Minooka makes history, edges Joliet Township to win own regional title

By Curt Herron – for the IWCOA

After Joliet Township finished ahead of Minooka by a 197.5-163 margin to capture top honors in the Southwest Prairie Conference Girls Tournament on January 20 at Joliet Central, there was a good chance that there might be a similar final placement for the two teams when they got to  compete face each other again in one of the the first IHSA regionals, which Minooka hosted.

But it’s obviously much easier for a team to dominate in an 11-team conference tournament with 114 individuals entered as opposed to 184 competitors representing 41 schools in the first-ever regional in the Joliet-area, which was one of the eight initial regionals held throughout Illinois.

And when you factor in that the event took place in Minooka and that the hosts were motivated to get the better of their rivals one week after placing behind them in the SPC Tournament, it’s not too surprising that Minooka finished strong, which allowed it to move past Joliet Township in the final round and outscore it 196-191 to capture first place in the rugged competition.

Minooka had 10 sectional qualifiers compared to nine top-six finishers for Joliet Township and it also had a better showing in the medal round, going 6-1 during a key stretch that covered half of the weight classes, in which it won five matches by fall and another by major decision.

How strong was the regional field at Minooka? The list of first-place finishers featured three IHSA champions, including one two-time title winner, as well as four other individuals who have been runners-up in the IHSA Finals. And six of the second-place finishers in the regional had either won a state medal or came up one victory shy of achieving that feat a year ago.

In addition, there were 14 competitors who had qualified for one of the first the first two IHSA Finals or placed there before who had to settle for competing on the third- and fifth-place mats.

Coach Liz Short’s Joliet Township Steelwomen, who feature athletes from both Joliet Central and Joliet West, held the upper hand heading into the medal rounds, but that’s when coach Paige Schoolman’s Indians definitely rose to the occasion. Only five schools qualified more individuals to the four sectionals than did Minooka with 10 and Joliet Township’s nine sectional qualifiers ranked it among the state’s top-10 schools in that impressive performance.

“It was a huge regional with 41 schools represented and there was phenomenal talent here,” Schoolman said. “There was some elite Illinois wrestling that was going on in some of those finals and semifinals matches. A lot of us thought when we saw the seeds that there might be 10 to 12 state finalists coming out of this regional, it was rich with talent. A lot of the schools had less than five girls, but they had some really talented five girls. Kaneland came in here with eight, but they were eight solid girls and they took third. And Burlington Central had five girls and every one of their girls was really solid. And I’m really excited for teams like Lincoln-Way Central, which took fourth and they had two girls last year and a full team this year. They’ve caught on to the thing and I talked to those guys and they’re really excited about building it.

“And what was really nice to see was the fact that there really weren’t many boys tournaments going on this weekend, so we saw some of the boys head coaches here and I think a lot of those guys saw some of the talent that is in girls wrestling. They hear their coaches come back and talk about it but they saw it today, so I think it’s good for girls wrestling to have those boys coaches here and seeing it. They saw that this was a real tournament and it isn’t a J-V tournament. So it was an exciting day and we got in and out of here as fast as we could.

“Our girls wrestled really well. We had some quick turnarounds and they answered the bell. We were losing this entire tournament, but in that last round, we pulled off five or six pins to put us over the top. We bumped Abbey Boersma up to 170 and it was the first time she’s ever wrestled that and she ends up getting a pin against the Joliet girl to help seal the deal. Kailey Jefferson was our backup at 125 and 130 all year and she steps in and takes third place. We didn’t even seed her since she was a backup, so she came in unseeded and took third place. There were some really tough brackets, like 110, and Brooklyn Doti took fourth. And 105 was deep with talent and Holli Coughlen comes out of that bracket. Eva Beck wrestled amazing all day and Bella Cyrkiel is consistent and did her thing. I was really excited since I was worried that  we might only get five or six out and we got out a heck of a lot more than I thought we would.”

Kaneland only brought eight individuals but six of them placed sixth or better and three reached the finals to help it score 128 points and take third place in the competition. Lincoln-Way Central, which placed fourth with 115 points, also had six sectional qualifiers. And Burlington Central, which finished sixth with 83 points, had five entrants and all advanced to the sectional. A total of 34 teams had at least one sectional qualifier and 19 had more than one qualifier. 

Joliet Township had three champions, junior Chloe Wong (100), senior Eliana Paramo (110) and sophomore Izabel Barrera (135) while Minooka received first-place finishes from sophomore Addison Cailteux (130) and senior Bella Cyrkiel (145).

Hononegah junior Angelina Cassioppi (120), a two-time IHSA champion, and a pair of 2023 IHSA title winners,  Boylan Catholic senior Netavia Wickson (140) and Plainfield Central junior Alicia Tucker (170) also captured regional championships.

A pair of two-time IHSA Finalists also were champions, Lincoln-Way Central senior Gracie Guarino (115) and El Paso-Gridley junior Savannah Hamilton (155). Two others who took second at state in 2023 also won titles, Yorkville senior Yamilet Aguirre (125) and JT’s Paramo.

Freshmen who took first place were Kaneland’s Angelina Gochis (105) and Jefferson’s Kylie Eilken (190) and Ottawa Township sophomore Juliana Thrush (235) was the final champion.

