Female athletes from Iowa are special in many ways; here at the IGHSAU we work to recognize the “Iowa Girl” and share our enthusiasm for the good that she represents. There is something unique in every Iowa Girl, whether that be leadership, dedication or compassion. Each one has a story worth sharing. 

Welcome to the Iowa Girl Project. Join fellow Iowa Girl Mia Laube as she shares the stories of Iowa Girls who are taking the skills they learned through their education and athletic career above and beyond. These women are making a positive impact on their communities, big and small. They inspire the next generation to compete in sports and conquer the challenges ahead. 

Proud to be an Iowa Girl!



Nicole Wenstrand, a female referee, sees every opportunity as a learning experience.

When Nicole Wenstrand officiates a basketball game, she knows she won’t please everyone in the gym. 

When she makes decisions as a member of the Essex City Council, she knows she won’t please each of the hundreds of Essex residents.

But each time she puts herself out there, she learns something new.

“I’ll try anything,” Wenstrand said. “I wanted to ref because I wanted to do something that not many people are doing right now, and that’s females getting into reffing.”

She continues to grow where her roots began in Essex

In high school, Wenstrand and her younger sister became 1000-point scorers for a basketball team that was ranked her junior and senior years. Both were three-sport athletes in basketball, volleyball and golf. Her golf team was ranked No. 1 her senior year, and they placed 3rd at State.

“Being a small school, to be able to have a sports team that was pretty decent and have the community back you… it kind of brought the town together,” Wenstrand said. “That’s what a small town will do.”

She went on to play basketball and golf at Central College, where she earned all-conference golf honors her junior year.

Now that her competitive sports days are behind her, she continues to play volleyball and golf, and she gives back to the game of basketball by being an official.

“I hope I’m a role model that anybody can do it,” Wenstrand said.

Not only is she a referee, she’s a female referee. This past December, she was able to officiate with an all-female crew at a Lewis Central vs. Bishop Heelan game. She said it isn’t always easy being a woman in a male-dominated field.

“It’s tough,” she said. “You walk in, and you get some looks. But it doesn’t bother me. I’ve played the game of basketball enough where I’ve learned to block out the crowd.”

Wenstrand has learned to not take everything to heart, and she knows that no one in the gym is perfect.

“I’ll be the first one to own up to a mistake,” she said.

Whether it be officiating, serving as a council member or farming with her family, Wenstrand is an Iowa Girl who chases what she loves, and she wants to see others do it as well.

“I have a passion for sports, and I want to see people succeed,” she said. “I do believe high school sports gives people opportunity to do that... Iowa gives that opportunity.”