By Curt Herron
For the IWCOA
BLOOMINGTON – In what is arguably one of the most impressive state tournament debuts in the 120-plus year history of the Illinois High School Association, girls wrestling burst upon the scene in a most amazing fashion last weekend at the Grossinger Motors Arena.
Eleven of the 14 champions at the initial state tournament of the newest officially-recognized sport in Illinois were listed in the top 25 nationally at their weight classes according to USA Wrestling, Flowrestling and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum in their February rankings.
And to show just how challenging the first state finals competition was, two second-place finishers also appeared in the top 25, but both of those lost to girls who were ranked in the top-three in the nation. It’s very unlikely that any other IHSA tournament with multiple champions would have had over 75 percent of them being nationally-ranked individuals.
As the Grand March kicked off shortly before 2 p.m. last Saturday, the finalists made their way to the arena floor, including many who have been staples for Team Illinois, to compete on one mat that was devoted just to championship matches in what proved to be a fitting finale for the two-day tournament.
Despite the fact that so many talented individuals captured titles, only four of the matches ended with falls and one concluded early as the result of a technical fall.
From the time that Batavia’s Sydney Perry made history as the first IHSA individual champion at 145 until Alton’s Antonia Phillips concluded the title matches with a first-place finish at 140, a who’s who of girls who have raised the bar extremely high during their careers turned in performances which have already helped to make this new sport into a phenomenon that will likely see tremendous growth in the upcoming years.
And the good news for enthusiasts of the newest IHSA sport is that just four of the champions are seniors. Four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen title winners joined the seniors on the top of the award stand and they figure to establish legacies that other competitors will be trying to duplicate as girls wrestling grows in Illinois.
There were five unbeaten champions and two other individuals who only lost one match. The champions’ combined record is 258-39, which is good for an .869 percentage.
Hononegah junior Rose Cassioppi and freshman Angelina Cassioppi become the first sisters to win titles in the same finals. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it is. When Rose won her title at 170, the family became the first to have a brother and sister as state champions. Tony Cassioppi was a two-time champion and three-time medalist at 285 from 2016-18, going 100-0 in his last two seasons at the school in Rockton. He currently competes for the University of Iowa.
Another champion had a brother who enjoyed a lot of success during his high school career. Glenbard North freshman Gabriella Gomez won a title at 105 with a perfect record. Her brother, Austin, was a three-time champion for the Panthers from and currently is competing with the University of Wisconsin.
One champion is the sister of a Class 2A champion while another is a sister of a 3A runner-up at Marmion Academy this season. Glenwood senior Maya Davis’ brother is Andrew Davis, who took first place at 106 in Class 2A. And initial title winner Perry is the sister of Marmion Academy senior Tyler Perry, who took second place at 170 in 3A.
Here’s a listing of all of the first champions of the IHSA Girls Individual Finals, which were held in Bloomington. Senior champions were Somonauk’s Shea Reisel (23-4 at 110), Glenwood’s Maya Davis (9-0 at 115), Yorkville’s Natasha Markoutsis (30-1 at 125) and Plainfield South’s Alexis Janiak (12-0 at 130). Juniors who won titles were Homewood-Flossmoor’s Attalia Watson-Castro (17-1 at 135), Alton’s Antonia Phillips (20-3 at 140), Hononegah’s Rose Cassioppi (15-7 at 170) and Belleville East’s Kiara Ganey (15-0 at 235). Sophomore champions were Freeport’s Cadence Diduch (22-3 at 120), Batavia’s Sydney Perry (21-0 at 145), Unity’s Lexi Ritchie (19-9 at 155) and West Chicago’s Jayden Huesca Rodriguez (10-5 at 190). And freshmen who finished first were Hononegah’s Angelina Cassioppi (23-6 at 100) and Glenbard North’s Gabriella Gomez (12-0 at 105).
Berwyn-Cicero Morton and Richwoods both had four placewinners while Homewood-Flossmoor and Oak Park and River Forest each had three medal winners. Ten other schools finished with two medalists apiece. A total of 122 schools qualified individuals for the tournament and 52 of those sent more than one individual to the event.
Of the 14 champions, 13 came from different schools with Hononegah being the only one to have more than one title winner.
One of the program’s with the largest number of qualifiers was Berwyn-Cicero Morton, which advanced nine individuals and had four placewinners.
“This year has been very special for the Morton Mustangs and the girls were incredible,” Mustangs coach Joseph Helton said. “There were many times that our schedules had to change due to COVID issues but the girls fought through adversity. Our girls showed up day after day looking to get better and try to show that we were one of the toughest teams in the state. The Mustang girls have faced the toughest competition and are always excited to prove themselves.
“The girls are filled with the competitive spirit, but also extreme kindness. After the matches or during practice, the girls are always talking to their opponents or trying to build their teammates up. They are growing the wrestling community and promoting girls wrestling in the state of Illinois. This year has been a pleasure with the official introduction of girls wrestling.”
Homewood-Flossmoor qualified eight individuals and had three medal winners.
“Overall, we couldn’t be happier with how the girl’s state tournament ended up,” Homewood-Flossmoor coach Jim Sokoloski said. “We brought eight girls and three of them made the podium and one was a champion. We are so proud of our girls, especially since the vast majority were first-year wrestlers. I can confidently say that they have caught the wrestling bug and will be even more invested after seeing the state tournament.
“I was so impressed with the level of competition of all the girls and how quickly they all took to the sport. I can’t wait for the sport to grow and can only imagine what this will look like next year, let alone in five years. One thing that I do believe needs to be fixed immediately is the fact that there was no emphasis on a team competition at the sectional or state tournament. I understand that a lot of teams probably cannot field a full dual team for that type of team competition, but the IHSA should at the bare minimum be recognizing team accomplishments from the two biggest tournaments of the year.”
Normally, we list the champions starting with the lowest weights, but due to the historical nature of the competition, we list the state champions in the order that they won titles.
Here’s a closer look at all of the first 14 IHSA girls champions as well as the remainder of placewinners at their weight classes.
145 – Sydney Perry, Batavia
Not very many athletes ever get the opportunity to say that they were the first person to accomplish something that’s very special, but Sydney Perry is someone who will always be able to do just that.
That’s because the Batavia sophomore had the good fortune of being in the weight class that was drawn as the starting point for the championship round of the initial IHSA Girls Individual State Final in Bloomington. And the nation’s fourth-ranked individual at 138 pounds who was the IWCOA champion at 132 a year ago and took second at 132 in 16-U at Fargo last year, is certainly a deserving recipient of that prestigious honor considering that she rolled to the title with three falls, including two in the first period, while winning by default early in another match to cap a perfect 21-0 season, to make more history by joining four others in another unique group, the sport’s first unbeaten state champions.
