Fenton’s girls shine at Niles West

By Gary Larsen for the IWCOA

After what she’s been through, winning an individual title at Saturday’s Niles West Girls Invite can’t possibly be considered Cailyn Platta’s biggest accomplishment in the last year.
But after missing most of last season after being hit by a car, and spending three months in a wheelchair with a pelvis fractured in ten different places, the Fenton sophomore was certainly happy to be competing again on Saturday.

And don’t ever let anyone tell you that girls aren’t tough.
“After I got out of the wheelchair I had like three weeks of physical therapy and I was back wrestling again,” Platta said.

If Fenton’s team is anything this year, it’s gritty. With increasing numbers in the program, the Bison won the team title at Niles West, posting a 181-158 edge over second-place Hoffman Estates in the 30-team field.

Conant (123.5) placed third, New Trier (105) was fourth, and Addison Trail (103.5) finished fifth in the team standings, followed by Zion-Benton (101), Metea Valley (90.5), Warren (88), Larkin (81), and Maine West (78) to round out the top ten finishes.

Platta (190), Yamile Penazola (155) and Sophia Sosa (170) won individual titles for Fenton, and the Bison got a second from Giselle Castillo (125), thirds from Yannel Perez (140) and Ariana Solideo (235), and a fourth from Paula Serpa (130).

“The team is doing great,” Penaloza said. “We work hard every day and we’re only going to get better. More girls are coming out for wrestling and falling in love with the sport.”
Fenton assistant coach Kacper Piskorz has been with Fenton’s program for three years, and has watched the girls program grow.

“We had some girls have some success and I think girls around the school were seeing that success and wanted to join the program,” Piskorz said. “They had someone to look up to and now they’re becoming role models themselves.

“We thought we could have some success her today but they’ve exceeded our expectations. They wrestled great, fought so hard, and we’re proud of them. We had a girl (freshman Ariana Solideo at 235) place third in her first-ever tournament today.”

Hoffman Estates led the field with four individual champions to Fenton’s three, and had nine wrestlers finish in the top four of their weight classes. The Hawks got titles from Emmylina O’Brien (135), Abby Ji (140), Liriana Rakoci (145), and Anjali Gonzalez (235).

Fenton placed seven wrestlers in the top four of their divisions with two third-placers, and in the battle for team bonus points Fenton led the field with 23 pins to Hoffman Estates’ 16.

Among individuals, Glenbrook North’s Ariella Dobin scored the most team points of any wrestler with 34, while Penaloza and Hoffman Estates’ O’Brien and Ji tied for the second-most team points scored with 32 apiece.

Dobin’s five pins in a combined total of 5:07 were the most falls in the least amount of time by any wrestler, and Conant’s Samantha Hernandez posted the fastest tech fall win in 3:53. Montini’s Kat Bell scored the most points in a match with 27, and Bell and Metea Valley’s Uliana Shevtsova tied for the most total match points scored with 50.

Nine of the 14 title matches were decided by fall, four were decided by straight decision, and one was decided by major decision. The closest finals matches of the day came at 115 and 190, with the breakdown to follow.

Championship round breakdowns:

100: Kat Bell, Montini

Bell posted a tech fall, a pin, and a 10-2 major decision win for the title against Rickover’s Mia Vazquez. The Montini junior won 20 matches and was a state qualifier last year, and in her third year in the sport she’s hungry for more.

“I want to go undefeated and I would like to place at state. That would be a really good feeling,” said Bell, who placed third at 100 in last year’s inaugural Niles West tournament.

Bell’s 27 points scored in her second-round tech fall win were the most points scored by any wrestler in a single match. She also tied for the most total match points scored with 50 for the tournament.
In the finals, Bell earned a takedown and two near-fall points in the first period against Vazquez before opening up in the third en route to the win.

“(Vazquez) is short and stocky and she made it difficult for me to get in,” Bell said. “I like to go with lower shots and re-attacks and that was hard to do against her.”

As one of three girls in the program, Bell currently squares off with her younger brother Jack in the Broncos’ practice room. She gets instruction from her father, who also wrestled at Montini in the 1990s for veteran Montini coach Mike Bukovsky.

