By Gary Larsen
There was no shortage of top-level talent in Batavia on Saturday, where four returning Illinois state champions and nationally-ranked wrestlers competed in Glenbard North’s Gabriella Gomez, Hononegah’s Angelina Cassioppi, Freeport’s Cadence Diduch, and host Batavia’s Sydney Perry. Nationally-ranked Netavia Wickson of Boylan, a state runner-up last year, also competed.
In fact, one of the biggest marquee matchups occurring anywhere in Illinois took place when Gomez and Cassioppi wrestled to three overtime periods in the Batavia finals at 115, with Gomez winning a 5-3 decision.
But even beyond the level of elite talent and competition present, it was the way this year’s inaugural Batavia Girls Wrestling Invitational served its 220 participants from 34 schools that stood out.
A popular practice used for larger girls tournaments this season has been the implementation of 8-person brackets, which guarantees every wrestler three matches. The format is also geared towards more constructive individual competition, in a growing girls sport where wrestling abilities can vary greatly.
“It’s intended to foster competition both among experienced wrestlers and also among less experienced wrestlers in the B and C brackets,” Batavia coach Scott Bayer said. “The hope is that girls get the competition at their level that they need. We created 8-woman brackets and overall I think the tournament ran well.”
It likely doesn’t matter how large the brackets are for wrestlers like Gomez, Cassioppi, Perry, Diduch, and Wickson, because they’re all likely to battle their way into the finals of any tournament.
“A bigger bracket gives girls more of a feeling for the state tournament but I didn’t mind the eight-person bracket,” Gomez said. “They wanted everyone to get a fair share of competition.”
The tournament format had an A and a B division for nearly every weight class. The pool of 125-pounders present was so large that a C bracket was added, but there was only one bracket at 235.
Teams were thus able to enter wrestlers in multiple brackets and when the dust settled it was East Aurora out-scoring second-place host Batavia, 153-149 atop the team leaderboard, followed by Huntley (128), DeKalb (119), and Richwoods (110). Rounding out the top 10 team finishers were Andrew (98), Ottawa (87), Yorkville (84.5), West Aurora (72), and Addison Trail (71).
“This was our first actual tournament this year,” Lady Tomcats coach Ryan Mick said. “We had been competing in a lot of quads on the weekends so this was a new experience for them. I told them during the week there was going to be some really good competition so they were nervous going in but they were excited to compete.
“I’m fortunate to have a great group and have quite a few leaders in the bunch. I was happy with how we wrestled. Nobody backed down and fought to the last whistle in all their matches.”
Eleven different wrestlers earned team points for East Aurora. The Lady Tomcats got thirds in the A bracket from Kamayah Young (100) and Ixzayana Cruz (105), to go with fourths from Ruby Becerra (125), Lilian Hernandez (130), and Britany Chavarria (135).
Yoheadi Contreras (130) and Jordan Smith (170) placed sixth.
Young’s brother Tim won a boys’ state title for East Aurora in 2015.
“It’s in her blood,” Mick said of Young. “Even though she’s only in her second year of wrestling she has seen what it takes to be successful on the mat. She was a state qualifier in her first year so we are looking to take the next step this season.”
Cruz noted the competitive fire and leadership that Cruz and Hernandez bring to his squad, and applauded the massive improvement Becerra has shown this season.
In the B bracket, Mick also got a first-place finish from Monica De La Cruz (100), seconds from Brenda Escobedo (140) and Daliah Lagos (145), a third from Ingrid Guillen (155), and a fifth from Luz Avilez (110).
De La Cruz has truly opened her coach’s eyes this season.
“She’s the size of a house cat but has the heart of a lion,” he said. “She’s often giving up 10-12 pounds to other girls wrestling at the 100-pound weight class but she never backs down. I really wish they had a weight class below 100 to see her compete. She’s fun to watch and coach because I know I’m going to get 110 percent effort from her every time she steps on the mat.”
Perry (145), Diduch (125), and Wickson (135) all won Batavia titles, while Gomez and Cassioppi stepped onto the title mat together at 115 for a bout that saw a big crowd surround the mat to watch two of Illinois’ best square off in the circle.
Gomez won an Illinois state title last year at 105 and is currently the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 100 pounds. Cassioppi was the state champ at 100 last year and is ranked nationally at No. 5 at 112 pounds.
The two sophomores had to be feeling the excitement and anticipation that hung in the air as they shook hands at center-mat.
“Seeing how many people were there, I really liked it,” Gomez said. “I feed off the crowd, whoever they’re cheering for. It hypes me up. It helped get me to where I needed to get to. And it (showcased) the sport of girls’ wrestling, that so many people wanted to be there watching us.”
Gomez took a 2-0 lead on a takedown with 48 seconds remaining in the first period but Cassioppi earned her escape point before the period ended. Gomez deferred the escape point to Cassioppi in the second period and the two traded shots that went for naught to the end of the second period with the score tied 2-2.
There were very few quality scoring chances in the third period. Gomez got hold of Cassioppi’s left leg with 40 seconds remaining in overtime, but Cassioppi fought it off. Gomez then rode Cassioppi out in the second overtime and escaped to start the third overtime to grab a 3-2 lead.
The Glenbard North sophomore recorded a takedown with less than 10 seconds remaining to win a 5-2 decision.