DeKalb, who took fifth place with 89 points, and Kaneland both had two second-place finishers. Taking second place for DeKalb were sophomore Alex Gregorio-Perez (105) and junior Lana Zimmerman (130) while Kaneland received second-place showings from junior Brooklyn Sheaffer (125) and freshman Sadie Kinsella (190).

Other runners-up in the Minooka Regional were Yorkville sophomore Danielle Turner (100), Sandwich senior Ashlyn Strenz (110), Burlington Central junior Victoria Macias (115), Joliet Catholic Academy junior Grace Laird (120), Kankakee senior Makayla Jones (135), Joliet Township sophomore Veronica Klobnak (140), Rochelle junior Dempsey Atkinson (145), Clifton Central freshman Payton Temple (155), Peotone senior Kiernan Farmer (170) and Sycamore freshman Jasmine Enriquez (235).

Angelina Cassioppi had the most team points with 34 while there was a nine-way tie for second place with 30 team points involving Yamilet Aguirre, Izabel Barrera, Bella Cyrkiel, Kylie Eilken, Gracie Guarino, Savannah Hamilton, Eliana Paramo, Juliana Thrush and Chloe Wong.

Top records from the Minooka Regional included Alicia Tucker at 170 (31-0, 1.000), Yamilet Aguirre at 125 (22-0, 1.000), Gracie Guarino at 115 (20-0, 1.000), Kiernan Farmer at 170 (14-1, .933), Morris’ Ella McDonnell at 110 (28-2, .933), Burlington Central’s Ryann Miller at 170 (28-2, .933), Eliana Paramo at 110 (31-3, .912), Angelina Cassioppi at 120 (10-1, .909), Victoria Macias at 115 (30-3, .909), Bella Cyrkiel at 145 (34-4, .895), Netavia Wickson at 140 (16-2, ,889), Juliana Thrush at 235 (24-3, .889),  Angelina Gochis at 105 (38-5, .884) and Savannah Hamilton at 155 (7-1, .875). 

El Paso-Gridley’s Kianna Mayne had the most total match points with 50 while Gracie Guarino was second with 44 points. Eleven individuals had four falls with Morris’ Ella McDonnell had the most falls in the least amount of time with four in 5:16. Champion Minooka had the most total match points with 199 while Lincoln-Way Central was second with 184 points. And Minooka recorded the most falls with 29 while Joliet Township ranked second with 23 pins.

The 84 sectional qualifiers will join the same number that qualified at the Erie Regional and they will compete in the Geneseo Sectional, which will take place on Friday and Saturday.

Here’s a look at the champions and their weight classes from the IHSA Minooka Regional:

100 – Chloe Wong, Joliet Township

After going 32-8 last year and becoming the third individual from Joliet Township to earn a state medal with a sixth-place finish at 100 in the IHSA Finals, Chloe Wong is looking forward to bigger and better things during this postseason. And the junior is off to a good start after winning by fall in 1:25 in the 100 finals over Yorkville’s Danielle Turner to become the first individual from her program to win a regional title. Wong (8-4) won all three of her matches with pins, which included a fall in 2:31 over Lincoln-Way Central’s Monica Alvarez in the semifinals. She was one of three champions, four finalists and nine sectional qualifiers for Joliet Township, who finished in second place, five points behind champion Minooka.

“It feels really good,” Wong said. “I’ve been working really hard and have been waking up at 5 a.m. every morning and I’ve been getting extra practice and extra running and workouts. I’ve been sometimes doing four workouts a day, just trying to make sure that I can be the best that I can be and be the wrestler that I know that I can be. My coaches and my offseason and it’s all paid off and it’s going to keep paying off because I’m working my hardest to make sure that I get there. I love that we all support each other, we’re all nice and there’s no bad energy on our team, It’s just go, go, go. We won our conference and we’re doing really good as a team because we’re all there for each other.”

Turner (27-10) joined 125 champion Yamilet Aguirre as one of the Foxes’ two finalists and three sectional qualifiers. The sophomore won her first two matches with pins, recording a fall in 0:58 over Plainfield South sophomore Amie Fuentes in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Fuentes (11-7) won with a pin in 3:05 over Sandwich freshman Norah Vick (9-8). And for fifth place, Alvarez (15-11), a junior, recorded a fall in 5:24 over Peotone freshman Natalie Bonick.

105 – Angelina Gochis, Kaneland

On a special day for Kaneland when it captured a third-place finish at the Minooka Regional and qualified six of its eight competitors to the Geneseo Sectional, Angelina Gochis started the finals off for the Knights with a bang as the freshman won the 105 title by technical fall in 5:40 over DeKalb’s Alex Gregorio-Perez. Gochis (38-5), who was one of three finalists for her team, became her program’s first regional champion after opening with a quick pin and then claiming a win by technical fall in 3:38 over Joliet Township’s Emma Schlismann in the semifinals. Gochis and Boylan Catholic’s Netavia Wickson each had two victories by technical fall while only one other individual was able to collect a tech fall during the two-day competition.

“It’s pretty good,” Gochis said. “I train hard, so it’s good to win. I’m practicing all the time. I have great coaches and they push me to be where I’m supposed to be. It’s hard, they’re strong (the boys that she trains with), but it works out. I’m happy with how I’m doing. I just have to keep training hard, working out and doing all of the right things to win.”