The IWCOA hall-of-fame Montini coach is back overseeing the program full-time this year.
“My dad is usually in my corner and the Montini room has some great coaches and that has helped a lot,” Bell said. “And I haven’t stopped training. I went from the high school season right into training for freestyle. It’s been really fun for me.”

105: Riley Kongkaeow, Round Lake

Last year’s state qualifier Kongkaeow went 4-0 in the five-girl bracket at 105, with three pins and an 11-6 decision over second-place Averi Colella of Lockport. Kongkaeow went 21-7 last season as a freshman.
Naperville Central’s Annika Hull finished third, Hoffman Estates’ Gwendolyn Ridley was fourth, and Hoffman Estates’ Judy Soto placed fifth.

It was Kongkaeow’s second individual title at Niles West; last year she won the title at 100 pounds.

110: Avi Gonzalez, Lyons Township
The junior Gonzalez surprised the field as the No. 13 seed, pinning three higher seeds en route to the title mat, where she won by fall over Metea Valley’s Ashley Basmajan.

In only her second full season of wrestling, Gonzalez is ready to take a big step forward after spending her first season learning what it takes to be a wrestler.

“I’ve been wrestling all pre-season and I’m much better than I was last season,” Gonzalez said. “I just started wrestling last year. I wrestled with Beat the Streets and they definitely helped me so much. I really like how challenging this sport is. It can put you in a dark place sometimes and you have to find a way out of it.”

Gonzalez opened her tournament with a fall against No. 4 Alyssa Bentley of Warren and beat top-seeded Sam Macek of Conant by fall in the semifinals. Tenth-seeded Basmajan also provided her share of surprises, winning by fall in her quarterfinal over second-seeded Hannah Lee of Vernon Hills, then winning by fall over third-seeded Samantha Hernandez of Conant in her semifinal.

Macek went on to place third at 110, Hernandez was fourth, Larkin’s Ashley Hammond took fifth, and Maine East’s Eliana Badeen placed fifth.

115: Zoe Lee, New Trier

The seventh-seeded Trevians freshman announced her arrival on the high school wrestling scene by posting three falls before gutting out a 9-8 decision win on the title mat against Metea Valley’s top-seeded Utlana Shevtsova. Lee led 4-1 after a period and 6-3 after two periods before Shevtsova stormed back in the third. Shevtsova reached the finals this year after placing fifth.

Niles West’s Zoe Pomeranets finished third, teammate Sarina Krieger was fourth, Saint Viator’s Natalie Gubernat was fifth, and Oswego East’s Payton Lustrup finished sixth at 115.

120: Ariella Dobin, Glenbrook North

Glenbrook North’s Dobin was a 120-pound buzz-saw at Niles West on Saturday. The No. 14 seed knocked off top-seeded Nina Matthews of Addison Trail, and went 5-0 with five pins on the day. She also had the most pins in the least time of any wrestler in the tournament, clocking in a grand total of 5:07 spent on the mat over her five matches. Dobin’s 34 team points scored were also the most by any wrestler present at Niles West.

Not a bad day for a freshman.

“Last year she qualified for the IESA boys wrestling state,” GBN girls coach Vince Agin said. “She is one of our top workers in our wrestling room, puts her head down and works her butt off every day. She’s extremely strong and skilled. She showed a great outside single and also showed her dominance on top, pinning all of her opponents in that position.”

125: Nyah Lovis, Lane Tech

The Lane Tech junior kicked off her Saturday with a pin, then won three consecutive straight decisions to win the title at 125, capped by a 9-2 decision on the title mat against Fenton’s Giselle Castillo.

Lovis was a state qualifier last year, entered the tournament as the No. 10 seed at 125, and Castillo was the top seed; Lovis also beat the No. 2, 7, and 11 seeds en route to capturing the crown.
Lovis also placed second at 120 in last year’s tournament.

“It was good to see Nyah getting to her offense in this tournament,” Lane Tech coach Matt Yan said. “When she opens up, she can be dangerous. We still have a lot to work on, but I’m glad she got the finish she wanted after taking second here last year.”

Conant’s Beth Ciavarella placed third at 125, Warren’s Justyce Sieber was fourth, Oak Park and River Forest’s Anahi Banuelos placed fifth, and Naperville Central’s Ellen Purl finished sixth.

