Thursday’s Kansas State High School Girls Wrestling Tournament is sure to be a nerve-racking experience for many of the competitors in the inaugural event.

Hays High freshman Sarah Zimmerman, who has been wrestling from a young age, is hoping her experience at other big tournaments will help calm her nerves entering the state event at Tony’s Pizza Event Center in Salina.

“Since I was 10, I started getting into bigger tournaments, like out-of-state tournaments and nationals,” Zimmerman said. “It’s not too different for me, but a lot of these girls I still haven’t wrestled, so it’s still a new experience.

“I think it will kind of be like the other tournaments, but it’s more serious because it’s high school. I’m just going to treat it like any other tournament so I don’t get ahead of myself.”

In fact, Zimmerman said she prefers competing in larger tournaments.

“I feel like I do better at bigger tournaments and I’m more in the game,” she said. “There’s a lot of people, but I don’t feel like they’re all watching me; I feel like they’re watching other people. In a smaller tournament, there’s only limited people to watch, so I feel more relaxed at bigger tournaments.”

Zimmerman (21-7) will compete in the 109-pound weight class, opening the tournament against Columbus’ Addi Saporito.

Zimmerman punched her ticket to state by placing fifth at the regional meet in McPherson.

“I feel like some of the matches I could have done better in, but I’m really happy with where I ended up and how it affected where I got seeded for state,” she said.

Zimmerman said she’s proud to be the first Hays High girl to compete at state wrestling.

“I haven’t really thought about it much, but it’s a great accomplishment and I’m excited to see where I land at the end,” she said. “(Making state) was probably my top goal, next to getting better at my technique and improving.”

She said she’s looking to soak up the experience and hopes it will benefit her in future seasons.

“I just want to go there and experience what it’s like,” Zimmerman said. “It’s my freshman year, so it’s not as serious as like junior or senior year. It would be great to place, but also just to experience it, is great.”

Check Friday’s print edition for a story on Hays High boys wrestlers Da’Vontai Robinson and Gavin Nutting, who will represent the Indians in the Class 5A state tournament in Park City this weekend.