Gregorio-Perez (28-5), a sophomore who went 16-8 last season and came up one win shy of a state medal at 105, was one of two finalists and four sectional qualifiers for the Barbs. She won a pair of decisions to reach the 105 finals, defeating Lincoln-Way West’s Zoe Dempsey 7-4 in the semifinals. Dempsey (12-4), a sophomore who lost in the quarterfinals at 105 in the IHSA Finals a year ago, won a 7-0 decision over senior Schlismann (20-7) in the third-place match to become the top finisher for the Warriors, who had two sectional qualifiers. In the fifth-place match, Streator Township freshman Lily Gwaltney (15-5), one of Bulldogs’ two sectional qualifiers, recorded a fall in 1:47 over Minooka sophomore Holli Coughlen (15-17). 

110 – Eliana Paramo, Joliet Township

Eliana Paramo followed up on Chloe Wong’s title at 100 to give Joliet Township two first-place finishes in the initial three finals when she recorded a fall in 3:49 over Sandwich’s Ashlyn Strenz in the 110 title match. Paramo (31-3), a senior, went 37-5 last  season and finished second in the IHSA Finals at 115 to Glenbard North’s Gabby Gomez after taking fifth place at 115 while representing Joliet West in the first state finals in 2022. The lone two-time medalist and one of just three that the program has had, she won a pair of first-minute falls to reach the 110 title match, including in 0:50 over Burlington Central’s Ruby Vences in the semifinals. She is one of nine sectional qualifiers for JT, making it one of 10 schools that had that many top-six placers.

“The way that it’s so new, it’s like they throw new things at it every single year,” Paramo said of the regionals. “It’s fun and exciting to be a part of these first events and with this year being the first regional, that’s a really big step and it just demonstrates how big the sport has gotten. The fact that we have to have a regional now is really exciting. I’m really grateful and so happy that I’ve had the opportunity to wrestle in the first-ever girls regional. I’ve been a part of it since the beginning when we had very small numbers and around my conference area, I could count on my hand how many girls I knew that wrestled around my weight. But here now, there’s hundreds of girls, it’s insane. We’ve both (JT and Minooka) been really promoting the sport and trying to grow it. I’m really excited, but this is just the first step along that track.”

Strenz (13-3) went 25-16 and finished fourth at 115 last year in the IHSA Finals after falling to Gomez in the semifinals, making her the first state medalist for Sandwich. The senior, who was one of two sectional qualifiers for her team, earned her spot on the 110 title mat after opening with two first-period falls and then winning a 1-0 thriller over Morris’ Ella McDonnell in the semifinals. McDonnell (28-2), a senior, went 33-13 last season and like Strenz, also placed fourth after losing in the semifinals to the eventual 110 champion, Grant’s Ayane Jasinski. McDonnell, who also placed fourth at 105 in 2022, claimed third place with a fall in 1:03 over Minooka senior Brooklyn Doti (22-12), who was a state qualifier in 2022. And for fifth, Reed-Custer senior Judith Gamboa (11-5), a two-time state qualifier who went 27-17 last season and placed fifth at 105 in the IHSA Finals, won by fall in 5:27 over Vences (16-8), who’s a junior.

115 – Gracie Guarino, Lincoln-Way Central

After having been beaten just one time in 34 matches in the past two seasons, and that defeat being 2-0 in sudden victory at the 2023 IHSA Finals in the 110 title match to Grant’s Ayanne Jasinski, Gracie Guarino realizes that there are plenty of tough opponents awaiting her as the 2022 runner-up at 105 seeks to take part in the Grand March in Bloomington for the third time. The Lincoln-Way Central senior improved to 20-0 after recording a fall in 3:46 over Burlington Central’s Victoria Macias in the 115 title match. Guarino became the Knights’ first regional champion and one of their six sectional qualifiers after getting four pins in the two-day event, with the third one of those falls coming in 4:14 over DeKalb’s Reese Zimmer in the semifinals.

“It’s a really good regional,” Guarino said. “There were a lot of tough girls here so it was going to be hard for a lot of these girls to make it to sectionals. But it’s a really good fight for them because it’s a good competition and a good eye-opener for a lot of these girls. A lot of the new girls on my team are having a tough time with emotions, so I just explained to them that this is the first regional, so a lot of girls are battling as hard as they can for a spot. The boys team helps me to move on and try to get a little bit tougher each day and each practice. And I’m helping the girls on my team to help battling their strengths and I’m super proud of them. They come to me with any question that they have and they’re getting a lot better. He’s (coach Tyrone Byrd) got a lot of aspects in his mind to give out to me, it’s great coaching. I’m really excited.”

Macias (30-3), who’s a junior, went 31-9 last season and placed fifth at 110 to add to a fourth-place finish at that same weight class in the inaugural IHSA Finals in 2022. She was the lone finalist for Burlington Central, which qualified all five of its individuals to the Geneseo Sectional. 

Macias followed two first-period falls with a 14-7 decision over Plainfield Central’s Courtni Chuway in the semifinals. In the third-place match between two 2023 IHSA Finals qualifiers, senior Chuway (27-6) won by fall in 1:10 over junior Zimmer. And for fifth place, another senior who was a state qualifier last season, University High’s Allison Kroesch (16-9), recorded a pin in 3:32 over Streator Township freshman Payton Henson (11-11).