130: Noelani Rodriguez, Waukegan

The Waukegan senior pinned her way to the title at 130 as the No. 10 seed, and no one survived the first period against her. Rodriguez’s day ended with a pin on the title mat against Zion-Benton’s third-seeded Emily Ortiz.

Rodriguez, a state qualifier last year who went 27-7, pinned top-seeded Aubrey Mueller of Conant in the quarterfinal round, then pinned No. 4 Paula Serpa of Fenton in the semifinals.

Addison Trail’s Brithany Mondragon placed third, Serpa finished fourth, Oak Park and River Forest’s Pearl Lacey took fifth, and Warren’s Jane Kelly took sixth.

135: Emmylina O’Brien, Hoffman Estates

Now in her fourth year of wrestling, the senior O’Brien is practically a wily veteran at this point in her career. She went 29-9 at 115 as a state qualifier last year, and with her final high school season staring her in the face, she’s more ready to wrestle than ever before.

“I’m so much more aware of what weight I should be at, and I’m just better at being self-aware of my body and what it can do,” O’Brien said. “It’s been a lot of trial and error and I’m so happy I stuck with it.”
Top-seeded O’Brien posted four pins to take the crown at 135 in Skokie, ending her day with a second-period fall against Conant’s third-seeded Jasmine Zavaleta. With 32 points scored, O’Brien tied for second overall among wrestlers who scored the most team points in the tournament. She also won the tournament title at 130 last year.

“It took so many people and so much of me, mentally and physically, to take me from wrestling boys as a freshman to becoming a state qualifier wrestling girls,” O’Brien said.

“There are a handful of girls who like wrestling as much as I do – maybe even more – who have probably been training since birth. I’m so happy to be able to compete against them.”

Maine West’s Ava Reyes placed third at 135, Hoffman Estates’ Lourdes Roberts was fourth, Warren’s Ashley Bridges finished fifth, and Glenbrook North’s Sienna Dini took sixth.

140: Abby Ji, Hoffman Estates

Ji became the second top seed from Hoffman Estates to win a title, when she won by fall at the end of the second period on the title mat at 140 against second-seeded Jillian Giller of New Trier.

Ji went 35-10 as a state qualifier last year and posted three pins Saturday to claim her tournament crown.
Fenton’s Yannel Perez placed third at 140, Conant’s Ewa Krupa was fourth, Zion-Benton’s Tegan Haske placed fifth, and Zion-Benton’s Adrianna Ketchum took sixth.

145: Liriana Rakoci, Hoffman Estates

The junior Rakoci made it a perfect three-for-three for Hoffmans Estates’ top seeds winning individual titles, winning by fall on the title mat against Larkin’s Mia Reyes. Tenth-seeded Reyes upset her way to the finals, including a semifinal win over second-seeded Douaa Badou of Conant.

Rakoci had pins in the first minute of both her quarterfinal and semifinal matches before posting her fall in the finals at the 2:25 mark.

Zion-Benton’s Grace Johnson wrestled back to finish third, Metea Valley’s Alketa Picari placed fourth, Maine West’s Soila Orodco was fifth, and Warren’s Hanna Bairstow placed sixth.

155; Yamile Penaloza, Fenton

Top-seeded Penaloza and second-seeded Naomi Foote of Zion-Benton spent the first period hand-fighting in their title match at 155, before Penaloza saw her chance in the second period and took it.
“I was trying to figure out how (Foote) moves, and what she was trying to do,” Penaloza said. “In the second period she was shooting so I just tried to move her head and bring her down. I’m shooting and defending better than I did last year.”

Penaloza’s pin at 3:42 gave her the first of Fenton’s three consecutive individual titles in the upper weights. Penaloza is a two-time state qualifier and went 18-7 as a state qualifier last year.
Penaloza had four pins on the day, reaching the finals with a fall in her semifinal match against fourth-seeded Eliza Buivis of Jacobs. Penaloza went 1-2 at last year’s state finals, in her third year as a wrestler, and the sport is now undeniably in her blood.

“I love the commitment, how we have to work hard, and how it’s me versus me because there’s really nobody else to count on but yourself,” Penaloza said.

