Schaumburg girls snare Morris title

By Chris Walker For the IWCOA

Schaumburg won two championship matches and had three other wrestlers place second during Saturday’s inaugural Morris Girls Invite.

Those five wrestlers led a group of 13 Saxons scoring enough team points for Schaumburg to best runner-up Minooka, 171 to 163. 

“I think all of the finalists did a fantastic job in a tournament like this,” Schaumburg coach Matt Gruszka said. “It wasn’t our best tournament of the year. We left a lot of points on the board. I told the team this is where the horses have to pull you through with senior leadership.”

Chicago Phoenix Military Academy was third at 153, West Aurora was fourth at 135 while Plainfield South was a distant fifth at 75 among the 32-team field.

Schaumburg’s Madeline Hope Zerafa-Lazarevic (140) and Valeria Rodriguez (155) won titles while teammates Makenzi Aguilar (100), Madyson Meyer (125), Nadia Razzak (190) fell just short in their respective title matches. Olivia Furlan (135) and Anna Villarreal (120) also finished in fourth place for the Saxons.

“There were some tough individuals with a tournament like that,” Gruszka said, “The competition was great. Each bracket had some good wrestling in it and it’s what the girls need to see.”

Minooka matched the Saxons with five girls advancing to the finals, including sisters Addison and Kira Cailteux, with Addison taking the win at 130 for the Indians this time. Eva Beck (135), Palmer Calvey (140) and Bella Cyrkiel (145) each advanced to the finals.

“I thought our girls showed they’ve been improving in the room,” Indians coach Paige Schoolman said. “It was probably a first for us, getting five girls into the finals. That many girls is pretty exciting stuff for us.”

About a year ago, Calvey got injured at a Pontiac’s Munch Girls Invite. On Saturday, she was healthy and wrestling for a championship.

“She had a huge tear in a her hamstring and is just now finally getting back to form,” Schoolman said. “She wrestled really smart and put herself in position to get in the finals at 140.”

Schaumburg wouldn’t be celebrating a tournament victory and Minooka wouldn’t be talking about being runner-up if it weren’t for Morris coach Lenny Tryner convincing Morris Athletic Director Jeff Johnson to host such an event.

“We used to be in a boys tournament this weekend and we went to our AD and said this tournament was not for us so we’d like to host our own,” Tryner said. “I wanted to do a boys and girls tournament together but there just never was enough boys teams interested in it because so many have established tournaments. So we went with the girls and ended up with 32 teams. I even had two or three coaches contact me last week trying to get in and I had to cut them off.”

All told, there were 260 wrestlers with 12 different schools going home with at least one champion. West Aurora and Schaumburg were the only two programs to have a pair of winners.

“Girls wrestling is growing so we’d like to try to have a good girls tournament,” Tryner said. “We would like to host the premier girls tournament in the state.

Ella McDonnell won at 110 for the Redskins.

“I am proud to be Morris wrestler,” she said. “We have a lot of good people on the team that work hard to be where they are at today. The girls team has gone a long way from where they were at last year. The team has made huge improvements and we have become a family.”

She really wanted to win on her home mat.

“To win the first girls tournament at Morris means a lot,” McDonell said. “To be able to show the rest of the girls that you can achieve your goals in one of the toughest sports has a huge impact on me. The road to go to state will be difficult this year because all of the girls have only gotten better and a regional has been included so it will eliminate all of the first-year wrestlers. The competition will be tough and I am looking forward to seeing all of the girls compete. I am also looking forward to seeing how my hard work pays off at the end of the season.”

McDonnell got down from 115.

“She wanted to get down and wrestle at her weight because we were supposed to have a fair amount of good girls wrestling at her weight class,” Tryner. “I think she really wanted it with it being the first Morris girls tournament. She was motivated extra to win.”

Here’s a look at the champions and weight classes at the 2023 Morris Girls Invite:

100 – Daniela Santander, Romeoville

Santander improved to 12-3 with a win by fall against Schaumburg’s Mackenzie Aguilar in the 100 title match.

Plainfield South’s Amie Fuentes won by fall against Chicago Phoenix Military Academy’s Jitzel Aranda to win the third place match at 100.

Santander had defeated Aranda and Fuentes by fall in her previous matches en route to her title.

105 – Kameyah Young, West Aurora

Young finally was able to finish off Romeoville senior Josefina Orozco late in the third period by fall to improve to 18-1 and to win one of two titles for the Blackhawks.