Perry won the sport’s first championship with a fall in 5:20 over West Aurora senior Dyani Rivera, who can take consolation since she also was in the first title match. The Bulldogs athlete also made history as her school’s first IHSA wrestling champion, after Mikey Caliendo claimed top honors in the 2021 IWCOA finals. Perry won by fall in 1:18 over Canton freshman Aubrianna Putman (10-9) in her first match, by default over Barrington junior Kaia Fernandez (15-8) in the quarterfinals and by fall in 1:26 in the semifinals over Warren senior Adriana Demos. Both Sydney and her brother, Tyler, a senior at Marmion Academy, advanced to the title mat but Tyler placed second at 170 in Class 3A.
“It feels good, it feels really accomplishing to be achieving such high goals right now,”Perry said. “It’s really interesting and cool that I got to be a part of this new sanctioned sport and to just compete. It feels great, I put in a lot of hard work in practice. I’ve been wrestling with guys all year, so I felt like I wasn’t accomplishing much. So to just come out and compete with girls and do really well feels great. It feels like all my hard work is finally going somewhere. Even from last year to this year, there’s a lot more girls here. It’s just cool how fast it’s expanding. At Batavia, we’re just recruiting like crazy.”
Rivera (21-5) needed 6:22 to record a fall in her opener against Richwoods senior Arie Johnson and then beat Stevenson sophomore Sajra Sulejmani 10-0 in the quarterfinals. She advanced to the title mat following a disqualification by Palatine junior Jasmine Hernandez (29-1) in the semifinals. Hernandez won the IWCOA title at 145 a year ago.
Demos (19-4) took third place by injury default over Johnson in 1:58. She opened with a fall in 0:39 and then beat Marion junior Haylie Nappier-Feth (10-8) 13-1 in the quarterfinals. After falling to Perry in the semifinals, she won by fall in 2:17 over Sulejmani to earn her way to the third-place match.
Johnson (19-3), who won the IWCOA title at 152 last year, had to go through the consolation bracket following her first-round loss to Rivera. She recorded three-straight falls, with the last over Rock Island junior Sanaa Hampton to assure her of a medal but got injured in the third-place match and took fourth. Sulejmani, who took sixth a year ago at the IWCOA, placed fifth.
155 – Lexi Ritchie, Unity
After letting a lead slip away and finishing in second place by one point to Arie Johnson in the 152 title match in the IWCOA finals, Lexi Ritchie knew that she would have her hands full when she tried to win a state title against Arie’s younger sister, Jaida, in the 155 title match in the first IHSA Girls Individual Finals.
And although the Unity sophomore owned a 9-3 lead in the third period, Richwoods sophomore Johnson stormed back to close to within 9-8 in the late going. But instead of seeing another state title slip away, Ritchie got an escape and then denied the Johnsons of an IHSA title as captured a 10-8 victory to be one of the many highlights of the past two weekends for the Rockets, who got second-place finishes from three-time finalist Tavius Hosley and Grant Albaugh and Nick Nosler at the IHSA Class 1A Individual Finals in Champaign and then her team, coached by Logan Patton, took third in the 1A Dual Team Finals, which also took place along with the first-ever girls state finals in Bloomington.
Ritchie (19-9) got a fall in 0:37 in her opener against Homewood-Flossmoor sophomore Kristen Roberts and then recorded another fall, this time in 3:50 over Wheaton Warrenville South senior Maya Kalombo (15-5) in the quarterfinals. The seventh-place finisher at 152 in 16-U a year ago in Fargo, earned her spot in a state finals match for the second year in a row and got the opportunity to compete against another Johnson sister after claiming a 10-2 major decision over Buffalo Grove junior Julianna Conroy in the semifinals. She is the first Unity wrestler to win a state title since Juan Molina pulled off the feat in 1991.
“I wrestled her in the sectional finals and I tried so hard to pin her, but I just couldn’t and I ended up teching her in sectionals, 20-4,” Ritchie said. “So I knew coming out here that she would be prepared. She knew what I was going to hit and she made it a challenge all the way through. She hit her Hail Mary and I have to give it to her. There were some matches where I wished that I could have done that. I wrestled her sister last year in the IWCOA finals and had the same thing, I had a comfortable lead, and she came back.
“I was so mad that we didn’t have it with the boys at the State Farm Center, but now I’m looking up at the top area of the bleachers and I’m seeing all my brothers up there from my team and I have tons of texts from them now. I’m sure they’re proud, maybe with not how I performed, but the fact that I got the title. Wrestling with my brothers every day has made me a lot better. It makes me come out to these girls tournaments and be comfortable with how my wrestling is.
“I was a football player, so I’d always been around the boys. And that’s what got me into wrestling a year and a half ago or two years ago, whatever it was. I had no idea that this sport was as big and I’ve from when I joined from a year and half ago to now, it’s grown so much. And we have our own state tournament and we didn’t have that last year. It definitely makes it exciting to especially come back here and get it two more times. I think with all of the attention that this tournament is going to get right now, it’s going to bring in a whole lot of girls and a whole lot more competition in upcoming years.”
Johnson (17-4), who took third place at 170 a year ago at the IWCOA, recorded a fall in 4:00 over Evergreen Park sophomore Elliana Balderrama in her first match and then claimed an 11-3 major decision in the quarterfinals over Schaumburg sophomore Valeria Rodriguez. Johnson clinched her trip to the title mat when she got a fall in 2:34 over Larkin senior Giselle Ayala in the semifinals. Arie Johnson settled for fourth at 145 and Kyley Bair was sixth at 105 to give the Knights three medal winners in the tournament.
Rodriguez (32-2), who finished sixth at 160 at the IWCOA, won her opener with a first-minute fall but then got bumped into the consolation bracket by Johnson, She responded with two falls, including one in 2:46 over Wilmington senior Dezirae Yanke to assure herself of a medal and she captured a 7-1 victory over Conroy to earn her spot in the third-place match, where she recorded a fall in 2:37 over Ayala.
Ayala (21-9), who placed fourth at 152 at the IWCOA finals, recorded two falls to open her tournament, with the second of those being in 3:53 over Yanke in the quarterfinals. After losing to Johnson in the semifinals, Ayala won 6-3 over Balderrama before taking fourth. Conroy (25-6) recorded a fall in 1:31 over Balderrama (14-8) to finish fifth. A year ago, Conroy took third place at 152 and Ayala was fourth at that weight in the IWCOA finals. With Maria Ferrer (170) and Ayala both placing fourth, it’s just the second time that Larkin has had two placewinners at the same IHSA tournament, a feat the school last achieved in 1988 and they are also Larkin’s first IHSA placewinners since 1990 when Brian Rose won the AA heavyweight title. Balderrama also made history, becoming the first Evergreen Park wrestler to win an IHSA medal since 1996, when Dan McNulty took fourth.