120 – Angelina Cassioppi, Hononegah

As one of the six girls who’ve won titles at each of the first two IHSA Finals and one of just four who are still competing and are a looking to three-peat later this month, Angelina Cassioppi is feeling pretty good about where she is at now as the Hononegah junior, who was her team’s only competitor in the Minooka Regional, improved to 10-1 after winning the 120 title with a fall in 3:33 over Joliet Catholic Academy’s Grace Laird. Cassioppi, who joined her sister Rose as an IHSA champion in 2022 when she took first place at 100 and then went 27-6 last season and won the IHSA title at 120 over Yorkville’s Yamilet Aguirre. Her quest for a third title is getting a boost from her two freshmen brothers, Rocco and Bruno, who are a combined 69-6 as they head to the Class 3A Barrington Sectional. Cassioppi won four falls to give her a regional-high 34 team points. She pinned Lincoln-Way West’s Alaina Hollendoner in 2:37 in the semifinals.

“It’s growing a lot and we have a really good regional this year,” Cassioppi said. “It’s the first that they’ve had it, so it’s really cool to be a part of it. It’s crazy how much it’s changed since my freshman year. This is growing fast and it’s getting better. I like how it’s giving us better competition and pushing us to work harder. (The new girls) They have a lot of heart and they really care about the sport and they’re trying their hardest and putting 100 percent in, so that’s good to see. No, I did not anticipate it to grow as fast as it is, but I’m happy that it is, and it’s a cool opportunity. My little brothers are having a great season. It’s so fun to watch them since they’re such good wrestlers. It’s fun to compete with them and have them push me.”

Laird (18-6), a junior who fell one win shy of advancing from the Geneseo Sectional a year ago, was the lone finalist and one of two sectional qualifiers for JCA. She opened with a quick fall, followed that with a 10-7 decision and then won by technical fall in 5:56 over Kaneland’s Dyani Torres in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Torres (37-8), a junior, claimed a 7-6 decision over El Paso-Gridley freshman Kianna Mayne (9-3). The fifth-place featured two seniors who are 12-6 and  Hollendoner won 4-2 over Normal Community’s Trey Fletcher. Hollendoner was one of two qualifiers for the Warriors while Fletcher advanced as her school’s lone entrant.

125 – Yamilet Aguirre, Yorkville

After going 37-4 a year ago and falling in the 120 title match at the IHSA Finals to Hononegah’s Angelina Cassioppi, Yorkville senior Yamilet Aguirre hopes that a third state medal will be an improvement of the fourth she won at 115 in the first IHSA Finals and her second from a year ago as she tries to duplicate what Natasha Markoutsis accomplished for the Foxes in 2022, when she won the 125 title in the IHSA Finals as a senior. Aguirre, who improved to 22-0, was one weight class above Cassioppi at the Minooka Regional and was just as dominating, winning three-straight matches by fall which was capped by a pin in 4:00 over Kaneland’s Brooklyn Sheaffer in the 125 title match. Aguirre, one of three sectional qualifiers for Yorkville, earned her spot on the title mat with a fall in 0:42 over Normal West’s Amelia McClure in the semifinals.

“This was actually really tough,” Aguirre said. “The sport is growing and more girls are joining and a lot of girls are working harder because they want it more. So I just made sure that I was working as hard as I could to be the first Yorkville regional champ, that’s a good thing to say. I was wrestling little boys when I was in club and now I’m wrestling girls my own size, so it’s grown a lot more than what it was. The girls have a lot more heart and I feel like there’s a lot more team support when you’re at a girls tournament. It’s just a really good environment to be in since it pushes you to do your best. I love wrestling the girls, it’s just so much fun. Everybody just wants to see everybody grow and win and succeed and it’s just so heartwarming. With wrestling being so big at Yorkville, there’s a lot more support. The boys will watch on Rofkin or Flo(wrestling) to see the girls’ meets just to see how they’re doing, and it’s a lot of support.”

Sheaffer (11-2), who went 35-12 a year ago and finished sixth at 120 in the IHSA Finals to become her school’s first medal winner, was one of three finalists and six sectional qualifiers who helped Kaneland to a third-place finish in the 41-team competition. The Knights junior opened with two falls before claiming a 4-2 decision over Lincoln-Way Central’s Riley Cooney in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Minooka freshman Kailey Jefferson (21-7), who was a backup throughout much of the season, won with a pin in 2:56 over Somonauk junior Rylie Donahue (8-3). And the two individuals who lost in the semifinals met for fifth and sophomore McClure (20-9), her team’s lone qualifier, won by fall in 3:04 over sophomore Cooney (20-9).

130 – Addison Cailteux, Minooka

After starting the medal round with two losses, Minooka needed some momentum if it was going to get past Joliet Township to win the team title of its own regional. Freshman Kailey Jefferson got things started with a fall to claim third at 125 and Addison Cailteux built on that by winning 14-6 over DeKalb’s Lana Zimmerman in the 130 title match as the hosts went 6-2 in their last eight medals matches, which included five falls in addition to Cailteux’s major 

decision, to help Minooka win the team title by five points. Cailteux, a sophomore who improved to 21-4, joined Bella Cyrkiel (145) as a regional champion and was one of a regional-best 10 individual sectional qualifiers, which ranked as one of the top totals among the eight regionals. She followed a pin with a 5-2 win over Ottawa Township’s Ava Weatherford in the semifinals.

