Schaumburg rolls to Conant Regional championship

By Bobby Narang – for the IWCOA

History was made at several gymnasiums throughout the state this weekend.

Due to the exploding growth in girls wrestling, the Illinois High School Association held a sectional competition for the first time last season.

Now, after a memorable 2022-23 season that included the second individual state competition, the postseason has expanded to hosting regionals for the first time in state history.

The two-day Conant Regional, one of eight regional sites from throughout the state, was one of the best spots to watch. The next round for the six individuals who advanced at each weight is the Schaumburg Sectional in two weeks.

Schaumburg continued its dominance, claiming the regional team title with a whopping 263 points after winning the Mid-Suburban League championship the previous weekend. Hoffman Estates placed second (179), Huntley took third (147.5), McHenry finished fourth (144), Bartlett notched fifth (123), Wheeling tied for fifth (123), Fenton snared seventh (122), host Conant finished eighth (118) and Dundee-Crown (94) and Larkin (94) rounded out the top 10 teams.

The Saxons rode a pair of title winners to the team crown, led by Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic at 140 pounds and Valeria Rodriguez at 155 pounds.

“It’s really the girls believing in their training,” Schaumburg coach Matt Gruszka said. “I told them to believe in the system and believe in your training. They each have their own individual niches they like to hit, but as a whole, I try and combine into the system and rely on it, especially in the six-minute matches. At 140, Madeline’s win can’t go unnoticed. That’s one of the deepest brackets I’ve seen for a regional. It was crazy deep. Val at 155, she’s a grinder and she’s got some big hopes.

“My 170 pounder, Alya Razzak and 190-pounder, Nadia Razzak, both sisters, also wrestled well. In general, the wrestling at this regional was really, really good. We had state champs all over the place.”

Hoffman Estates also had two regional champions, Sophia Ball at 120 pounds and Abi Ji at 125 pounds.

“Our kids wrestled tough and we have one of the hardest rooms with nine state qualifiers from last year,” Hoffman Estates coach Leo Clark said. “They kept wrestling well. Sophia is a returning state placer and she worked really hard in the offseason and put in the time. She’s a tough kid. At 125, Abigail Ji is also a state qualifier. She worked hard in the offseason and believes in the plan we put for her. You have to give credit to Schaumburg. They have a really good team. Those girls came out and wrestled hard.”

Huntley came several points short from a runnerup finish but notched a pair of regional champs in Janiah Slaughter (100) and Aubrie Rohrbacher (130) to account for a special two-day run.

“Janiah and Aubrie have wrestled great all year,” Huntley coach Gannon Kosowski said. “Janiah has one loss this season, Aubrie has three losses. Aubrie was a little hesitant on shots in the final, but I think we will open it up in sectionals and we will be just fine. Janiah wrestled great all day. Overall, the whole team wrestled well. A few of them got caught in a few things, and were in a position not been in all year. We have to work on a few things to get ready for sectionals.”

Here’s the IHSA Conant Regional champions and their weight classes

100 – Diamond Rodriguez, Dundee-Crown

In her second year wrestling, Dundee-Crown junior Diamond Rodriguez is on the right track. Rodriguez (27-3) won all three of her matches via pin, ending a highly-productive day by pinning Schaumburg sophomore Makenzi Aguilar (25-7) in 2:29 in the 100 finals.

“It was just driving,” Rodriguez said. “I was so tired, but my coach told me to not give up or I would be put on my backside and to keep fighting. It was hard.”

Rodriguez credits her strong season to a better mental approach.

“I feel a lot better this year, but part of that is because of my confidence,” Rodriguez said. “It has went way up because I’ve only lost a few times. When I came back this season, I didn’t lose my first one and my confidence went up because last year I would always lose. I feel a lot better this year. I worked hard and my coaches pushed me to go in the summer and work hard. I tried to show up to practice every day and work hard. “

In the third-place match, St. Charles East sophomore Sofia Espinoza (10-5) pinned Prospect junior Elainie Taboada (11-5) while Bartlett’ sophomore Kahlynn Spurgeon (11-12) won the fifth-place match by pinning Maine South freshman Aphrodite Gineris.