Lincoln-Way West freshman Zoe Dempsey beat Minooka sophomore Holli Coughlen by fall on the third-place mat at 105.

110 – Ella McDonnell, Morris

McDonnell pinned DeKalb’s Alex Gregorio-Perez in 3:40 for her third pin in as many matches on Saturday to improve to 17-1.

“The first period was a little rough due to the fact that I arrived late to the mat so I had no time to warmup, but I learned to channel my nerves throughout the first period and focus on the match,” McDonnell said. “She is a good wrestler and it was a good match.”

McDonnell also won by fall against Lockport’s Veronica Skibicki in 0:55 and Reed Custer’s Judith Gamboa in 1:08.

“I believe that my performance this weekend overall was good,” she said. “All of the wrestlers that I faced were good. My teammates, coaches, and the parents played a big role in getting me to the finals by supporting me and cheering me on from the corner.”

115 – Tori Macias, Burlington Central

Macias had a pair of wins by fall to advance to the finals where she met Sandwich’s Ashlyn Strenz for one of the tighter matches in the finals, prevailing 2-1.

Lockport’s Elizabeth Ramirez won by fall over Rich Township’s Courben Session on the third place mat at 115.

120 – Grace Laird, Joliet Catholic Academy (JCA)

Laird earned pins against DeKalb’s RaeAnne Sciabaras, Minooka’s Aubry Smith and West Aurora’s Aiyanah Sylvester before scoring a major decision 8-0 win against Lincoln-Way West’s Alaine Hollendoner in the title match.

Earlier this season Laird, a junior, won by fall against Hollendoner.

“I wrestled her the first match of the season and I won by pin, but this match was a lot tougher,” she said. “I was in control the whole time and able to do some new things. I was able to work new turns on top that I normally don’t do.”

Laird, who became the first girls wrestler to compete in the girls state finals for JCA a year ago, continues to progress after converting to wrestling from gymnastics upon entering the school on the west side of Joliet.

“I had been doing gymnastics for 10 years and quit to start wrestling my freshman year,” she said. “I feel like gymnastics gave me some strength and mental toughness and I’ve been able to learn skills really fast.”

It certainly helps that coach Ryan Cumbee, who led the Hilltoppers to a Class 2A boys state championship a season ago, is her step dad.

“I’ve been around wrestling for a while now,” she said. “I just keep making small adjustments and working on new things in the room to compete for a state championship this year. It’s definitely tough wrestling the boys we have. We have such a talented room which makes me a lot better and tougher. It feels good to be a part of that in making each other better.”

125 – Kinnley Smith, Canton

Smith, who finished second in the state last season at 125, continues on her path to get back there again after a strong performance on Saturday that concluded with her pinning previously undefeated Schaumburg junior Madyson Meyer at 1:49.

“I worked on staying in good positions and having discipline during the match,” she said. “I had a lot of confidence going into the match so I just wrestled my match and let it fly.”

Smith didn’t waste much time taking care of her earlier opponents on Saturday. After opening with a bye, Smith won by fall over Morris’ Tessa Neikirk at 0:57 and then over Minooka’s Sabina Charlebois in 1:45 during the semifinals.

“I felt very good today,” she said. “I worked a lot with my underhook because I’ve truly grown to loving that underhook, and being able to dictate the match with it. I also focused on my top today rather than neutral today to get a feel for what I need to work on.”

She even made quick progress in between all the action.

“My biggest challenge was having trouble breaking down my opponents off top,” she explained. “During the break for the tournament I worked on a new move and then even used it multiple times during my finals match to end up getting the fall.”

Now, 12-2 on the year, Smith believes she’s much better than she was a season ago when she was already elite.

“I believe I have improved tremendously since last season,” she said. “I have changed stylistically as a wrestler in many ways. I never once would have thought that I would shoot multiple times in a match or the fact that I am constantly firing off the first move. I think the biggest improvement in my wrestling is my confidence in my ability! I also get to be a leader for my team which helps keep me motivated to give these girls someone to look up to.”

Minooka’s Sabina Charlebois won by fall against Chicago Phoenix Military Academy’s Mia Thomas to win the third place match at 125.

130 – Addison Cailteux, Minooka

Sophomore Addison “Addie” Cailteux prevailed against her older sister, Kira Cailteux in the 130 finals. While such a match-up sounds remarkable, the title match was anything but. The only real action was the ultimate decision in Minooka and Addie’s favor.

