Girls wrestling: Alycia Perez makes history as Glenbard West’s first IHSA state champion, caps perfect season

Hilltoppers’ senior wins 1-0 decision in final to lead area medalists

Glenbard West’s Alycia Perez bumps her face against West Aurora’s Kameyah Young in the 100-pound bout at the girls wrestling state finals at Grossinger Motor Arena in Bloomington on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024.

BLOOMINGTON – The greatest sports moment ever for Alycia Perez lasted just a fraction of real time.

Her remarkable achievement was several years in the making for the Glenbard West senior.

“The last two years I lost in the blood round of the sectional and never even got down here to state,” she said. “I just used that for motivation to come here and get what I deserved and get what I worked so hard for.”

Perez defeated West Aurora’s Kameyah Young 1-0 in the 100-pound championship match of the individual state tournament Feb. 24 at Grossinger Motors Arena.

Her escape at the start of the third period proved to be the difference.

Perez (35-0) provided a watershed moment in the burgeoning girls program at Glenbard West, which began two seasons ago with only 10 participants.

In the two-year history of girls wrestling as an IHSA sanctioned sport, Glenbard West had produced one sixth-place finisher last season.

“My first impression of her is that she was a very hard worker, but just like with all the other girls, we weren’t very sure of what we were getting,” Glenbard West coach Alberto Guevara said. “She stuck around and she got better every year. She actually earned our most improved wrestler from her sophomore to junior year. This season, she just made another leap.”

Dealing with the disappointment of failing to qualify in the past was sobering. Perez never wavered or lost her confidence.

“I never at any point ever doubted that I wasn’t supposed to do this,” she said. “I always knew that I was supposed to be here.”

Perez’s third-period fall over Montini junior Kat Bell in the semifinal round punched her ticket to the championship match.

Mobile, quick and explosive, Perez combined a dynamic style with an intensely competitive nature.

As the second oldest of five siblings from a wrestling passionate family, Perez saw the sport not just as a way to test herself.

The sport became a form of recognition and self-worth.

“Wrestling really brought out a different part of my personality,” Perez said. “I’m pretty quiet and I don’t tend to talk a lot. Now this is the outlet that really lets me express myself.”

A three-time state qualifier, Bell (25-9) lost the fifth-place match by medical forfeit and finished sixth at 100 pounds.

Like Perez, Bell’s past experience colored and shaped the present.

“My first two years down here I lost in the blood round and finally being able to place, even if I was a little disappointed, felt really good,” Bell said.

As pioneers in a male-dominated sport, Perez and Bell see the direct repercussions of opportunity and chance.

“I definitely feel like a leader in this and now it’s just crazy popular and my younger sister is going to be here next year wrestling with me,” Perez said.

Glenbard East sophomore Nadiia Shymkiv responded to her first loss of the season during the semifinal round by finishing third at 105 pounds.

Shymkiv (22-1) caught Anna-Jonesboro’s Zoee Sadler in a throw for a second-period fall in the third-place match.

Downers Grove North’s Kayleigh Loo placed fourth at 170 pounds.

The day belonged to Perez, who was contemplating her future as she reflected on her privileged moment.

“I’m definitely going to wrestle in college,” she said.

“I just like wrestling, being out there and getting to work the stuff that I do in practice. It’s just the really intense nature of it that I love and respond to.”

Young made Perez work for her state championship, creating several dangerous moments in the final minute.

Perez withstood the pressure.

“Knowing there wasn’t a lot of time left, I just had to push and give it everything I had because I had nothing to lose,” Perez said.