170 – Rose Cassioppi, Hononegah
When you have a brother who won two state championships in his final two years of high school, a lot of siblings would like to try to duplicate that impressive accomplishment. And that’s what Rose Cassioppi is in the process of doing after she captured a state title in the first IHSA Girls Individual State Finals.
The Hononegah junior, who’s ranked fourth in the nation at 164 and took second at 152 in Junior Women at Fargo last summer, capped a 15-7 season when she recorded a fall in 1:37 in the 170 championship match over Zion-Benton sophomore ILeen Castrejon, Cassioppi had pins in all four of her matches with the one that lasted the longest was the first, when she won by fall in 2:50 over Canton freshman Katie Marvel. She followed that up with a pin in 1:11 over Lake Forest senior Naomi Miles in the quarterfinals. And then in the semifinals, she recorded a fall in 1:19 over Highland freshman August Rottmann.
It was a big day for the Cassioppi family since it made history by having two sisters capture state championships in the first-ever IHSA Girls Individual State Finals. Shortly after Rose claimed her state title, freshman Angelina, who is 23-6, pulled off the same feat when she took first at 100. Tony Cassioppi, who competes for the University of Iowa and was a runner-up in the Big Ten, had a great career at the Rockton school. During his junior and senior seasons from 2016-2018, he won all 100 of his matches and allowed no offensive points as he won two Class 3A titles at 285. Rose and Angelina join fellow champions Maya Davis and Gabriella Gomez as families with boys and girls state champs.
“It feels awesome. It’s crazy how this is only the first year but I’m really happy that it happened and that girls wrestling is starting to grow bigger,” Rose Cassioppi said.” I’ve been used to wrestling boys my whole life, so it was like one girls tournament a year, and we would always have to drive super far just to find other girls to wrestle. I’ve been wrestling for about seven years. My brother is Tony, and of course I have to show him up a little bit.
“My whole life it’s just been boys and I never even saw any girls, but this year, I saw a couple of girls around me, and there was never anyone at my weight. But there’s girls tournaments and all-girls teams now, it’s just insane and it’s awesome. If someone just sees a sport, and they’re like, ‘oh, that looks pretty cool, just join it, just try it. It’s cool that I got to be a part of the first-ever IHSA state tournament in Illinois and especially to win it is pretty awesome.”
Castrejon (14-6) won her first match by fall at 1:34 over Homewood-Flossmoor senior Madison Skowronski (18-11). In the quarterfinals, Castrejon won 6-0 over West Aurora sophomore Ionicca Rivera (20-8) and in the semifinals was a winner by injury default in 0:26 over Larkin junior Maria Ferrer, who won the 170 title in 2021 at the IWCOA . Zion-Benton wrestlers only won one state medal in the 33 years between 1976-2018 but now they have won four medals in the last three years of IHSA competition with Jordan Chisum placing in 2019 and 2020 and two more were added this weekend as Castrejon took second at 170 and Rachel Williams-Henry finished fourth at 140. Also, Castrejon is only the second Zee-Bee to reach the title mat, ending a 57-year drought since Jim Winston took second place at 154 in 1964.
Rottmann (22-15) followed a 7-5 win over Lockport junior Kelli Watkins (7-5) in her opener with a fall in 2:43 over Huntley junior Alexandra Strzelecki in the quarterfinals. After falling to Cassioppi in the semifinals, Rottmann advanced to the third-place match with a fall in 1:33 over Oak Park and River Forest sophomore Trinity White and then finished third after getting a fall in 2:48 over Ferrer.
Ferrer (23-3), followed a fall in her opener with a 4-2 quarterfinals decision over White. But after getting injured in her semifinals match, Ferrer got a fall in 0:38 over Miles but then got pinned in her next match to place fourth. In the fifth-place match, White (24-2), who took second at 160 in last year’s IWCOA finals, got a fall in 3:23 over Miles (9-5).
For just the second time, Larkin has two placewinners at the same IHSA tournament with Giselle Ayala (155) and Ferrer both placing fourth, The school last achieved that in 1988 and they are also Larkin’s first IHSA placewinners since 1990 when Brian Rose won the AA heavyweight title.
190 – Jayden Huesca Rodriguez, West Chicago
While a lot of athletes like the sport or sports that are already competing in and aren’t looking for any more challenges, being open to getting involved with a different sport can pay off in a big way, and that’s just what soccer player Jayden Huesca Rodriguez discovered about wrestling.
Encouraged by a friend to give wrestling a try as it was moving closer to becoming an official sport by the IHSA for the 2021-22 school year, the West Chicago sophomore may find that her fortunes are brighter on the mat than they are on the pitch after being one of the surprise champions at the IHSA Girls Individual State Finals in Bloomington. She becomes the first West Chicago wrestler to win an IHSA title since Israel Castro pulled off the feat in 1993.
In a matchup between girls with the last name of Rodriguez in the 190 finals, Jayden (10-5) was a winner by technical fall over Berwyn-Cicero Morton senior Diana in a weight class which featured some top finishers at last year’s IWCOA finals. The eventual champion recorded three falls to reach the title match, getting a pin in 1:58 over Lakes freshman Josephine Larson in her initial match and added a fall in 5:00 over Oak Park and River Forest senior Tiffany White. Then she got a pin in 1:04 over Homewood-Flossmoor sophomore Ini Odumosu in the semifinals to earn her unlikely finals appearance and then a state title in her new sport which surprised many, perhaps even herself.
“It was awesome, It feels great,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my first year of wrestling and I’ve been wrestling for like six months, so this is awesome. That just shows that your work pays off. I just wanted to try something new and my partner, Isabella Lopez, who’s coming to this school next year, motivated me so much to get into colleges, and she brought me into this. Thanks to her, I got into this. I do soccer and this is completely different. This is all arm work, upper body. It was so exciting. My mom finally got to see me win and it’s probably the best feeling ever that anyone can feel. I’m a sophomore, so I have two more years to keep winning. I want to keep being number one and the state champion.”
Diana Rodriguez (15-5) kicked off her tournament with a fall in 1:26 over Moline junior Ruby Sepeda and then pulled off a bit of a surprise with a 5-4 quarterfinals victory over Fenton senior Noelia Vazquez, who was last year’s IWCOA champion at 182. In the semifinals, the 190 runner-up got a fall in 3:43 over West Aurora freshman Brittney Moran.
Vazquez (27-2) won a 3-1 decision over Bolingbrook sophomore Aurelia Gil-Lane in her opener and then was surprised by Diana Rodriguez in the quarterfinals. She got a 2-1 win over Andrew junior Mickaela Keane and then an 8-2 decision over Odumosu to send her to the third-place match, where she edged White by a 3-2 score to place third.