Since Addie was the only Cailteux who could add to the team score, it was logical for her to take the victory against a teammate. Plus, Kira is also in volleyball season away from high school, and needs to stay healthy, so chancing an injury would’ve been foolish.

“The plan was to just wrestle it out, but I’m in season for volleyball and my goal was don’t hurt me,” Kira Cailteux said. “Addie had dropped to 130 that day and I didn’t want to wrestle.”

Mom definitely was considering the potential showdown.

“I was getting nervous beforehand and I think mom was excited that both of us could wrestle,” Kira Cailteux said. “I think she was excited to see us both shaking hands for once.”

Addie Cailteux won by fall against West Aurora’s Alaina Williams and Ottawa’s Ava Weatherford to advance to the finals. She opened with a bye while Kira Cailteux started with a win by fall against Tolono Unity’s Claire Horns.

Kira Cailteux then prevailed in a couple tight matches to get to the finals, edging Schaumburg’s Sharon Olorunfemi, 7-3, in the quarterfinals, and DeKalb’s Lana Zimmerman, 4-2, in the semifinals.

West Aurora’s Allina Williams won in sudden victory, 10-8, over Kaneland’s Dyani Torres to capture third place.

135 – Katie Ramirez-Quintero, Bolingbrook

Ramirez-Quintero won by major decision over Serena’s Sammy Greisen in the semifinals before advancing to the finals where she won by fall over Minooka’s Eva Beck at 3:19. Ramirez-Quintero also won by fall in her first bout of the day against Chicago Phoenix Military Academy’s Jocelyn Quiroz.

Seneca’s Sammy Greisen won by fall against Schaumburg’s Olivia Furlan to take third place at 135.

140 – Madeline Hope Zerafa-Lazarevic, Schaumburg

Madeline Hope Zerafa-Lazarevic likes to go by her middle name “Hope.”

Her opponents could only hope to last a full match against the Schaumburg junior who took care of each of her three opponents in under 30 seconds apiece.

She needed 29 seconds to defeat Minooka’s Lexi Lakota, 30 seconds to beat Plainfield South’s Lexi Kachiroubas and only 25 seconds to pin Minooka’s Palmer Calvey to win the title.

“I knew this was a big team tournament and we have a lot of newer girls still figuring out the sport so as a leader I knew I had to step up,” she said. “I wanted to dominate and I really wanted it. We have a good coaching staff and the girls are supportive so I felt I could go all out and do what I needed to.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Zerafa-Lazarevic felt more like a goon on the hardwood.  Then she was introduced to wrestling. Last year, she took fifth in the state at 125, compiling a 25-4 record.

“My dad was a big basketball guy and I was there to be the thug, to mess up other girls,” she said about her basketball playing days. “(Coach Matt) Gruszka said to come out to an open mat and he just kept roping me in and the girls were super nice so I went to one tournament and then another. My interest kept growing and it’s become a completely life-changing experience. I can’t believe where I’d be without wrestling. My team is wonderful. Seriously, my life is very different being a part of this sport.”

As much as she loves wrestling, she only spent 1:24 in action on Saturday.

“There were a lot of good teams here,” she said. “Our team has been so solid. So many girls came out (for the team) and are trying it out and they’re really starting to get it. We have a really strong roster of girls, including those not in the championships. We go down south to see this state-level competition to get better. I’m so proud of my girls that I’m just gushing about them.”

A few years ago, Zerafa-Lazarevic simply hoped someone could help her figure out ankle bands. Now, she’s one of the best wrestlers in the state.

“Personally I’m so excited to see the sport grow,” she said. “Freshman year I was new and in one of my first matches they had to explain position and I didn’t know how to put ankle bands on. Now I’ve grown so much and have gotten so much better at it. It’s a lot of fun and I know much more about wrestling today.”

145 – AJ Grant, Chicago Phoenix Military Academy

Schaumburg’s Keara Micek (1:28). 

Canton’s Aubrianna Putman (1:25).

Canton’s Katelyn Marvel (0:38).

Minooka’s Bella Cyrkiel (1:33).

Grant took care of all four of them. The Chicago Phoenix Military Academy junior was busy, dominant and quick with four wins by pin, including over Cyrkiel in the 145 final. All told, Grant only needed about five minute to defeat her four opponents.