“It was tough competition, like usual,” Cailteux said. “My weight class has always been pretty competitive, and especially at 115 last year. I’m just glad to have all of this great competition, especially at home, because winning at home is always fun, especially when all of your friends and family come to watch you. It’s really good to be around another competitive team (like Joliet Township) because it always keeps us on our toes, because we don’t know what they’re doing in the room  and they don’t know what we’re doing in the room. So it really just makes everyone work that much harder, because they know that there are other girls who are training to beat them. With the boys, they have 1A, 2A and 3A classes, so it’s just nice to have all of the girls in one class to truly see who’s the best.”

Zimmerman (17-11), a junior who was one of two finalists and four sectional qualifiers for DeKalb, reached the 130 title mat following two falls, with the last of those coming in 1:39 over Seneca’s Sammie Greisen in the semifinals. Two sophomores reached the third-place match but Greisen (26-6), who went 24-15 and fell one win shy of winning a medal at 130 at last year’s IHSA Finals, was unable to go so Weatherford (28-10) claimed third place by medical forfeit. For fifth place, Joliet Township senior Alexandra Rosas (11-11), who won three matches in the 2023 Geneseo Sectional, got a fall in 1:01 over Rockford East freshman Ahmira Farah (9-8).

135 – Izabel Barrera, Joliet Township

Izabel Barrera continued to add to her season highlights by becoming Joliet Township’s 

third regional champion, which was the most of any team in the field, when she recorded a fall in 3:29 over Kankakee’s Makayla Jones in the 135 title match. Barrera, a sophomore who improved to 22-5, was one of four finalists and nine sectional qualifiers for the Steelwomen, who just missed winning the team title when host Minooka used a strong finish to capture the Joliet area’s first-ever regional tournament. Barrera won all three of her matches by fall, recording a pin in 4:16 over Burlington Central’s Soraya Walikonis in the semifinals to reach the 135 finals.

“It was very hard, but it was nice, it was a good experience,” Barrera said. “(In the past) A lot of girls were just thrown into the sectionals and then moved on to state, so this shows that girls wrestling has grown so much. And it shows that a lot of people can grow in a short amount of time and that if you put in the work that you can go far. (The rivalry with Minooka) It helps us because we obviously want to beat each other since it’s a competitive sport, so we strive to keep moving up.”

Jones (14-11), a senior who fell one victory shy of a medal at 135 in last year’s IHSA Finals, was the lone sectional qualifier for the Lady Kays. She opened with two falls before claiming an 11-6 decision over Minooka’s Eva Beck in the semifinals. Beck (23-10), a senior who fell one win shy of a trip to state last season after losing to Jones in the Geneseo Sectional, captured third place with a fall in 3:15 over junior Walikonis (27-9), who went 36-14 last year and just like Beck, came up one win short of qualifying for state at 135 from the Geneseo Sectional. In the fifth-place match at 135, Yorkville junior Brooke Coy (29-10) won by fall in 4:30 over Lincoln-Way Central freshman Claire Bray (16-14), who was one of six who advanced to Geneseo for the Knights, who tied Kaneland for the third-most sectional qualifiers in the Minooka Regional.

140 – Netavia Wickson, Boylan Catholic

Netavia Wickson is preparing to make another run at a state title and the Boylan Catholic senior made it clear to all who were on hand at the Minooka Regional that she doesn’t intend to be denied in her attempt to repeat as an IHSA champion. Wickson (16-2) recorded two of the five wins by technical fall in the entire regional in the quarterfinals and semifinals and won the 140 title after recording a fall in 1:54 over Joliet Township’s Veronica Klobnak. After falling to Homewood-Flossmoor’s Attalia Watson-Castro at 135 in the inaugural IHSA Finals, she took first at 135 a year ago with a 9-1 victory over Canton’s Kinnley Smith in Bloomington to cap a 19-5 season. She hopes to join the exclusive club that stands as six individuals who’ve won two titles and also be among the first three-time finalists in the sports history. Wickson, her team’s only entrant in the regional, reached the 140 title mat with a win by technical fall in 2:26 over Plainfield South’s Lexi Kachiroubas in the semifinals, with her earlier tech fall coming in 1:45.

“I really like that we actually have a feel of a real state series,” Wickson said. “So more girls are more determined and they’re training harder to actually be at a higher level to make it to state. And I love seeing all of these girls coming together and coach each other up and just be there for each other because there wasn’t a lot of that when we didn’t have this event. And I really love it because when I was younger, there weren’t a lot of girls who would be there for you to get you ready for a match or just get that positive energy to you, so I appreciate seeing all of these girls trying something new and having that determination and dedication to get better.”

Klobnak (19-17), one of four finalists and nine sectional qualifiers for runner-up Joliet Township, lost to Wickson in the quarterfinals at last year’s Geneseo Sectional and was unable to advance to state. She followed a major decision in her opener with a 3-2 victory on a tiebreaker over Minooka’s Palmer Calvey in the semifinals to reach the 140 title match. In the third-place match, Lincoln-Way Central freshman Ella Giertuga (16-10) recorded a fall in 3:53 over Kaneland sophomore Chloe Cervantes (20-10). The two individuals who lost in the semifinals met for fifth place with junior Calvey (19-14) getting a pin in 2:39 over freshman Kachiroubas (16-11).

