Girls wrestlng: Joliet-area competitors hoping for strong showing at IHSA state tournament

Lockport’s Claudia Heeney, top, and Yorkville’s Yamilet Aguirre compete in the 121-127 pound finals match during the Conant girls wrestling invite in Hoffman Estates Saturday.

When girls wrestling was added by the IHSA, it stood to reason that the Joliet area would be among the leaders in the state.

This year, in the second season of the IHSA Girls Individual State Finals being held at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, that has proven to be the case. A total of 25 girls from area schools will take part in this weekend’s finals. Among the top wrestlers record-wise from that group are Lockport’s Claudia Heeney (125 pounds, 39-0), Alicia Tucker of Plainfield Central (155, 30-2), Gracie Guarino of Lincoln-Way Central (110, 10-0) and Zoe Dempsey of Lincoln-Way West (105, 9-0).

“Claudia has had an insane season,” Lockport coach Nathaniel Roth said. “She currently has a 39-0 record and has been a great asset to the team and a very influential leader in our room. She has been wrestling for six years now and started out wrestling at Homer Jr. High with the boys.

“She also does a ton of training in the offseason and has several freestyle accolades under her belt as well. She is going to do great things this weekend and she is only a freshman, so she has a long time to continue improving and honing her skills.”

Heeney isn’t the only one with high hopes.

“Zoe won the sectional by pinning her way through the tournament,” Lincoln-Way West coach Brian Glynn said. “She is undefeated against girls this year. Zoe came in this year as a first-year wrestler, but has been training judo for years under some high level judo coaches.

“She is an extremely hard worker, and it’s no surprise that the transition to wrestling came natural to her.”

Joliet Central will have five girls competing at the state finals in Chloe Wong (100, 29-5), Eliana Paramo (115, 34-4), Nydia Martinez (170, 28-4), Alexa Latham (190, 18-11) and Fernanda Miranda (235, 5-1).

“Eliana Paramo has been wrestling tough all year,” Joliet Central coach Liz Short said. “Chloe Wong won the Bengal Bash and was the Southwest Prairie Conference champ. Nydia Martinez has battled back from having ACL surgery without missing a beat, and Alexa Latham is a first-year wrestler with MMA experience. She has been working hard and has made an amazing transition to IHSA wrestling.

“Fernanda Miranda was limited in matches this season, but we are excited to see her continue her success on the mat.

Minooka will send Bella Cyrkiel (140, 28-7), Sidney Ray (170, 23-14), Jaiden Moody (190, 19-12), and Peyton Kueltzo (235, 25-11) to the state tournament.

“Bella Cyrkiel is a great story,” Minooka coach Paige Schoolman said. “She is a first-year wrestler who has taken to the sport quickly, as her 28 wins indicate. We are excited to see how she performs against the best in the state. She is a perfect example of how quickly a competitive, coachable, athletic girl can achieve success in this sport. Sidney Ray is one of three qualifiers that are in their second year in the program. Sidney has beat some real good girls during the year. When she sticks to her game plan and wrestles to her strengths, she can be a tough out for anyone.

“Jaiden Moody has stepped up for the team to jump up a weight class and wrestle 190. She has shown that she can compete with anyone in the state. Throughout the year, she has had multiple wins over all-state wrestlers from last year. We look forward to her competing with the best in the state this weekend. As an undersized heavyweight, Peyton Kueltzo does a great job at recognizing her strengths and wrestling toward them. Peyton will be a force to reckon with this weekend.“

Lincoln-Way Central has three wrestlers competing at the state tournament in Emily Peyton (100, 12-2), Guarino (110, 10-0) and Ashley Villa (125, 9-4). All are returning state qualifiers.