105 – Janiah Slaughter, Huntley

Huntley sophomore Janiah Slaughter kept her season of victories rolling along with an impressive showing at regional. Despite suffering a right shoulder injury earlier on Saturday, Slaughter (24-1) labored through a tough finals match against Addison Trail senior Veronica Cosio (21-4). Slaughter, who took third at 100 in last year’s IHSA Finals, showed a lot of moxie, surviving the final 40 seconds even though she was in obvious pain, to defeat Cosio 9-3.

“Getting to my shots and being on top and stabilizing on top and doing what I do best,” Slaughter said. “I tried to get them out of position. That (title) match was hard. I wrestled her earlier in a tournament and it was a good match today. She is always pushing me. I beat her then too. I was really looking for that pin at the end. I tweaked my right shoulder in one of my earlier matches (today). I had a bar and it got stuck. I was feeling a lot of pain.

“I was grabbing my shoulder, but I don’t believe in injury time. I just decided to finish the match because I had 40 seconds, so I tried to get through it the best I could. I got second at sectionals last year, so I really want to get first at sectionals. Last year I got third at state. I don’t feel comfortable having a bronze. All I see is gold for this year. I want to be a state champion.”

Rounding out the top wrestlers in the bracket, Wauconda senior Liliana Aly (18-8) won 6-0 over Dundee-Crown  junior Iris Torres (23-13) for third place and Larkin junior Ashley Hammond (26-12) won over Woodstock sophomore Eva Hermanasson (22-6) in the fifth-place match.

110 – Emma Engels, Bartlett

Bartlett’s Emma Engels jumped with glee following her dramatic 3-2 win over Grant’s top-ranked Ayane Jasinski in the 110-pound final. In a highly-contested and anticipated match between two returning state champions, second-ranked Engels (28-12), a junior who was last year’s IHSA champion at 100, scored a late takedown to pull out the win over Jasinski (15-1), a senior who is two-time IHSA medalist who was the 110 champion in 2023.

“It was tough, but my coach told me I could get a turn,” Engels said. “I trusted myself on top and got the turn. I got a good shot at the start of the period but she had good defense, so she ended up getting a good takedown. For her to get that in and not get the turn was big.

“I think today went well, did what I have to do and wrestled well. My junior season has gone pretty good. I’ve wrestled mostly guys this year so this was nice to come here and wrestle well.”

Crystal Lake South freshman Annalee Aarseth (28-3) pinned Huntley senior Taylor Casey (35-8) for the third-place medal and Saint Viator senior Natalie Gubernat (21-18) pinned Schaumburg junior Diya Patel (25-14) in the fifth-place match.

115 – Gabby Gomez, Glenbard North

Glenbard North junior Gabby Gomez was one of the star attractions at Conant. The highly- competitive and successful Gomez (31-0), a pioneer in the Illinois girls wrestling scene, ended her day with a pin in 1:37 over Bartlett senior Angie Carpintero (25-3) in the 115 finals.

A two-time state champion, at 115 last year and at 105 in 2022, Gomez said she’s seeking to add a few more accolades to her vast resume.

“I’m trying to beat a record of 299 takedowns, so I’m right there with 270 or 280 and hopefully I can beat it by sectionals and just go out there and have fun at state,” Gomez said. “I’ve got to make it through sectionals first. Angie is my teammate in wrestling, and I love her. I know she’s new to wrestling a little bit. She’s really improved and giving me a lot better looks in the room, so I want to go out there and face somebody who can give me a match.”

Overall, Gomez said her march toward a third state title is on track.

“I’ve been working on my conditioning,” she said. “I don’t want to make weight and only wrestle for 15 seconds. I want to wrestle and see how my conditioning is going into freestyle wrestling because that’s a six-minute match. This is really helping me prepare for that. I have bigger goals than being a state champ. I want to be that world champ and Fargo champ. This is really helping me. I think I wrestled pretty well.

Schaumburg sophomore Anna Villarreal (35-6) pinned Larkin senior Tina Ebrahimi (18-16) in the third-place match while Richmond-Burton sophomore Savannah Wells (11-6) earned a forfeit win for fifth over Woodstock sophomore Sophie Sarabia (14-5).