145 – Bella Cyrkiel, Minooka

After going 28-9 last season and qualifying for the IHSA Finals for the first time, Minooka senior Bella Cyrkiel not only hopes to make another visit to the finals in Bloomington but she’d like to win some matches this time and perhaps do what her graduated teammate Jaiden Moody did a year ago when she became the program’s first medalist after taking third at 190. Cyrkiel enters the Geneseo Sectional with a lot of confidence after improving to 34-4 after recording a fall in 3:53 over Rochelle’s Dempsey Atkinson in the 145 title match. She advanced to the finals with two first-period falls with the last of those in 1:35 in the semifinals over Lincoln-Way Central’s 

Bailey Mitchell. Cyrkiel joined Addison Cailteux as a champion for the hosts and was one of 10 sectional qualifiers who helped the Indians edge Joliet Township for the regional team title.

“It was really exciting because we got that step to show that the sport is growing, so we definitely needed the regional,” Cyrkiel said. “And there was a lot of good competition here, which was also really good to see. There was a lot of preparation. I know that our coaches were really stressed about it, but it was real fun being right by home and having it here. There are good girls everywhere that are coming in and there’s good competition. So as the buses were pulling in, it was exciting seeing who would be here with us. The numbers are always growing and it’s exciting to be a part of that and also to know that we’re leading the way for some girls. I’m really excited, I’ve been working for the last year, so to be going into sectionals and state is a lot of fun, but a lot of stress, too.”

Atkinson (15-3), who was Rochelle’s lone competitor in the regional, hopes to get back to the IHSA Finals, where she won a match to cap an 18-13 season. The Lady Hubs’ junior followed a quick pin with a fall in 4:34 over Bloomington’s Alicia Swank in the semifinals to reach the 145 finals. In a meeting of sophomores who lost in the semifinals that was for third place, Swank (17-8) won by fall in 3:33 over Mitchell. And for fifth place, Herscher sophomore Henna Mullikin (7-7) recorded a fall in 2:00 over Joliet Township sophomore Vanessa O’Connor (13-17).

155 – Savannah Hamilton, El Paso-Gridley

Savannah Hamilton had already made history in the first two years of the IHSA Finals, but it likely wasn’t the type of results that she was hoping for. After losing to Homewood-Flossmoor’s two-time champion Attalia Watson-Castro last season in the IHSA  Finals at 130 to conclude a 21-11 season and also finishing second to Alton’s Antonia Phillips at 140 in the inaugural IHSA Finals, the El Paso-Gridley junior wants to finally finish on top of the awards stand and is ready for the next step in the process, the Geneseo Sectional, after winning the 155 regional title with a fall in 1:35 over Clifton Central’s Payton Temple. Hamilton, one the two entrants and two sectional qualifiers for the Titans, earned her spot on the title mat after recording a pair of falls, with the last of those coming in 1:23 over Burlington Central’s Jada Hall in the semifinals.

“I think it was nice to have a lot of girls here for regionals,” Hamilton said. “It was good seeing all of these girls out here and at the other regionals also, I’m happy to see that the sport is growing. I’m going to brag a little bit, I used to be kind of on top, but now I have more competition because all of these other girls are coming in, and it’s awesome, I love it, I really do. Some of these girls didn’t even think that they could be a sectional qualifier because it wasn’t here for them, now there’s so many opportunities. It’s awesome to see the sport grow and these girls are always so nice, and I know so many. I feel like everyone is kind of family, which is a little cheesy, but it’s definitely true. And I love my team and everyone that I wrestle and that I meet. I root for them, even if I’m the one losing and they won, I’m still rooting for them.”

Temple (4-2), who’s a freshman, made quite a debut in the postseason when she got a pair of falls, including one in 3:41 over Plainfield South’s Teagan Aurich in the semifinals, to earn her spot on the 155 title mat. As a result, Temple was one of the Comets’ two sectional qualifiers and also one of the five freshmen who advanced to the finals, including three others who were in the weight class above her. In the third-place match, Aurich (21-4), a junior who reached the 155 quarterfinals at the IHSA Finals last season, won a 5-1 decision over Sycamore freshman Ema Durst (12-5), who was one of two entrants for the Spartans, who both advanced. And for fifth place, Hall (22-7), a senior, who was one of the five entrants and sectional qualifiers for Burlington Central, won with a pin in 2:32 over Minooka sophomore Ezra Rodriguez (16-8).

170 – Alicia Tucker, Plainfield Central

There are six individuals who have won two IHSA titles and four of them are seeking to win a third championship later this month. Alicia Tucker is part of another exclusive group of seven athletes who hope to do what those six have done before, winning a second state title. The Plainfield Central junior has been on a roll throughout the season and improved to 31-0 following an 11-5 decision over Peotone’s Kiernan Farmer in the 170 finals to be one of three unbeaten Minooka Regional title winners, joining Gracie Guarino and Yamilet Aguirre. Tucker, who went 34-2 last season and claimed the IHSA championship at 155, hopes to become the third athlete from her school and the first female at PHS to win state titles in consecutive years. One of three sectional qualifiers for the Wildcats, Tucker used two first-period falls to reach the title mat, winning by fall in 1:42 over Joliet Catholic Academy’s Cheya Bishop in the semifinals.