White (30-4), who was second at 170 in the IWCOA finals, won an 11-5 decision in her first match but fell to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals. After recording a pair of falls to assure herself of a medal, White recorded a fall in 1:38 over Moran but then lost a one-point decision to Vazquez in the third-place match. Odumosu (24-7) took fifth by claiming a 6-4 victory over Moran (12-5).
235 – Kiara Ganey, Belleville East
Beside becoming one of the initial 14 champions in the first-ever IHSA Girls Individual State Finals, Kiara Ganey had the opportunity to achieve some other rather significant accomplishments that fewer individuals would be able to share with her.
One was to add a state championship to the one that she won a year ago at the IWCOA finals at 195 and the other was concluding an unbeaten season with a state title. The Belleville East junior capped her successful 15-0 season in impressive fashion by winning each of her four matches at state with pins, which included recording a fall in 2:40 of the 235 championship match against Curie sophomore Aaliyah GrandBerry. She joined Maya Davis (115), Cadence Diduch (120) and Sydney Perry (145) as IWCOA and IHSA champions and joined Gabriella Gomez (105), Davis (115), Alexis Janiak (130) and Perry (145) as undefeated state champions this season.
Ganey, who’s ranked third nationally at 200 and finished second at 180 in 16-U last year in Fargo, opened with a win by fall in 4:46 over Oak Forest freshman Jessica Komolafe (9-6) and then added a pin in 1:39 over Oak Park and River Forest sophomore Sarah Epshtein. Then she got a fall in 1:32 over Plainfield South freshman Keira Enright to advance her to the title mat. She became the first wrestler from her school to win an IHSA state championship and is also the second Lancer to earn two state medals in the sport. A year ago, she was the first wrestler from her school to reach the title mat in 30 years.
“This is amazing, just to see how far it’s come,” Ganey said. “I started in seventh grade and IWCOA was all of that. So this past year when I found out that it was going to be sanctioned, I was like, it’s about time. I think we work just as hard as the boys do and we should be given the same credit as them. I’m really happy that we’re sanctioned and we have an IHSA state. It’s about time. It was a good first two days. The Grand March was awesome and I’m happy that we’re like the guys now, we deserve all of the credit since we work just as hard as them. And we put in the hours, the blood, sweat and tears. I’m happy they did it just like the guys. No matter what you placed, it was awesome.
“I think it will help tremendously and girls see that now since now you don’t have to wrestle the guys or try to go for guys’ state, now we have our own individual girls state. I think that will give girls more confidence to come out since it’s girls against girls, so I have a chance. Unlike the boys, this is one big family. Winners or losers, whatever, we’re all one big family here and the girls support each other. At the end of the day you may lose or you may win, but we’re all family and we love each other. I’m just happy it’s here.”
GrandBerry (11-1) was one of three individuals who suffered their lone defeat in the state title match, joining Lake’s Olivia Heft (115) and Edwardsville’s Mackenzie Pratt (120). She also was the first wrestler from Curie to not only win a medal at state, let alone compete for a title. GrandBerry opened her state competition with a pin and then got a fall in 5:44 over Normal Community junior Shelby Hailey in the quarterfinals. She earned her trip to the state title mat with a fall in 5:38 in the semifinals over Homewood-Flossmoor sophomore Jocelyn Williams.
Enright (12-4) opened with a pair of falls, pinning Addison Trail sophomore JD Quijano in 1:56 in the quarterfinals. After falling to Ganey, Enright got a pin in 0:39 over Taft freshman Kennedi Atkocaitis to advance to the third-place match where she recorded another fall over Williams in 3:46.
Williams (15-9) won her first two matches by fall, beating Atkocaitis in 1:22 in the quarterfinals before losing in the semifinals to GrandBerry. Williams then beat Epshtein 2-0 before falling to Enright to claim fourth place. In the fifth-place match, Epshtein (17-4) won by fall in 1:42 over Atkocaitis (11-6).
100 – Angelina Cassioppi, Hononegah
As one of two sisters who advanced to the title mat at the inaugural IHSA Girls Individual State Finals, Angelina Cassioppi already was assured of establishing history before she competed in the 100 finals.
But after her sister Rose, who’s a junior, won the championship at 170 to give Hononegah its first girls state title, freshman Angelina duplicated her sister’s accomplishment a short time later when she captured a 6-2 victory over Thornton Fractional South senior Dutchess King in the 100 finals. The two sisters join brother Tony as IHSA champions. Tony, who competes for the University of Iowa, won Class 3A titles at 285 in 2017 and 2018 for Hononegah, making the family the first to have state champions in each sport.
Angelina (23-6), who’s ranked seventh nationally at 100 and placed sixth at 100 in 16-U at Fargo last year, won by technical fall in 2:00 in her first match, which was against Normal West junior Sammy Lehr (9-5), who made history at the start of the season as the first girl to capture a title in a girls-only invitational, which she won at Normal Community. After recording a fall in 1:43 over Homewood-Flossmoor junior Ava Anderson (16-9) in the quarterfinals, she earned her spot in the finals with a 9-3 semifinals win over Lawrenceville senior Brianna Richey.
“This was very exciting and I’m very happy to win with my sister,” Angelina Cassioppi said. “My last match didn’t go as good as I wanted it to. It was really great. I have a lot of friends that were in the finals and hopefully were going to win, so it would be really cool to see that.”
King (20-11) won by a fall in 1:09 in her first match before capturing an 11-5 victory over Bartlett freshman Emma Engels (23-13) in the quarterfinals. The senior advanced to the title mat with a fall in 4:42 over Grant sophomore Ayane Jasinski in the semifinals. This is only the second time that an individual from Thornton Fractional South has reached the IHSA title mat, with the other being in 2003, when Jason Besse placed second at 145 in Class AA.
Richey (29-6) got falls in her first two matches, with the second coming in 1:23 over Oak Park and River Forest senior Bentley Hills (20-9) in the quarterfinals. After losing to Cassioppi in the semifinals, Richey won 7-0 over Rock Island senior Rebecca Ferguson and then defeated Jasinski by a 7-4 score to claim third place.
Jasinski (11-3) won two decisions, including an 8-1 victory in the quarterfinals over Ferguson before King pinned her in the semifinals. After winning 7-0 over Edwardsville sophomore Olivia Coll in the wrestleback, she lost to Richey to finish fourth. And in the fifth-place match, Ferguson (18-10) recorded a fall in 2:00 over Coll (27-7). A year ago, Coll took fourth at 101 at the IWCOA.
105 – Gabriella Gomez, Glenbard North
Gomez and Glenbard North are synonymous with success in IHSA wrestling, so it’s no real surprise that nationally-ranked Gabriella Gomez would put herself in a position to capture the 105 title in the initial IHSA Girls Individual State Finals.