120 – Sophia Ball, Hoffman Estates

Hoffman Estates junior Sophia Ball, in her third year wrestling, maintained her perfect record. Ball (21-0), who took fifth at 120 in last year’s IHSA Finals, kicked off a run of consecutive regional champs from Hoffman Estates by pinning Addison Trail junior Nina Matthews in 0:51 in the 120 title match.

“I just wrestled the way I know how to wrestle,” Ball said. “I worked all of the options and got offensive. I had to get to my spots. My goals are to do well at sectionals in two weeks, do well at state, and win state. My third match was my toughest one. She was very strong.”

McHenry junior Addison Hodges (9-3) earned a spirited victory by fall over Conant senior Beth Ciavarella (21-10) for third place. St. Charles East sophomore Autumn Badon (14-5) pinned Hampshire senior Jamari Simmons (8-6) for fifth place.

125 – Abi Ji, Hoffman Estates

Hoffman Estates junior Abi Ji is among the most accomplished wrestlers in the state. She continued her upward descent with three pins but dealt with a tough finals match at 125 against Bartlett sophomore Lilly White. Ji (31-1) was able to record a 7-5 decision over White (25-3) for the regional title.

“I think I really need to focus on how I cut weight,” Ji said. “I’ve been working with my teammates to get faster because I know dropping weight that these girls are faster than me.”
Ji, ranked fourth in the state, raised her season total to 24 pins.

“My strategy in the finals was making sure I wasn’t hooking on too long. I switched because I realized I could throw this girl and went slow-paced to gain points on her. I think everybody in my bracket was pretty tough, especially in the semifinals. I was hoping to wrestle my friend, Madyson (Meyer), from Schaumburg. I’ve been to state twice and I want to go back to state and place.”

Schaumburg junior Madyson Meyer (32-5) won with a pin over Streamwood senior Kaleigh Allender (11-2) to claim third place and McHenry junior Bri Duran (13-6) won by medical forfeit over Lake Park junior Valeria Malinowski (17-7) for fifth.

130 – Aubrie Rohrbacher, Huntley

Several minutes after her 6-2 decision over Prospect junior Viola Pianetto (19-3) in the 130-pound finals, Huntley sophomore Aubrie Rohrbacher (38-3) was still laser-focused. She darted to the hallways, resting for a brief minute before taking some pointers from one of her coaches.

“It took a lot of hard work and conditioning and wanting to win more,” Rohrbacher said. “I had a last minute takedown at the end. Down 2-1, I was thinking I just needed to shoot. I had to be more attacking and aggressive. Last year I made it to state and placed eighth and I want to go back for more. I feel more confident in myself and I’m very confident in my shooting ability. My bottom game is a lot better than last year.”

Third place went to Wheeling sophomore Elise Burkut (26-7), who pinned Glenbard North sophomore Keagan Edwards (27-8). For fifth place, Maine West junior Ava Reyes (25-14) won by fall over Elgin sophomore Briana Anselmo (15-6).

135 – Jasmine Zavaleta, Conant

Conant sophomore Jasmine Zavaleta enjoyed the attention following her pin in 0:34 over Palatine junior Amaya Jackson (14-14) in the 135-pound championship match. Zavaleta (23-9) celebrated her bracket championship by hugging several friends who attended the regional on her home mat.

“I think just having a positive mindset to keep on going and pushing helped me,” Zavaleta said. “My Fremd match (vs. Lloyd Kowalczyk) was tough because she had beaten me twice. She’s really good. Last year I wrestled three weight classes heavier at 145. I pushed through it and today my mindset was good. This was the best I’ve wrestled, thanks to a positive mindset.”

Hoffman Estates senior Emmylina O’Brien (35-1) pinned Fremd junior Lloyd Kowalczyk (16-5) for the third-place medal. Schaumburg sophomore Olivia Furlan (21-20) also won by fall over Lark Park sophomore Ava Burns (27-15) to snare fifth.

140 – Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic, Schaumburg

Schaumburg junior Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic’s wrestling journey has included a regular and constant partner – her sore back.

A three-year wrestler who took fifth at 125 in last year’s IHSA Finals, she has “had to take a lot of breaks for rehabs for my back” after suffering a serious back injury in her freshman year, when “one of my teammates broke my back real bad and I’ve been recovering ever since.”