“There were a lot of good athletes here with 40 some schools, there’s so many and they were coming from everywhere, so it was a great feeling seeing everyone here,” Tucker said. “I know a lot of good people here and it’s just great seeing them doing the thing that they love. And we’re all here for the same thing. I feel really good and my coaches have a great plan for me.”

Farmer (14-1), a senior who went 16-12 last season and finished in sixth place at 155 to become her school’s first medal winner, suffered her initial loss in the 170 finals. She reached the title match after recording two pins, including one in 1:00 over Burlington Central’s Ryann Miller in  the semifinals. Miller (28-2), a freshman who was one of five sectional qualifiers for Burlington Central, claimed third place with a fall in 5:19 over senior Bishop (19-9), who was one of two qualifiers for the Angels. In the fifth-place match, Minooka senior Abbey Boersma (32-11) won with a pin in 4:57 over Joliet Township sophomore Bianca Campos (19-9).

190 – Kylie Eilken, Jefferson

Jefferson’s Kylie Eilken was definitely a bit surprised when she ended up finishing on top of the awards stand at 190 at the Minooka Regional. But the same could also be said about her opponent in the 190 title match, Kaneland’s Sadie Kinsella. On a day where five freshmen advanced to the finals, this was the lone title match that featured two freshmen who were squaring off for a regional championship and the lone entrant from the Rockford school became one of two freshmen that won titles. Eilken (15-4) opened with a fall in 3:40 and received her victory in the semifinals at 1:10 when Plainfield Central’s Zyon Jordan was unable to continue.

“This was kind of stressful,” Eilken said. “Because it’s a lot to deal with, especially in high school, it’s scary to go out there and have to wrestle all of these people and you never know who’s next or what their back story is. But I think it’s better not to know about them because you might psych yourself out. When I was in middle school, there were like no girls and then I came to high school and it’s just growing in popularity. I like competing against people to try to make first place. It’s a good feeling. This was very exciting.”

Kinsella (15-11) played a big part in Kaneland’s memorable performance in the Minooka Regional. With just eight individuals competing, the Knights had three finalists and three others who finished sixth or better to not only qualify them for the Geneseo Sectional but also to help their team to claim a third-place finish in the 41-team field. Kinsella followed a first-period fall with a 6-3 decision over Morris’ Morgan Congo in the semifinals. In the third-place match, Clifton Central senior Karmen Cody (9-2) pinned junior Congo (23-8) in 1:00. And for fifth place, DeKalb sophomore Molly Kraft (21-10) won by medical forfeit over junior Jordan (11-7).

235 – Juliana Thrush, Ottawa Township

After going 20-12 last season and falling one win shy of winning a medal at 285 at the IHSA Finals as a freshman, Juliana Thrush has good reason to believe that she not only can make a return trip to state later this month but also get on to the awards stand and place high there and become the second state medalist for Ottawa Township. The Lady Pirates sophomore heads into the Geneseo Sectional with plenty of momentum after capturing the title at 235 in the Minooka Regional with a fall in 2:56 over Sycamore’s Jasmine Enriquez. Thrush (24-3) joined Ava Weatherford as a sectional qualifier for her school after recording falls in her first two matches, which included a pin in 1:56 over Minooka’s Peyton Kueltzo in the semifinals.

“This was really exciting,” Thrush said. “I like the fact that we have regionals now, I like it a lot and I like how they set it up, and I had a fun experience and I hope that the other girls did, too. I was kind of offended when the boys only had it, so I’m glad that they added it for girls. I love how the sport is growing really baig and with how many girls are doing it. Our school has expanded it and we have new wrestlers and I love seeing the new wrestlers and we all have fun. I’ve pushed myself more at practice. Last year, I took it really casual but this year I’ve pushed it way more. I went to the gym more and I’ve put a lot of effort in. I put extra effort in, whether we were at school, or on all of the snow days, I did something. I really love my coaches, they’re all great people and they’re amazing.”

Enriquez (5-3), one of five freshmen to reach the finals in the regional, was one of two entrants for Sycamore and both she and Ema Durst are moving on to the Geneseo Sectional. She opened with two falls and then surprised Prairie Central’s Chloe Hoselton 3-2 in the semifinals to earn her spot on the 235 title mat. Hoselton (12-2), a junior who has achieved numerous accomplishments while competing with Team Illinois, bounced back from her tough semifinal loss with a fall in 0:24 in the third-place match over senior Kueltzo (29-10), a two-time state qualifier who went 26-13 last year. For fifth, Kaneland junior Carly Duffing (15-8) got a fall in 0:28 over Joliet Township senior Fernanda Miranda (12-6), who’s also a two-time state qualifier.