She won 5-3 by sudden victory over Loyola Academy freshman Harlee Hiller in the semifinals before capturing another 5-3 win in the finals over Lincoln-Way Central sophomore Gracie Guarino to become one of two freshmen champions and one of five unbeaten title winners. Gomez, ranked eighth nationally at 100 and a second-place finisher at 94 in 16-U at Fargo last year, finished with a 12-0 record, opened her tournament run with two falls, getting the first in 1:28 over Grant junior Snow Khi and the other in 1:12 in the quarterfinals over Belleville East freshman Alexcia Hardin (9-5).
Her brother, Austin, is an Iowa State University graduate and also a redshirt junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who’s already qualified for the NCAA Division I Tournament and also won the Big Ten title. He was a four-time medalist and three-time champion for the Panthers, where he went 195-7 and won Class 3A titles from 2015-17, becoming one of just four individuals at the school to do that and one of only five who won four state medals. Her sister, Alexis, is a junior who competes for one of the nation’s top NAIA programs, Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Both of her siblings are ranked in the top-five in the nation.
“All I was looking forward to was having this bracket in my hands right now.” Gomez said. “When I found out that there was a girls state tournament, at first I was a little iffy about it because it was folkstyle, and I’m a big freestyle gal, so I was hoping it would be freestyle, but unfortunately, it wasn’t. But I kind of started into it a couple of weeks before sectionals. I was pumped and popped in Glenbard North’s room and asked if I could train with them and coach (Travis) Cherry said of course. So I had great partners there and Gomez Wrestling, great partners there, and I couldn’t have done it without them and coaches and especially my dad.
“My brother, Austin, was a three-time state champ and my sister, Alexis, went to Glenbard North and at the time they didn’t have girls state, so she wrestled with them for practice but didn’t compete. So we have a big legacy at Glenbard North and I’m happy to be a part of it. It feels great to be a part of this legacy with these girls just starting up. Some of these girls are first year and we still put on a great show, and it’s just going to get better. We want everyone to join girls wrestling and it will become big.. I hope the D-I schools open up opportunities for us with full rides, everything. I think this is going to be a great couple of more years for me at Glenbard North.”
Guarino (26-15) recorded three-straight falls to reach the title mat. After needing just 0:27 for her first pin, she got a fall in 1:12 in the quarterfinals over Minooka sophomore Brooklyn Doti and then added a pin in 2:52 in the semifinals over Morris sophomore Ella McDonnell. Guarino placed third at 106 in last year’s IWCOA.
Hiller (22-5) got a fall in her first match and won by technical fall in the quarterfinals over East Peoria sophomore Bailey Lusch. After losing the close call to Gomez, Hiller got a fall in 1:40 in the wrestleback over Richwoods junior Kyley Bair and then won by fall in 5:31 over McDonnell to claim third place. Before this season, the Ramblers had one IHSA medalist, Michael Paloian, who took sixth in 2012 but with Massey Odiotti’s second at 120 in 3A and Hiller’s third, the Ramblers now have three medals and Cooper Wettig took third in last year’s IWCOA.
McDonnell (16-22) recorded a fall in her first match in 2:36 and needed one second less than that for a pin against Bair in the quarterfinals before getting pinned by Guarino in the semifinals. Then she won 3-1 over Lusch before being pinned by Hiller to finish fourth. In the fifth-place match, Lusch (19-19) won a 5-2 decision over Bair (22-3).
110 – Shea Reisel, Somonauk
Shea Reisel brought an impressive resume into the inaugural IHSA Girls Individual state final by being one of two 2019 IWCOA champions in the field and she won two titles against boys this season, becoming the first girl to win a title at the Plano Reaper Classic, where she earned OWA honors for the lower weights, and also took first at Seneca.
Ranked 19th nationally at 112 and an IWCOA champion at 101 in 2019, the Somonauk senior used two falls and two decisions to cap a 23-4 season with a 5-0 victory over Jacksonville senior Brooklyn Murphy in the 110 finals. After opening with a fall in 1:10 over Richwoods sophomore Baya Perez (11-7), she needed just 21 seconds to pin Hillcrest junior Cha’Anna Kassim before claiming a 4-2 victory over Lawrenceville senior Shaina Hyre in the semifinals to reach the title mat.
After beating Murphy in a clash of former IWCOA champions, Reisel becomes the first wrestler from the Somonauk/LeLand co-op to win a state championship. She’s also the second finalist from that combined wrestling program and is just the third medalist in the sport and its first since 2006
“It is so exciting,” Reisel said. “I’m so grateful to have been able to compete and I’m grateful that Illinois put on the whole event and I’m thrilled with my results. I’ve never seen so many girls in Illinois that wrestled in one spot at one time. I didn’t think that I’d have a whole bracket, to be honest with you, but I think every single bracket was filled.
“I’ve wrestled females before nationally, but I liked the event. I don’t have a huge school and therefore I don’t have a lot of wrestlers on my team but I have an amazing support system within my community. It actually is quite the same as a national tournament because I don’t have a team here, which is alright and it feels natural.”
Murphy (22-13), who won an IWCOA title at 106 last year, recorded a fall in 1:25 in her first match against Joliet Catholic Academy freshman Grace Laird (19-8) before pinning Huntley sophomore Taylor Casey (12-7) in 0:56. Murphy advanced to the title mat with a fall in 5:25 over Burlington Central freshman Victoria Macias in the semifinals. This is only the third time that a Crimsons wrestler has competed in an IHSA title match, with the last previous one being in 1971, when Jim Patterson placed second at 98.
Hyre (27-5) opened the tournament with two falls, recording the second of those in 3:53 over Evanston junior Ariana Flores (15-7) in the quarterfinals. After getting edged by Reisel in the semifinals, Hyre pinned Maine East senior Amy Villegas in 4:45 and then got a fall in 3:10 over Macias in the third-place match.
Macias (23-6) got a fall in her first match before claiming an 8-4 decision over Hoffman Estates senior Evelyn Simon in the quarterfinals. After getting pinned by Murphy, Macias won 5-3 over Berwyn-Cicero Morton senior Jennifer Villagomez before falling to Hyre to take fourth. In the fifth-place match, Villagomez (18-3) pinned Villegas (19-12) in 3:18. A year ago, Villagomez took sixth at 106 in the IWCOA. Villegas and Hannah Suboni-Kaufman (third at 120) are the first IHSA medal winners for Maine East since 2002 when Dave Martinez won the 103 title in AA.
115 – Maya Davis Glenwood
A family would obviously feel very pleased if only one of their children were able to be a state champion orcan compete with some of the best nationally during one school year, so it’s easy to see why Maya Davis is understandably proud that her family can claim three children that have achieved those impressive accomplishments during 2021-22.