Canton’s Katelyn Marvel won by fall over Canton’s Aubrianna Putman. The two teammates both were pinned by Grant, but Marvel responded to finish her day by pinning her teammate in 1:24.

155 – Valeria Rodriguez, Schaumburg

Rodriguez used to run cross country. Now she’s running down opponents on the mats.

Rodriguez battled Plainfield South junior Teagan Aurich in the 155 final, earning a 3-2 decision. She pinned Peoria Notre Dame’s Martha Gardner and Chicago Phoenix Military Academy’s America Cabrera in her matches leading up to Aurich in the final. She’s now 15-1 on the year.

“Right now we’re all pretty solid,” she said. “We’ve got a strong team this year with some amazing freshmen and lots of potential from our seniors. I’ve been a team captain for two years which is pretty fun. You have to know your levels between yourself and teammates so you can help them grow and improve where they need to. We all want the same thing: to win and prosper.”

Before high school, running was Rodriguez’s thing. Now, she’s not only a girls high school wrestler, but has a third place state finish to her resume and will be taking her skills to Quincy University next season.

“I just kind of tried (wrestling) my freshman year and ended up liking it,” she said. “I was in cross country before and wrestling is very very different. At first I wasn’t successful but I enjoyed the sport and I continued to grow.”

On the third-place mat, Chicago Phoenix Military Academy’s America Cabrera won by fall against Minooka’s Abbey Boersma.

170 – Kiernan Farmer, Peotone

Farmer won by fall over Shepard’s Victoria Perez, Urbana’s Franciana Kalanga and Peoria Notre Dame’s Autumn Williams before handing Burlington Central Ryann Miller her first loss in 18 matches this season during a 11-4 championship bout.

“I have a friend (Joliet Catholic Academy’s Cheya Bishop) who wrestled her (Miller) in her first match and I saw what to look for and what to avoid,” Farmer said. “She was a good opponent. I didn’t recognize the name from Charlie’s Angels (of Morris Fitness Wrestling) so I didn’t know what to expect when wrestling her. She was really good.”

Farmer missed a couple of tournaments early on in the season due to a trip to South Carolina, but whatever rust may have remained, seemed to have dissipated behind her strong display on the mats. 

“I’m feeling pretty awesome,” she said. “I’ve slimmed down. My weight classes have gone up the last couple of years because I’ve been putting on so much muscle mass and also training my shoulders and forearms while hitting the gym with all the boys from when I first started. It’s definitely helped my hand fighting game. It’s the little things.”

Little things like a few words have gone a long way with Farmer’s quick rise.

“A teacher told me I couldn’t wrestle because it was a boys sport,” she said. “I thought it was boxing. I hard only heard of and seen MMA fights growing up. I joined it on a whim. When I stepped into the room I was a little confused but figured I’d give it a try.”

It certainly helped to have a soon-to-be state champion to train with as Marco Spinnazola won the boys 152 title last February.

“I was a semi decent wrestler starting off and I had great partner who was a state champion so early on I had a great partner,” she said. “I think the turning point for me was when I’d beat boys and fully grown adult men and the boys would start crying because at this point I was the only girl wrestler and they hadn’t ever seen another girls wrestler until my sophomore year in any division near me.”

Farmer won’t forget getting stared at by boys during weigh-in. Now they stare at a champion.

“My favorite part was when I’d come up for third place and it would be a dogfight or I’d whoop them,” she said. “They’d be throwing their head gear. I love it when people underestimate.”

As physical as wrestling can be, it’s still a mental game, too.

“I guess my advice for anybody and I’ve done travel wrestling and never believed my coaches when they said wrestling is 99% mental and 1% physical,” she said. “I would think it’s 1% mental and 99% physical, but I’ve learned it’s totally a mental game.”

190 – Brittney Moran, West Aurora

Moran improved to 17-1 after winning by fall against Schaumburg’s Nadia Razzak in the 190 championship. 

Bolingbrook’s Aurelia Gil-Lane won by fall against Lockport’s Sophie Kelner in the third-place match. 

235 – Juliana Thrush, Ottawa

Thrush won a tiebreaker to defeat Tolono Unity’s Phoenix Molina in the 235 championship.

Robinson Rylee Hammon won by fall against Minooka’s Peyton Kuetizo on the third-place mat at 235.