“She’s a really good wrestler,” Gomez said of Cassioppi. “She was hard to move and she had a good, sturdy stance. I knew I had to use my conditioning a little bit more and try to get her tired.
“On the last takedown, I’m pretty sure I faked and she tried a shot. I had really heavy hips and got around. I could kind of tell she was a little tired going into that overtime and I knew my conditioning was fine. And seeing people get tired builds me up because I know I can go longer.”
Wickson is ranked No. 11 nationally at 135 and placed second in Illinois at 135 last season. She won her Batavia Saturday by injury default in the finals against Niles West’s Al Ghala Al Radi, who placed third in Illinois last year at 135.
Freeport’s Diduch went 22-3 last year and won a state title at 120 last year and is currently ranked No. 5 nationally at 125. Diduch won by fall on the title mat against Huntley’s Aubrie Rohrbacher.
Host Batavia’s Perry went 21-0 last year in winning her state title at 145, and is currently ranked No. 2 nationally at that weight. Perry improved to 24-0 at 145 this year with her fall on the title mat against teammate Sarah Anderson.
Bayer applauded first-year wrestler Anderson for the day’s and season’s work she has put in.
“Sarah went 3-1 yesterday…and I’m proud of this kid for fighting so many first-year wrestler insecurities and earning a runner-up finish,” Bayer said.
He also continues to feel lucky to have Perry in the program.
“She was a great leader for all the girls (Saturday), running our warm-up, having them watch key matches with other nationally-ranked girls, and giving great advice after they came off the mat,” Bayer said.
“I’m not minimizing her championship but I mean, if you’re winning national titles in Fargo and competing for medals in Buenos Aires and Rome, you’re the odds-on favorite to get it done in the Batavia high school fieldhouse.”
Bayer also got runners-up finishes from Lily Enos (100), Amelia Howell (130), and Lily Newkirk (170) in the A bracket, and Norah Stoodley (135) and Emma Abbate (155) in the B bracket.
Richwoods led all teams with three individual champions in Kyley Bair (110), Isabella Motteler (120), and Kalia Williams (140). Glenbard North had two currently unbeaten champions in Gomez (19-0) and Nadia Shymkiv (16-0 at 105).
Wilmington’s Priscilla Prescott had the most pins in the least time with three falls recorded in 2:36, Batavia’s Sydney Perry posted the fastest tech fall in 2:27, and Richwoods’ Ananeshia Duffin had the quickest pin in any match at 10 seconds. Lyons Avi Gonzalez scored the most team points of any wrestler present with 27.
No B brackets were wrestled at 130 or 235 and in the lone C bracket at Batavia, Lyons’ Sofia Turek won the final at 125 by fall over teammate Journie Wickert-Harris.
Batavia A bracket championship match results:
100: Janiah Slaughter (Huntley) F 5:23 Lily Enos (Batavia)
105: Nadiia Shymkiv (Glenbard North) D 8-4 Alex Gregorio-Perez (DeKalb)
110: Kyley Bair (Richwoods) D 6-4 Ayane Jasinski (Grant)
115: Gabriella Gomez (Glenbard North) TB-1 5-2 Angelina Cassioppi (Hononegah)
120: Isabella Motteler (Richwoods) F 3:13 Grace Laird (Joliet Catholic)
125: Cadence Diduch (Freeport) F 3:19 Aubrie Rohrbacher (Huntley)
130: Lana Shuaibi (Andrew) D 10-4 Amelia Howell (Batavia)
135: Netavia Wickson (Boylan) INJ Al Ghala Al Radi (Niles West)
140: Kalia Williams (Richwoods) MD 12-2 Suzy Knutte (Lemont)
145: Sydney Perry (Batavia) F 1:10 Sarah Anderson (Batavia)
155: Autumne Williams (Peoria Notre Dame) F :34 Itzel Gerardo (Dundee-Crown)
170: Ionicca Rivera (West Aurora) F 3:10 Lily Newkirk (Batavia)
190: Keira Enright (Plainfield South) F :18 Janae Vargas (Andrew)
235: Juliana Thrush (Ottawa) F :44 Jozie Rosenwinkel (Westmont)
Batavia B bracket championship results:
100: Monica De La Cruz (East Aurora) F 0:34 Kayleigh Shannon (Yorkville)
105: Annika Hull (Naperville Central) F 5:21 Aliyaah Campos (Plainfield South)
110: Avi Gonzalez (Lyons) D 8-4 Frieda Hernandez (DeKalb)
115: Reese Zimmer (DeKalb) F 1:32 Zoe Pomeranets (Niles West)
120: Valeria Malinowski (Lake Park) F 0:57 Evy Grady (Ottawa)
125: Ellen Purl (Naperville Central) F 3:31 BriAnna Johnson (Richwoods)
135: Priscilla Prescott (Wilmington) F 0:30 Norah Stoodley (Batavia)
140: Rebekah Castillo (Addison Trail) F 0:55 Brenda Escobdeo (East Aurora)
145: Ananeshia Duffin (Richwoods) F 0:10 Daliah Lagos (East Aurora)
155: NaJeyah Wallace (Freeport) F 0:50 Emma Abbate (Batavia)
170: Janiah Murray (Yorkville) F 0:30 Molly Kraft (DeKalb)
190: Shelby Rank (Ottawa) F 2:27 Alex Godinez (Washington)