BLOOMINGTON – Batavia junior Sydney Perry was fresh off achieving a silver medal with Team USA in Sweden the previous weekend when she received the text message as she arrived at the airport stateside.
She was disqualified for the upcoming IHSA state tournament.
The defending 145-pound state champion, who carried a 30-0 record into the week, learned she initially was disqualified from the state girls tournament because of a bylaw infraction regarding a competition waiver violation.
Her Batavia coaches broke the news officially in the Bulldogs wrestling room.
Perry did not let the stunning development faze her.
“God has a plan for me. If I’m not supposed to wrestle at state, then I’m not supposed to wrestle at state. It’s not fate, I guess,” Perry said, recalling the tumultuous lead-up to last weekend.
Perry won the appeal process with the IHSA on Feb. 23 and won three matches to reach the finals Saturday. The No. 2-ranked Team USA 145-pounder then had one more test.
El Paso-Gridley junior Valerie Hamilton, the Team USA No. 1-ranked 138-pounder, opted to wrestle up a weight class to pit the country’s best at center stage Saturday at the Grossinger Motors Arena.
Perry prevailed 7-4 and finished 34-0 to defend her title from last season, the inaugural IHSA-sanctioned girls state tournament.
Entering the third period, Hamilton led 4-2, the first time, Perry said, she had ever been trailing in a high school match. Perry was able to maneuver her way into a takedown with 43 seconds left to tie it.
Perry then managed to snag three back points while maintaining control over the final 20 seconds.
“I actually feel pretty comfortable in that position,” Perry said. “I just trust myself. ... I kind of let her control the first period and I’m great on my feet, so just sticking to my stuff and moving my feet, faking attacking, that’s what got me there.”
Hamilton, who was 6-0 entering Saturday’s finals, also endured a cloudy status ahead of state. She also was initially disqualified, but the IHSA ruled her eligible to compete.
“It was definitely difficult getting in here,” Hamilton said. “Then, as we were allowed to wrestle, it was like a little breather for us.”
Soon enough, it was No. 1 vs. No. 2 competing in the finals on the center mat.
“I just think of me, actually,” Hamilton said. “Just like a basic wrestler looking for competition. Not really wanting that 13-0 match. I like that competition that me and Sydney had.”
Perry is now 59-0 the past two seasons, a two-time IHSA state champion and an IWCOA state champion from her freshman season. She has never lost to a girl in a high school match.
“[I’d like to] give thanks to the IHSA for making this happen, No. 1,” Batavia assistant coach Edgar Alvarado said. “But I think overall the match was something that needed to happen for the sport. Win or lose, of course, we want to win. Sydney is a tremendous competitor. We got ourselves in a little bind in the beginning, but champions find a way to win.
“She’s an amazing competitor. [State], worlds, that’s the stage she’s meant for. Wrestling is her lifestyle. She really enjoys the sport. This is something she does year round. Overall, we’re happy for the win, but winning in general, [the match] was winning for the sport.”
Batavia freshman Lily Enos finished fifth in the 100-pound bracket to complete her 44-13 season after her pin of Joliet Central’s Chloe Wong.
“I actually didn’t expect to make it past the blood round, to be honest,” Enos said. “I was just really doubting myself until I did win that blood round match. It kind of gave me a lot of confidence from that.”
Batavia senior Sue Sue Paw completed her only varsity wrestling season by achieving eighth in the 235-pound bracket.
“She really bought into the sport. She really bought into [head coach’s Scott Bayer’s] mission and being able to be coachable,” Alvarado said. “All these girls need to be coachable and she dialed in. Amazing. Last year, what was she doing? And now she’s a state qualifier.
“Lily, just like Sydney, is a product of the Batavia wrestling club. We always got to go back to the Batavia Wrestling Club.”