Zerafa-Lazarevic (31-2) completed a solid regional by pinning Richmond-Burton senior Jasmine McCaskel (16-2) in 3:22 in the 140 finals. She’s motivated to follow in teammate Valeria Rodriguez’s footsteps. Rodriguez won the 155-pound class on Saturday.

“Our girl last year was Val, so she held down the weight class and finished third at state,” Zerafa-Lazarevic said. “They know about the 140 from Schaumburg from last year, so I’m going to teach them about it this year. 

“That last match was tough. Mentally, I was struggling with my back. I was hurting, but …once I got into it mentally, I decided to go a hundred percent into it. It was just mental. I have some of the best coaches in the state, and I looked at them in my corner and knew I could do it. I have to rehab and work on some things, including better defense. Everyone on our team has made great progress, especially since my freshman year. Everyone has helped grow our team and our sport.”

In the third-place match, McHenry sophomore Natalie Corona (18-1) won by fall over Huntley senior Jessica Olson (38-8). And for fifth place, Fenton junior Yannel Perez (27-8) recorded a pin over Conant sophomore Ewa Krupa (22-10).

145 – Yamile Penaloza, Fenton

Just like Huntley’s Aubrie Rohrbacher at 130, Fenton senior Yamile Penaloza preferred to take a pensive attitude after winning the 145-pound weight class. Walking around in the hallways while talking to one of her coaches, the third-year wrestler is aiming for a return trip to state.
Penaloza (32-0) notched a 3-2 win over Harvard sophomore Ithandehui Rosas (30-8) in the finals. She captured the Upstate Eight Conference Tournament title last weekend.

“I just pushed myself really hard today and really want to get to state again,” Penaloza said. “I’ve only won one match at state. I’m motivated because I’m in my senior year, so I’m trying to give it my all and push harder. I’ve been working really hard in practice and it’s starting to show. I had a pretty good day. My finals match was hard. I had to push myself and take some shots.”

In the third-place bout, Lake Park junior Joscelin Rittamel (31-7) posted a 5-2 decision over Schaumburg senior Keara Micek (33-10). And Huntley freshman Grecia Garcia (24-16) took fifth by medical forfeit over Wheeling senior Stephanie Solano (12-4).

155 – Valeria Rodriguez, Schaumburg

Schaumburg senior Valeria Rodriguez was at a loss for words following her 155 finals win over Fenton senior Sophia Sosa. Rodriguez (34-1) notched a tough 4-1 decision over Sosa (29-2) on a day where the Saxons easily won the regional team championship.

Even with all of her wrestling experience, and after placing third at 140 last year in the IHSA Finals and third at 155 in the inaugural IHSA Finals in 2022, Rodriguez admitted she’s battled with her confidence levels at times.

“Confidence was my key today,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve struggled with confidence, but I felt a lot better today and gave everything I had. My season is 33-1. I had an easy first two matches, but my finals match was a lot harder.”

Wheeling freshman Madeline Chicas (20-10) pinned Dundee-Crown junior Mackenzie Lessner (23-10) in the third-place match. And McHenry sophomore Madalynn Sima (16-4) got a first-period pin over Conant freshman Susan Bilyal (12-20) to claim fifth place.

170 – Lillian Garrett, Maine West

Maine West junior Lillian Garrett is closing out her third year of wrestling with a run of victories. Garrett, now 24-4, made quick work of her 170 finals opponent, Schaumburg junior Alya Razzak (29-12), recording a fall in 0:28 in the title match.

Garrett said one of the main factors in her solid season is a better mental outlook, and also putting her phone away.

“I stopped getting in my head,” Garrett said. “I kind of look at brackets before matches, but for this one, I turned off my phone. That helped a lot, not getting in my own head. It was a lot easier and was wrestling to my best abilities, and I felt every wrestler was on an equal level. I paced myself between matches not to get gassed between matches. I thought finals was going to be a full six-minute match. I’ve been getting a lot more experience wrestling girls this year, and that’s helped after wrestling boys in past years.”