Beside the Glenwood senior making history on Saturday as one of five unbeaten champions in the first IHSA Girls Individual State Finals with a 10-3 win over Lakes sophomore Olivia Heft in the 115 title match, the day before she became one of the first individuals who’s ever been involved in two IHSA finals at the same time when her Titans squad lost 41-34 to Antioch in the quarterfinals of the Class 2A Dual Team Finals, which were also in Bloomington. That all came one week after her sophomore brother Andrew capped a perfect 19-0 season to win the Class 2A Individual title at 106. The two are now the first state champions in the sport at the school in Chatham. And her brother Luke was a wrestler but is now a gymnast who has performed well in national events and even competed internationally in trampoline and tumbling.
Davis (9-0), an IWCOA champion at 120 in 2021 who is ranked seventh nationally at 117, opened her run toward becoming one of the first IHSA champions in her sport with first-period falls over Thornton Fractional South freshman Quincy Onyiaorah in her first match and then Hoffman Estates freshman Sophia Ball (17-8) in the quarterfinals before securing her spot on the title mat with a fall in 4:15 over Joliet West sophomore Eliana Paramo. She will be continuing her education and career at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, which is one of the top-ranked teams in the NAIA this season.
“It’s super exciting,” Davis said. “I’m so very excited for me and all of these girls, it’s been a wild ride. It’s incredible that all of these girls are starting to come into this. It’s the biggest growth that I’ve seen since I was little in the amount of girls that are wrestling now. To see all of the girls that I grew wrestling with to all be on top of the podium is great. I love wrestling with the guys since that’s how I grew up, so wrestling with the guys has a special place in my heart.
“But I’m super excited for all of these new girls that are coming into it because of the fact that they get to wrestle girls. It’s going to do so much for our sport and it’s going to boom with all of these girls. I love the fact that I was able to be a pioneer for women’s wrestling in Illinois. I’ve been doing this for the past 11 years of my life. So the fact that I get to be a part of this very first one, it’s like all of my hard work and all of the hard work that the people behind the scenes have been doing has paid off. It’s incredible.”
Heft (14-1), who also was unbeaten when she stepped onto the title mat, advanced there with falls in her first two matches, winning her opener in 3:25 and then in 3:43 in the quarterfinals over Jacksonville freshman Alexis Seymour and then capturing a 4-1 semifinals victory over Yorkville sophomore Yami Aguirre to become one of eight unbeaten finalists and be part of one of the two clashes of unbeatens that took place at the historic competition. A year ago at the IWCOA, Heft placed fourth at 115. She is the second individual from her school to reach the state title mat, joining Matt Holmes, who won the 2A title at 135 in 2009.
Bowen junior Monica Griffin (22-4) claimed third place with a fall in 5:35 over Aguirre. Griffin lost her opening match to Richwoods freshman Isabella Motteler but bounced back to claim five-straight victories in the consolation bracket. After recording a pair of first-period pins, she won 9-4 over Seymour and then recorded another fall, this one in just 0:21 over Paramo to advance to the third-place match. A year ago, Griffin took fourth at 120 at the IWCOA.
Aguirre (29-4), who was an IWCOA champion in 2021, recorded falls in her first two matches, winning in 5:06 in the quarterfinals over Berwyn-Cicero Morton senior Neida Arreola (12-9). After falling to Heft in the semifinals, she beat Motteler 13-0 before placing fourth. In the five-place match, Paramo (8-3) won by fall in 5:06 over Motteler (16-5).
120 – Cadence Diduch, Freeport
During the season, Cadence Diduch got the opportunity to be around senior teammate Markel Baker, who capped a 27-0 season as the IHSA Class 2A champion at 126.
So it’s not that surprising that the Freeport sophomore who is ranked second nationally at 117 and was a 2021 IWCOA champion at 113 and a 2021 16-U champion at 117 in Fargo who won tournament titles at Rockford East, Polo and the NIC-10 this season against boys, would be among the first group of IHSA champions in the sport, which she secured with an 11-0 major decision over Edwardsville freshman Mackenzie Pratt, in a clash of nationally-ranked competitors in the 120 title match.
Diduch (22-3) won by technical fall over Hoffman Estates freshman Gianna Rossi in her opener and then recorded a fall in 3:23 over Red Bud sophomore Avery Smith in the quarterfinals and earned her spot in the semifinals, where she got a pin in 1:09 over Maine East senior Hannah Suboni-Kaufman to advance her against unbeaten Pratt. Prior to this season, the Pretzels only had won two state titles, and had just one title winner in the last 25 years, Major Dedmond in 2019, and now their total of champions has doubled.
“It’s pretty nice because I can see all of the girls and it shows that I’m not the only girl in the sport,” Diduch said. “I was glad since my whole family got to come down here. Since COVID, they hadn’t been able to come down, so all of my friends came and even some of my soccer teammates came. It’s pretty exciting, too, since we’re the first state champs at our weights ever.”
Pratt (12-1), who was ranked 17th at 120, got a fall in 1:35 in her opener with Riverside-Brookfield sophomore Eleanor Aphay (17-9) and then got a pin in 1:33 over Lane Tech freshman Nyah Lovis (13-12) in the quarterfinals. Pratt collected her third fall in 0:32 over Round Lake freshman Ireland McCain in the semifinals to reach the title mat.
Suboni-Kaufman (26-3) bounced back from her defeat to Diduch to claim third place. After winning 10-4 in her first match, she recorded a fall in 1:37 over Normal Community junior Pyper Wood (15-7) in the quarterfinals. Following her semifinals loss, she won 8-3 over Berwyn-Cicero Morton junior Leilany De Leon before recording a fall in 2:32 over Smith to claim third place. Suboni-Kaufman, who was sixth in the IWCOA at 113 last year, and Amy Villegas (sixth at 110) are the first IHSA medal winners for Maine East since 2002 when Dave Martinez won the 103 title in AA.
Smith (20-15) made history by becoming the first individual representing Red Bud to place at state in wrestling. The school in Randolph County in southwestern Illinois co-ops with Valmeyer. She won her opener with a fall in 4:39 over Curie sophomore Vanessa Torres but then fell to Diduch. Smith bounced back with three-straight falls, including ones in 0:43 over Wood and in 0:38 over McCain and settled for fourth place. In the fifth-place match, McCain (18-8) recorded a fall in 1:28 over De Leon (13-5). This was a big year for Round Lake with Aidan McCain also taking fifth at 182 in 3A, they were the first medals for the school since 1996, when Amador Estrada took second at 103 in AA .
