Sandwich’s Ashlyn Strenz earns second consecutive state wrestling medal

Seneca’s Sammie Greisen, Ottawa’s Juliana Thrush and Newman’s Blair Grennan also medaled

BLOOMINGTON – Sandwich senior Ashlyn Strenz had only two things on her mind after winning the fifth-place match at 110 pounds at Saturday’s IHSA Girls Wrestling State Finals at Grossinger Motors Arena.

“Now, it’s time for a Mountain Dew and a Shamrock shake,” Strenz said.

Strenz (18-6), who finished fourth as a junior, defeated Bartlett junior Emma Engels 4-1 to earn her second consecutive state medal. She started the day with a 21-6 technical fall loss to eventual state champion sophomore Morgan Turner of Lockport, then dropped a tough 1-0 overtime consolation semifinal decision to Litchfield freshman Rilynn Younker.

“I came into (Saturday) mentally ready to go. I had a clear mind and wasn’t worried about anything other than wrestling the best I could,” Strenz said. “My (championship) semifinal match didn’t work out as I would have liked, and my next match was one where I battled all the way to the end.

“In my last match, I just wanted to wrestle the best I could one last time as a high schooler and I was able to do that and finish my career with a win. The last two years, getting to state, and earning a medal, have been more than I could have dreamed of.”

Seneca's Sammie Greisen

At less than 100% physically, Seneca sophomore Sammie Greisen (31-11) lost via pinfall in 5:40 to Camp Point Central sophomore Amber Louderback in the 130-pound fifth-place match but earned the first-ever medal for the Fighting Irish.

Greisen began the day with a championship semifinal pinfall loss in 2:57 to eventual state champion sophomore Claudia Heeney of Lockport, then suffered a 10-0 defeat in the consolation semis to Huntley sophomore Aubrie Rohrbacher.

“After the (championship) semifinal match, I just tried to relax and go over in my head the things I did wrong. The main thing was just being mentally tough,” Greisen said. “I injured my shoulder and ribs in regionals, and while those things bothered me since then, I just told myself I needed to be tough and get through it.

“Last year, I came up just short of getting a medal, so to be able to get here again as only a sophomore, I’m not only excited for today but also for what I hope to accomplish in the next two years. I have a lot to build on and more goals to reach for.”

Juliana Thrush

Ottawa’s Juliana Thrush (30-6) opened the day with a blood-round pinfall victory in 2:46 over Minooka senior Peyton Kuetlzo at 235 to clinch a state medal, after coming up just short as a freshman.

The Pirates sophomore then fell 6-2 to Chicago Curie senior Aaliyah Grandberry in the consolation semifinals. In the fifth-place match, Thrush lost via pinfall in 3:34 to Hoffman Estates junior Anjali Gonzalez.

“I reached my goal, my main goal of earning a medal,” Thrish said. “I know I didn’t wrestle my best the last two days. I could have been more powerful and I think I just used too much energy in the first period of every match. I just burned myself out too quickly.

“The one thing I will take away from state this year is that I need to have more confidence in myself. There were too many times where I was doubting myself in the middle of matches and you can’t be successful doing that. That will be the main thing I’ll be working on in the offseason, being mentally tough, truly and totally believing in myself and my abilities.”

Sterling Newman's Blair Grennan

Sterling Newman freshman Blair Grennan (17-3), who finished fourth at 100 pounds, said she had a game plan coming into her blood-round match and pinfall (3:06) win against Chatham Glenwood freshman Kadi Wilbern.

“My first match today was so big,” Grennan said. “I watched a couple of videos of (Wilbern) and I knew that at the start or restarts, she liked to step forward and club her opponent’s head. I was looking for that opening when her arm came up, it did, and I was able to get the leg.”

Grennan then earned another pinfall win, this time in 2:20, in the consolation semifinals over Montini junior Kat Bell, but then fell via pinfall in 3:24 to Batavia sophomore Lily Enos in the third-place match.

“This was a crazy experience,” Grennan said. “I did not get the result place-wise I wanted, but I was able to earn a medal, and a medal is a medal. I have a lot to take from the last couple of days that I will use for drive in the offseason and next season.”