Championship matches for the Morris Girls Invite

100 – Daniela Santander (Romeoville) F 3:25 Makenzi Aguilar (Schaumburg) 

105 – Kameyah Young (West Aurora) F 5:30 Josefina Orozco (Romeoville)

110 – Ella McDonnell (Morris) F 3:40 Alex Gregorio-Perez (DeKalb)

115 – Tori Macias (Burlington Central) D 2-1 Ashlyn Strenz (Sandwich)

120 – Grace Laird (Joliet Catholic Academy) MD 8-0 Alaine Hollendoner (Lincoln-Way West)

125 – Kinnley Smith (Canton) F 1:49 Madyson Meyer (Schaumburg)

130 – Addison Cailteux (Minooka) F 0:04 Kira Cailteux (Minooka)

135 – Katie Ramirez-Quintero (Bolingbrook) F 3:19 Eva Beck (Minooka)

140 – Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic (Schaumburg) F 0:25 Palmer Calvey (Minooka)

145 – AJ Grant (Chicago Phoenix Military Academy) F 1:33 Bella Cyrkiel (Minooka)

155 – Valeria Rodriguez (Schaumburg ) D 3-2 Teagan Aurich (Plainfield South)

170 – Kiernan Farmer (Peotone) D 11-4 Ryann Miller (Burlington Central)

190 – Brittney Moran (West Aurora) F 0:30 Nadia Razzak (Schaumburg)

235 – Juliana Thrush (Ottawa) TB-1 3-1 Phoenix Molina (Tolono Unity)

B match final result places:

110B – 1st – Mikaela Busse (Oswego) 2nd – Carlee Rausa (Minooka); 3rd – Danica Martin (Morris) 4th – Jordan Rodriguez (Bolingbrook) 5th – Abaan Sheriff (Schaumburg); 6th – Nicole Augustine (West Aurora)

115B – 1st – Diana Lopez (Chicago Phoenix Military Academy); 2nd – Ava Staley (Minooka); 3rd – Diana Llanos (West Aurora); 4th – Val Munoz (Ottawa)

120B – 1st – Marisol Castro-Duran (Chicago Phoenix Military Academy); 2nd – Hayden Mannon (Minooka); 3rd – Sandra Franco (West Aurora); 4th – Allison Cisneros (Romeoville); 5th – Cassidy LaFan (Oswego); 6th – Ania Velazquez (West Aurora); 7th  – Kaylin Diazleal (Schaumburg)

125B – 1st – Mila Rocush (Shepard); 2nd – Rylie Donahue (Somonauk); 3rd – Charlotte Weiler (West Aurora); 4th – Elle Kinnard (Joliet Catholic Academy); 5th – Ellen Thumma (Kewanee); 6th – Savanna Kuykendall (West Aurora)

130B – 1st – Kailey Jefferson (Minooka)l 2nd – Alina Garcia (Schaumburg); 3rd – Adriane Tanguma (Chicago Phoenix Military Academy) 4th – Aryna Latushkina (Vernon Hills); 5th – Gabi Mardula (Plainfield South); 6th – Hayden Lewandowski (Minooka)

140B – 1st – Chloe Cervantes (Kaneland) 2nd – Leilani Arnold (Minooka); 3rd – Mackenzie Kapanowski (Minooka); 4th – Kennedy Smith (Canton); 5th – Destiny Garcia (Morris); 6th – Natalie Naab (Kaneland) 7th – Angelina Arreola (Shepard); 8th – Lauren Lauer (Oswego East)

155B – 1st – Macee Hammond (Robinson); 2nd – Addison Davis (Minooka); 3rd – Greer McCrimmon (Oswego); 4th – Dakota Obbish (Lockport);  5th – Joslynn Sheets (Oswego); 6th – Adriana Martinez (West Aurora)

170B -1st – Jessica Stover (Oswego East); 2nd – Madeline Borkowski (Vernon Hills); 3rd – Annika Lundgren (Plainfield South); 4th – Kira Lopez (Lockport);  5th – Lana Fay (Oswego East); 6th – Alejandra Morales (Schaumburg); 7th – Nalani Martinez (Minooka)

190B – 1st – Carly Duffing (Kaneland); 2nd – Kyra Wood (Seneca); 3rd – Breanna Robinson (Shepard); 4th – Avery Crocker (Robinson); 5th – Reyna Equivel (West Aurora)

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