125 – Natasha Markoutsis, Yorkville
With just one defeat and being ranked highly in the nation, it looked like a pretty good bet that Natasha Markoutsis would wrap up her high school career as one of the first champions at the inaugural IHSA Girls Individual State Finals, and that’s exactly what happened in the 125 weight class.
The Yorkville senior, who’s ranked 11th nationally at 132, capped a 30-1 campaign by recording three first-period falls to reach the 125 finals and then Markoutsis added one final pin, this one in 2:47 over Collinsville freshman Taylor Dawson to become one of four seniors who were able to win an IHSA title in their lone opportunity. A year ago, she took second at 132 in the IWCOA finals.
Markoutsis opened her title run with a fall in 1:51 over Anna-Jonesboro junior Oregan Dover (9-4) and then she recorded a pin in 1:48 over Berwyn-Cicero Morton senior Ximena Juarez (13-5) in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, she needed just 0:35 to get a fall over Vandalia junior Lauren Dothager to advance her to the title mat.
“I’ve waited for this moment for my entire life,” Markoutsis said. “Everything was always IWCOA or offseason tournaments, but this is really where it matters most. Every time I would win an offseason tournament, it would be like, ‘oh, congrats, anyway.’ So it was nice being here today to actually represent Yorkville and what I’ve trained for and what we do in the room and it shows on the mat. I’m just really proud that I can display that to not just everyone here, but on Flo(Wrestling) or Trackwrestling.
“That was really cool (The Grand March). It was really awesome to see us march out and I’m sure that I’ll see the video. You really don’t know what it’s like being in that tunnel until you’re in there. It’s really nerve-racking since everyone is watching you and especially on that mat, too, since there’s only one match going. It means the world to me to be a part of this trailblazing opportunity for younger women. We actually have representation now on Track and for our school and it’s going to make girls want to wrestle and do their best instead of not wanting to wrestle. I’m ecstatic to see the girls in this sport, especially after today. I know that the numbers in the future are going to double or even triple.”
Dawson (19-23), advanced to the title mat with three-straight falls, winning in 2:19 over Glenbard East senior Dahlia Leighton in her first match and following that with a fall in 0:49 over Coal City senior Carly Ford (15-5) in the quarterfinals. Dawson got a pin in 4:30 in the semifinals over Sherrard sophomore Bri Bynum to earn her spot in the finals. This was only the second time that a Collinsville wrestler advanced to the state championship mat and it equals the school’s best showing at state, which happened in 2008 when Ryan Robinson took second at 189 in AA.
Leighton (20-3) claimed third place by winning 6-4 in sudden victory over Dothager. Following her first-round defeat, Leighton won five-straight in the wrestlebacks, following up on a pair of falls with a win by technical fall over Kaneland freshman Dyani Torres (21-15) and then pinning Bynum in 3:54 and before winning the third-place match.
Dothager (21-15), who took second at 126 at last year’s IWCOA finals, won her first two matches, with a 13-0 victory in the quarterfinals over Lincoln-Way Central junior Ashley Villa sending her to the semifinals, where she fell to Markoutsis. She advanced to the third-place match with a 3-2 win over Schaumburg senior Bethany Regione (28-4), who won by fall in 4:18 over Bynum for fifth place. A year ago at the IWCOA finals, Regione placed fourth at 132.
130 – Alexis Janiak, Plainfield South
After competing against boys throughout her high school career, Alexis Janiak felt that the opportunity for girls to finally compete in their own state tournament that she and other trailblazers like her finally were able to do this season was long overdue, and she was quite happy to make that point known, both in her words and in her actions.
A 2019 IWCOA champion at 106 who’s ranked third nationally at 122 and finished first at 127 in Junior Women last summer in Fargo, the Plainfield South senior capped a 12-0 season with an 8-1 win over Westville senior Berlin Kiddoo in the 130 finals in a clash of nationally-ranked individuals. In the process, she joined four others as undefeated state champions in the first year of an IHSA tournament for the sport.
After recording a fall in 2:56 over Andrew freshman Alyssa Keane (8-7) in her first match, Janiak claimed a win by technical fall in 4:50 over Schaumburg freshman Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic in the quarterfinals and then captuured another win by technical fall in 4:18 over Edwardsville senior Abby Rhodes. With her title win, she becomes the first Cougars wrestler to capture an IHSA title in the sport. It’s been a good two weeks for the Janiak family since Alexis’ sophomore brother Matthew took sixth at 170 in Class 3A.
“This was really important for me because I started wrestling in second grade and there were very few girls,” Janiak said. “It was crazy to see another girl at a tournament so you’d become friends with them immediately because you understood each others’ situations. Now that it’s an IHSA-sanctioned sport, that’s huge and to see much it’s grown in the past 11 years since I’ve been in it. It really shows that if you give girls the opportunity to wrestle, they will come out and they will do it. A lot of them don’t know that they have the opportunity, they just assume that it’s only for guys. So when they see another girl competing, it’s like, ‘I didn’t even know that I could do that, let me try that. The struggles that I went through, I would never wish it upon anyone else. So the fact that they don’t have to go through it and I went through it for them is really important to me.
“Oftentimes when I was younger, you’d find that girls wouldn’t get the attention in the practice room. Boys wouldn’t want to practice with them or wouldn’t want to compete against them. So now with girls wrestling growing, they don’t have to deal with that any more, because they have other girls that want to see it grow, just like them. I thought it was a great step in the right direction. I hope in the future that girls will get to compete in Champaign, just like the guys, but we’ll just have to grow and get better, step by step. It was treated just like the guys’ tournament, I just want to see it in a bigger spotlight because the environment and energy at Champaign is unbeatable. But I’m glad that this was here for us this year, especially considering COVID, I wasn’t sure that we’d have it.”
Kiddoo (20-6), who was ranked 19th nationally, recorded a fall in 1:15 over Fenton freshman Yannel Perez (12-8) in her first match and then won with a pin in 3:11 over Glenbard West junior Khatija Ahmed (20-7) in the quarterfinals. She earned her spot on the title mat after capturing an 8-2 semifinals victory over Grant senior Crystal Villegas.
Rhodes (19-9) bounced back from her semifinals loss to Janiak by capturing a 10-7 decision over Bolingbrook sophomore Katie Ramirez-Quinter to advance to the third-place match, which she won when she recorded a fall in 1:11 over Villegas.
Villegas (18-2), who was unbeaten entering the competition, won 12-2 over Olympia sophomore Jordan Bicknell in her first match and then claimed a 7-2 decision over Ramirez-Quinter in the quarterfinals. Following her loss to Kiddoo, Villegas captured a 7-6 win over Berwyn-Cicero Morton senior Karla Topete and then took fourth. A year ago, Villegas placed third at 126 in IWCOA finals. In the fifth-place match, Topete (18-3) won 6-3 over Ramirez-Quinter (13-5).
