fluid movement on the mat without much thinking or hesitation.

Foeller admitted that this all didn’t truly click for her until the past couple years. Girls wrestling didn’t become a MSHSAA sanctioned sport until the 2019 state championship season, when Foeller won the state’s first ever girls 167-pound state title. A good place to start, whether the Mexico campers were wrestling their first day or were a former world team member, is the basics.

“A lot of it is showing basics,” Foeller said. “In our room up at college, we do basics every day. You can’t do the basics too much. Even those that are more experienced, they learn things like, ‘I wasn’t putting my foot here beforehand’ and now it’s a lot better. The more you do, even if it’s the simple things, the more you learn about yourself and the experience.”

When there are about 25 kids in a room, Foeller said there are bound to be additional questions and specific individual needs so she is constantly walking around to talk and work with the different pairs. She said she tries to learn everybody’s names to make a personal connection that links to better connections on the mat.

“Being able to go through and make that connection and tell them to have confidence, I had that when I first started, telling me, ‘Hey, you have it,’” Foeller said. 

Senor said she has followed Foeller’s career since watching her win yet another state title her senior year when the just-graduated all-time program wins leader Katie Bowen was a freshman. He friended her on Facebook and messaged her “out of the blue” asking about her camps and eventually if she would be interested in running one in Mexico. 

Having Foeller in Mexico’s wrestling room and teaching young girl wrestlers from all around is valuable, Senor said, because of how much she has accomplished in the sport. The sport has grown to the point that the wrestlers coming up have a role model like Foeller.

“It’s all about growing girls wrestling or just wrestling in general,” Senor said. “Just to have somebody from the University of Iowa in our high school wrestling room is big. It’s going to draw girls not just from Mexico but from all over the state of Missouri here. Having a national champion in our room is huge, and Jaycee has done a phenomenal job with the girls building confidence and building relationships.”

Foeller looks forward to seeing the connections as girls wrestling grows in the future. She said she has noticed some from her camps.

“The first camp I had, I probably had 10 girls,” Foeller said. “It’s been growing more and more each time. That’s really all I can ask for is people coming back and doing it.