Championship matches for the IHSA Minooka Regional

100 – Chloe Wong (Joliet Township) F 1:25 Danielle Turner (Yorkville)

105 – Angelina Gochis (Kaneland) TF 5:40 Alex Gregorio-Perez (DeKalb)

110 – Eliana Paramo (Joliet Township) F 3:49 Ashlyn Strenz (Sandwich)

115 – Gracie Guarino (Lincoln-Way Central) F 3:46 Victoria Macias (Burlington Central)

120 – Angelina Cassioppi (Hononegah) F 3:33 Grace Laird (Joliet Catholic Academy)

125 – Yamilet Aguirre (Yorkville) F 4:00 Brooklyn Sheaffer (Kaneland)

130 – Addison Cailteux (Minooka) MD 14-6 Lana Zimmerman (DeKalb)

135 – Izabel Barrera (Joliet Township) F 3:29 Makayla Jones (Kankakee)

140 – Netavia Wickson (Boylan Catholic) F 1:54 Veronica Klobnak (Joliet Township)

145 – Bella Cyrkiel (Minooka) F 3:53 Dempsey Atkinson (Rochelle)

155 – Savannah Hamilton (El Paso-Gridley) F 1:35 Payton Temple (Clifton Central)

170 – Alicia Tucker (Plainfield Central)  D 11-5 Kiernan Farmer (Peotone)

190 – Kylie Eilken (Jefferson) F 5:37 Sadie Kinsella (Kaneland)

235 – Juliana Thrush (Ottawa Township) F 2:56 Jasmine Enriquez (Sycamore)

Third-place matches for the IHSA Minooka Regional

100 – Amie Fuentes (Plainfield South) F 3:05 Norah Vick (Sandwich)

105 – Zoe Dempsey (Lincoln-Way West) D 7-0 Emma Schlismann (Joliet Township)

110 – Ella McDonnell (Morris) F 1:03 Brooklyn Doti (Minooka)

115 – Courtni Chuway (Plainfield Central) F 1:10 Reese Zimmer (DeKalb)

120 – Dyani Torres (Kaneland) D 7-6 Kianna Mayne (El Paso-Gridley)

125 – Kailey Jefferson (Minooka) F 2:56 Rylie Donahue (Somonauk)

130 – Ava Weatherford (Ottawa Township) M For Sammie Greisen (Seneca)

135 – Eva Beck (Minooka) F 3:15 Soraya Walikonis (Burlington Central)

140 – Ella Giertuga (Lincoln-Way Central) F 3:53 Chloe Cervantes (Kaneland)

145 – Alicia Swank (Bloomington) F 3:33 Bailey Mitchell (Lincoln-Way Central)

155 – Teagan Aurich (Plainfield South) D 5-1 Ema Durst (Sycamore)

170 – Ryann Miller (Burlington Central) F 5:19 Cheya Bishop (Joliet Catholic Academy)

190 – Karmen Cody (Clifton Central) F 1:00 Morgan Congo (Morris)

235 – Chloe Hoselton (Prairie Central) F 0:24 Peyton Kueltzo (Minooka)

Fifth-place matches for the IHSA Minooka Regional

100 – Monica Alvarez (Lincoln-Way Central) F 5:24 Natalie Bonick (Peotone)

105 – Lily Gwaltney (Streator Township) F 1:47 Holli Coughlen (Minooka)

110 – Judith Gamboa (Reed-Custer) F 5:27 Ruby Vences (Burlington Central)

115 – Allison Kroesch (University High) F 3:32 Payton Henson (Streator Township)

120 – Alaina Hollendoner (Lincoln-Way West) D 4-2 Trey Fletcher (Normal Community)

125 – Amelia McClure (Normal West) F 3:04 Riley Cooney (Lincoln-Way Central)

130 – Alexandra Rosas (Joliet Township) F 1:01 Ahmira Farah (Rockford East)

135 – Brooke Coy (Yorkville) F 4:30 Claire Bray (Lincoln-Way Central)

140 – Palmer Calvey (Minooka) F 2:39 Lexi Kachiroubas (Plainfield South)

145 – Henna Mullikin (Herscher) F 2:00 Vanessa O’Connor (Joliet Township)

155 – Jada Hall (Burlington Central) F 2:32 Ezra Rodriguez (Minooka)

170 – Abbey Boersma (Minooka) F 4:57 Bianca Campos (Joliet Township)

190 – Molly Kraft (DeKalb) M For Zyon Jordan (Plainfield Central)

235 – Carly Duffing (Kaneland) F 0:28 Fernanda Miranda (Joliet Township)

Team scores for the IHSA Minooka Regional

1. Minooka 196, 2. Joliet Township 191, 3. Kaneland 128, 4. Lincoln-Way Central 115, 5. DeKalb 89, 6. Burlington Central 83, 7. Yorkville 82, 8. Plainfield South 68, 9. Plainfield Central 64, 10. Ottawa Township 59, 11. Peotone 57, 12. Morris 56, 13. El Paso-Gridley 53, 14. Sandwich 48, 15. Clifton Central 45, 16. Joliet Catholic Academy 43.5, 17. Sycamore 41, 18. Kankakee 36, 19. Lincoln-Way West 35, 20. Streator Township 34, 21. Hononegah 33, 22. Jefferson 30, 23. Bloomington 29, 23. Normal West 29, 25. Boylan Catholic 28.5, 26. Prairie Central 25, 26. Seneca 25, 28. Rochelle 24, 29. Somonauk 20, 30. Reed-Custer 19, 30. University High 19, 32. Herscher 17, 33. Normal Community 15, 33. Pontiac 15, 35. Rockford East 11, 36. Genoa-Kingston 10, 37. Durand 7, 38. North Boone 4, 39. Wilmington 3, 40. Manteno 0, 40. Guilford 0.

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