In the third-place match, Palatine junior Sabrina Cargill (24-5) won by fall over Hoffman Estates junior Isabella Chiovari (23-10). Conant sophomore Lana Ton (22-16) placed fifth by pinning Crystal Lake Central sophomore Cait Jones (13-11).

190 – Jasmine Rene, Wheeling

Wheeling sophomore Jasmine Rene was a tough critic of herself on Saturday. Rene (30-1) defeated an old nemesis, Schaumburg sophomore Nadia Razzak (31-6), with a pin in 4:53 in the 190 championship match.

“The key I felt was hard work and not worry about past results,” Rene said. “I wrestled in our conference (tournament) and did very bad. I had to get that out of my mind. I won conference but didn’t wrestle (good). I had a whole different mindset (Saturday). Besides my semifinals, I thought I did pretty well. This year I’ve done really good and my training in the offseason helped a lot.”

Wheeling coach Anthony Piltaver said Rene, who took fourth place at 190 at last year’s IHSA Finals, has been solid all season.

“It was really nice seeing her match awareness, just what she needs and when she needs it,” he said. “As far as scoring goes, it was about keeping a level head and what she needed to do. That was big for her. It was nice having someone in the finals for our program.”

Larkin junior Kimberly Reyes (27-11) pinned Hoffman Estates freshman Essenze Reid (14-8) to earn a third-place medal. And Fenton sophomore Cailyn Platta (29-6) notched a third-period fall to defeat Fremd junior Jazz Ocampo (22-10) for fifth place.

235 – Sophia Brown, McHenry

Better late than never, at least in the case of McHenry senior Sophia Brown. Wrestling for the first time in her career, Brown (11-3) has become a quick study in the sport. She added to her stunning season by winning the 235-pound weight class at the Conant Regional, pinning Hoffman Estates junior Anjali Gonzalez (24-4) in 1:22.

“Everyone kind of pressured me to wrestle because they saw the potential in me,” Brown said. “I took that risk of wrestling and I truly came long. I love it now. I focused on my coach in the finals and what the next move was and to keep going. Winning the bracket, I just kept going one at a time and listening to my coaches and staying confident. My coaches have really helped me.”

McHenry coach James Buss said Brown has become a standout wrestler in a short period of time.

“Sophia just found her shot,” Buss. “We knew she had her shot all year long. She had to find her shot and stay consistent with it. Sophia is a natural wrestler.”

Maine West senior Eliana Garrett (15-7) won by fall over Maine East sophomore Lyric Walton (9-11) to earn the third-place medal. And Fenton freshman Ariana Solideo (26-7) closed out her day by pinning Bartlett senior Kim Olwoch (7-13) for fifth place.

Championship matches for the IHSA Conant Regional Tournament

100 – Diamond Rodriguez (Dundee-Crown) F 2:29 Makenzi Aguilar (Schaumburg)

105 – Janiah Slaughter (Huntley) D 9-3 Veronica Cosio (Addison Trail)

110 – Emma Engels (Bartlett), D 3-2 Ayane Jasinski (Grant)

115 – Gabby Gomez (Glenbard North) F 1:37 Angie Carpintero (Bartlett)

120 – Sophia Ball (Hoffman Estates) F 0:51 Nina Matthews (Addison Trail)

125 – Abi Ji (Hoffman Estates) D 7-5 Lilly White (Bartlett)

130 – Aubrie Rohrbacher (Huntley) D 6-2 Viola Pianetto (Prospect)

135 – Jasmine Zavaleta (Conant) F 0:34 Amaya Jackson (Palatine)

140 – Madeline Zerafa-Lazarevic (Schaumburg) F 3:22 Jasmine McCaskel (Richmond-Burton)

145 – Yamile Penaloza (Fenton) D 3-2 Ithandehui Rosas (Harvard)

155 – Valeria Rodriguez (Schaumburg) D 4-1 Sophia Sosa (Fenton)

170 – Lillian Garrett (Maine West) F 0:28 Alya Razzak (Schaumburg)

190 – Jasmine Rene (Wheeling) F 4:53 Nadia Razzak (Schaumburg)

235 – Sophia Brown (McHenry) F 1:22 Anjali Gonzalez (Hoffman Estates)