135 – Attalia Watson-Castro, Homewood-Flossmoor
Attalia Watson-Castro is pleased about the fact that during an historic season for wrestling at her school that she can say that she finished better at state than anyone else has, and that’s not just for this year, but it’s for all-time.
The Homewood-Flossmoor junior capped a 17-1 season by taking first at 135 with a 4-0 win over Boylan Catholic sophomore Netavia Wickson in the first IHSA Girls Individual State Finals. She won her first two matches by technical fall and captured two close decisions to become the school’s first champion in wrestling for a program that’s been competing for over 60 years. The Vikings had four individuals in the boys tournament who placed third or better, doubling their previous-best of two from nearly 50 years ago.
Watson-Castro, who’s ranked 24th in the nation at 144 and took fourth at 138 in U-16 at Fargo last year, was one of eight Vikings qualifiers and was joined by two teammates as medal winners, Jocelyn Williams (fourth at 235) and Ini Odumosu (fifth at 190), after winning by technical fall over Pekin junior Jaylah Dalton and doing the same against Conant junior Samantha Anderson in the quarterfinals. She became the fifth Viking to compete on the title mat when she won 6-4 over Goreville sophomore Alivia Ming in the semifinals, which was one week after Vincent Robinson placed second at 126 in Class 3A and three of his teammates finished third.
“This actually means a lot,” Watson-Castro said. “Especially since the boys were first and they were setting where I was going to be for state. I feel like they set the tone for how I was going to wrestle down here. Since Vincent and JJ fell short, and they were the two that I looked up to and I watched them wrestle and certain things they did I practiced that in the wrestling room. With them falling short, it was like, now it’s money time, I can’t fall short, either. We have an Illinois thing that says first, second and third in the wrestling room. So I told them that when my name is on first, they can’t say anything to me since it’s my wrestling room.
“This was the start of history in the making for us, the start of something great. Starting with the boys and then the girls. I didn’t expect to have as many girls as we had this year. This is a big deal since the IWCOA was off season, so it’s good to be recognized in an organized sport. A lot of the girls that were out there that placed first, what we had to go through with the nail and the hammer to get to where we are now.”
Wickson (14-12), who finished second at 120 in the IWCOA last year, used two falls and a decision to reach the title mat. After recording a fall over Lakes sophomore Ava Babbs in her first match, she won 5-2 over Unity junior Ava Vasey in the quarterfinals. Wickson earned a spot in the finals, something done by only two other athletes at her school in IHSA wrestling, when she recorded a fall in 5:20 over Niles West junior Al Ghala Mariam Al Radi in the semifinals.
Al Radi (18-2), who took fourth at 138 in the IWCOA last year, finished third with a fall in 2:31 over Ming. She recorded two falls, with the latter coming in 4:41 over Kankakee junior Alejandra Cornejo in the quarterfinals, after falling to Wickson in the semifinals, she earned her spot on the third-place mat with a win by technical fall over Anderson. This was the first medal won by a Niles West wrestler at state since 2013 and their best finish at state since 2008, when Stephen Robertson placed second at 112 in AA.
Ming (20-22) also made history for Goreville by becoming her school’s first medal winner. It was an exciting weekend for the 171-student school in Johnson County in southern Illinois as the Blackcats also sent two other individuals to state, Molly and Mikah Merrill. Ming recorded falls in her first two matches, getting a pin in 2:38 over Joliet Central senior Stephany Serna (12-5) in the quarterfinals before falling to Watson-Castro. Ming advanced to the third-place match with an 8-4 win over Wauconda senior Keira Dafnis. In the fifth-place match, Dafnis (27-9), who was second at 138 at the 2021 IWCOA finals, won 9-0 over Anderson (14-6), who was sixth at 126 in last year’s IWCOA meet.
140 – Antonia Phillips, Alton
You know that you’ve done something that’s very special when your hometown has a ceremony in your honor where they designate that it’s your day and they also will put up signs that proudly announce your accomplishments and that’s just what happened for Antonia Phillips on Friday, a few days after she won the IHSA title at 140 pounds.
The Alton junior made school history on an historic day when she became the first Redbirds wrestler to win an IHSA state championship and now is one of just four finalists for the school, including one of only two individuals who have reached the title mat during the last 80 years. She wrapped up her memorable tournament by capturing a 6-2 victory over El Paso-Gridley freshman Savannah Hamilton in the 140 title match at the first-ever IHSA Girls Individual State Finals in Bloomington.
Phillips (20-3) advanced to the title mat after recording a fall in 1:40 over McHenry sophomore Emma Garrett in the semifinals, the first time that an Alton wrestler reached the finals since Taylor McGiffen placed second 10 years ago. She won her quarterfinals match by fall in 1:53 over Lane Tech senior Noemi Marchan after opening with a win by technical fall over Wauconda sophomore Hazel Hartwig (16-14). The last of the 14 individuals to claim titles on the historic day has been deaf for most of her life and clearly is an inspirational figure in her hometown.
“It’s really amazing, I don’t really have any other words to say,” Phillips said through her interpreter. “I won the state tournament, it’s amazing and I’m really happy. It was more of a challenge than I really expected and I’m hoping that more girls will join for next year. A lot of girls aren’t usually in tournaments like this, so it’s really great to see this. I like to focus on the mat, I focus on me and the opponent and I’m able to block out the rest of everything else. I’ll remember this forever.”
Hamilton (5-2) used two falls and a two-point decision to become one of five freshmen to advance to the championship mat. After recording a first-period fall in her initial match, Hamilton won 4-2 over Zion-Benton junior Rachel Williams-Henry in the quarterfinals and then got a pin in 1:53 over Ottawa senior Sara Meyer in the semifinals.
Meyer (15-4) claimed third place with a fall in 2:37 over William-Henry. After getting a pin in her first match, Meyer claimed a 13-8 quarterfinals win over Trico senior Maggie Ramaker and then got pinned by Hamilton in the semifinals. She secured her trip to the third-place match after winning 11-3 over Marchan. Williams-Henry (15-3), had a fall in 0:28 in her opening match before she was edged by Hamilton 4-2 in the quarterfinals. She recorded pins in three-consecutive matches in the wrestlebacks, winning in 1:25 over Garrett to advance to the third-place match. And Marchan (24-7) claimed fifth place with an 8-4 victory over Garrett (14-8). This was the best showing in IHSA competition for a Lane Tech wrestler since 2012 when Max Schneider won his second 3A title at 152. Last year at the IWCOA, Natalie Cortes was first at 101.
FROM THE IWCOA: If you are enjoying these articles, please consider a small donation to the IWCOA so that we can continue funding feature stories for our website and social media. The IWCOA is non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization. Click this link to make a donation. Thank you!