Foote reached the finals by semifinal fall against third-seeded Nina Aceves of New Trier. Aceves went on to place third at 155, Buivis placed fourth, Warren’s Ashley Fugelseth was fifth, and Conant’s Susan Bilyal placed sixth.

170: Sophia Sosa, Fenton

The top-seeded Fenton senior won by second-period fall in the finals against Metea Valley’s Sanskruti Sangalge to win the title at 170. Sosa went 26-4 last year as a junior, and won the title at Niles West at 155 pounds.

“Sophia did a lot of off-season work, went to Fargo, and she’s getting better,” Fenton assistant coach Kacper Piskorz said. “She has become a real role model for the team. She and Yami (Penaloza) are going against each other in the room and it’s making them both better.”

Sosa won a 9-5 decision in her semifinal match against fourth-seeded Isabella Chiovari of Hoffman Estates, and third-seeded Sangalge won by fall in her semifinal match against second-seeded Lillian Garrett of Maine West.

Garret went on to place third at 170, Chiovari was fourth, Oswego East’s Jessica Stover placed fifth, and Conant’s Lana Ton finished sixth.

190: Cailyn Platta, Fenton

The top-seeded sophomore went 14-6 in her injury-shortened freshman season and she’s glad to be back and healthy this year. Platta and second-seeded JD Quijano were locked in a 3-3 tie on the title mat at 190 in the waning seconds when a late escape by Platta gave her the 4-3 win and an individual title.

“I have no clue,” Platta said when asked how she earned the escape. “I probably just brought my hips back. It was tough. My conditioning is better this year and I have good practice partners, which helps out a lot in getting better with technique and how to defend stuff.”

Platta won by fall in her semifinal match against Lockport’s fourth-seeded Lydia Chrobak, while Quijano pinned No. 14 Jillian Bollard in their semifinal match.

Chrobak went on to place third at 190, Oak Park and River Forest’s Jaliyah Knighten was fourth, Larkin’s Kimberly Reyes placed fifth, and Saint Viator’s Jillian Bollard took sixth.

235: Anjali Gonzalez, Hoffman Estates

The junior Gonzalez went 25-11 at 190 as a state qualifier last year, and on Saturday she completed the Hawks’ quartet of top seeds to win individual titles in a win by fall on the title mat at 235, over second-seeded Jereni Marshall of Evanston.

Gonzalez won by fall in her semifinal match against fourth-seeded Eliana Garrett of Maine West, while Marshall won by fall in her semifinal against Fenton’s Ariana Solideo.

Solideo went on to place third at 235, Garret took fourth, Lockport’s Rebekah Ramirez was fifth, and Maine East’s Lyric Walton took sixth.

Niles West championship match results:

100: Kat Bell (Montini) MD 10-2 Mia Vazquez (Rickover)
105: Riley Kongkaeow (Round Lake) D 11-6 Averi Colella (Lockport)
110: Avi Gonzalez (Lyons) F 1:23 Ashley Basmajan (Metea Valley)
115: Zoe Lee (New Trier) D 9-8 Uliana Shevtsova (Metea Valley)
120: Ariella Dobin (Glenbrook N) F 0:45 Nina Matthews (Addison Trail)
125: Nyah Lovis (Lane Tech) D 9-2 Giselle Castillo (Fenton)
130: Noelani Rodriguez (Waukegan) F 1:32 Emily Ortiz (Zion-Benton)
135: Emmylina O’Brien (Hoffman Estate) F 3:29 Jasmine Zavaleta (Conant)
140: Abby Ji (Hoffman Estates) F 4:00 Jillian Giller (New Trier)
145: Liriana Rakoci (Hoffman Estates) F 2:25 Mie Reyes (Larkin)
155: Yamile Penaloza (Fenton) F 3:42 Naomi Foote (Zion-Benton)
170: Sophia Sosa (Fenton) F 3:25 Sanskruti Sangalge (Metea Valley)
190: Cailyn Platta (Fenton) D 4-3 JD Quijano (Addison Trail)
235: Anjali Gonzalez (Hoffman Estates) F 1:08 Jereni Marshall (Evanston)

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