Third-place matches for the IHSA Conant Regional Tournament

100 – Sofia Espinoza (St. Charles East) F 1:26 Elanie Taboada (Prospect)

105 -Liliana Aly (Wauconda) D 6-0 Iris Torres (Dundee-Crown)

110 – Annalee Aarseth (Crystal Lake South) F 2:41 Taylor Casey (Huntley)

115 – Anna Villarreal (Schaumburg) F 3:27 Tina Ebrahimi (Larkin)

120 – Addison Hodges (McHenry) F 1:30 Beth Ciavarella (Conant)

125 – Madyson Meyer (Schaumburg) F 1:52 Kaleigh Allender (Streamwood)

130 – Elise Burkut (Wheeling) F 3:09 Keagan Edwards (Glenbard North)

135 – Emmylina O’Brien (Hoffman Estates) F 2:25 Lloyd Kowalczyk (Fremd)

140 – Natalie Corona (McHenry) F 1:13 Jessica Olson (Huntley)

145 – Joscelin Ritthamel (Lake Park) D 5-2 Keara Micek (Schaumburg)

155 – Madeline Chicas (Wheeling) F 5:39 Mackenzie Lessner (Dundee-Crown)

170 – Sabrina Cargill (Palatine) F 3:43 Isabella Chiovari (Hoffman Estates)

190 – Kimberly Reyes (Larkin) F 3:48 Essenze Reid (Hoffman Estates)

235 – Eliana Garrett (Maine West) F 0:51 Lyric Walton (Maine East)

Fifth-place matches at the IHSA Conant Regional Tournament

100 – Kahlynn Spurgeon (Bartlett) F 2:00 Aphrodite Gineris (Maine South)

105 – Ashley Hammond (Larkin) M For Eva Hermansson (Woodstock)

110 – Natalie Gubernat (Saint Viator) F 0:27 Diya Patel (Schaumburg)

115 – Savannah Wells (Richmond-Burton) M For Sophie Sarabia (Woodstock)

120 – Autumn Badon (St. Charles East) F 4:23 Jamari Simmons (Hampshire)

125 – Bri Duran (McHenry) M For Valeria Malinowski (Lake Park)

130 – Ava Reyes (Maine West) F 5:12 Briana Anselmo (Elgin)

135 – Olivia Furlan (Schaumburg) F 5:49 Ava Burns (Lake Park)

140 – Yannel Perez (Fenton) F 1:28 Ewa Krupa (Conant)

145 – Grecia Garcia (Huntley) M For Stephanie Solano (Wheeling)

155 – Madalynn Sima (McHenry) F 0:18 Susan Bilyal (Conant)

170 – Lana Ton (Conant) F 0:21 Cait Jones (Crystal Lake Central)

190 – Cailyn Platta (Fenton) F 5:52 Jazz Ocampo (Fremd)

235 – Ariano Solideo (Fenton) F 2:51 Kim Olwoch (Bartlett)

Team scores for the IHSA Conant Regional Tournament

1. Schaumburg 263, 2. Hoffman Estates 179, 3. Huntley 147.5, 4. McHenry 144, 5. Bartlett 123, 5. Wheeling 123, 7. Fenton 122, 8. Conant 118, 9. Dundee-Crown 94, 9. Larkin 94, 11. Maine West 86, 12. Lake Park 80, 13. Addison Trail 77, 13. Richmond-Burton 77, 15. Palatine 74, 16. Glenbard North 67, 17. Maine East 65, 18. St. Charles East 63, 19. Woodstock 61, 20. Prospect 59, 21. Harvard 52, 22. Fremd 47, 23. Maine South 45, 24. Elgin 43, 25. Wauconda 40, 26. Streamwood 39, 27. Grant 36, 28, Crystal Lake South 30, 29, Saint Viator 29, 30. Buffalo Grove 28, 31. Rolling Meadows 22, 32. Crystal Lake Central 18, 32. Hampshire 18, 34. Cary-Grove 11, 35. Elk Grove 10, 35. South Elgin 8, 37. Prairie Ridge 7, 38. Harvest Christian Academy 5, 39. Johnsburg 4, 40. Jacobs 0, 40. Marengo 0.

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