“All of the girls are capable of placing at the state tournament,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Tyrone Byrd said. “Gracie Guarino leads the pack as a returning state finalist and a three-year varsity starter. She spends the bulk of the year competing against varsity boys. She has made it a goal for the last two years to be a state champion and has a chance at standing at the top of the podium. All three girls compete the majority of the season against boys on varsity and JV. They are prepared and are expected to get on the podium this weekend. They have all worked hard all year. They deserve to be on the podium as high as possible, and now it’s just a matter of taking what we deserve once we get to Bloomington on Friday and Saturday.”

Plainfield South will send Teagan Aurich (155, 7-4) and Keira Enright (190, 7-3) to the state finals.

“I believe both of our girls have a chance of doing well,” South coach Dan Swan said. “Keira and Teagan are very tough second-year wrestlers that have out performed most girls with the same amount of experience.

“Our program is focusing on growing, and we are looking to become a successful program in the next few years. Athletes like Teagan and Keira make that possible with their commitment. These two athletes may not have had as many matches as the rest of the bracket, but they have worked out with the boys team all year.”

One thing that has been a consistent theme among girls wrestling programs is that it is growing in popularity as more and more girls choose to participate each year.

“We are excited with the direction our program is heading,” Schoolman said. “Last year, we had 16 girls in an ‘unofficial’ team capacity. This year we had 42 girls compete, with 30 of those girls being brand new to the sport. The team grew a ton throughout the year. By the end of the year, this team was competing with and beating some of the best girls teams in the state.

“We are also excited about the young talent we have in the program and the buzz about the program in our hallways. Next year, we look forward to getting even more athletes on the team and competing to be the best girls wrestling team in the state.”

First round matchups

100 - Emily Peyton, Lincoln-Way Central (12-2) vs. Janiah Slaughter, Huntley (23-4), Chloe Wong, Joliet Central (29-5) vs. Lily Enos, Batavia (40-11); 105 - Zoe Dempsey, Lincoln-Way West (9-0) vs. Diana Lopez, Phoenix (29-5), Judith Gamboa, Reed-Custer (23-15) vs. Snow Khi, Grant (18-5); 110 - Gracie Guarino, Lincoln-Way Central (10-0) vs. Ella Miloncus, Springfield Lanphier (20-19), Courtni Chuway, Plainfield Central (14-7) vs. Sydney Cannon, Mt. Zion (41-2), Ella McDonnell, Morris (30-11) vs. Gigi Linhordt, Edwardsville (17-9); 115 - Lin Ramirez, Lockport (32-8) vs. Ireland McCain, Round Lake (20-7); Ella Paramo, Joliet Central (34-4) vs. Allison Kroesch, Normal U-High (11-5); 125 - Ashley Villa, Lincoln-Way Central (9-4) vs. Alaynia Bryant, Charleston (11-9), Claudia Heeney, Lockport (39-0) vs. Justyce Sikes, Warren (13-4); 130 - Kate Ramirez-Quinter, Bolingbrook (16-1) vs. Maggie Zucker, Mother McAuley (3-1), Sammie Griesen, Seneca (22-13) vs. Taylor Dawson, Collinsville (30-4); 140 - Suzie Knutte, Lemont (26-3) vs. Alivia Ming, Goreville (33-12), Bella Cyrkiel, Minooka (28-7) vs. Sabrina Sifuentez, Oak Forest (27-7); 155 - Kiernan Farmer, Peotone (14-9) vs. Lexi Ritchie, Tolono Unity (18-4) Alicia Tucker, Plainfield Central (30-2) vs. Gabbie Collins, Paris (4-2), Teagan Aurich, Plainfield South (7-4) vs. Elanna Hickman, Alton (14-11); 170 - Nydia Martinez, Joliet Central (28-4) vs. Yaxana Ressildi, Grant (12-8), Sidney Ray, Minooka (23-14) vs. Ileen Castrejon, Zion-Benton (13-7); 190 - Jaiden Moody, Minooka (19-12) vs. Isabel Peralta, Oak Forest (22-11), Keira Enright, Plainfield South (7-3) vs. Josie Larson, Lakes (12-2), Alexa Latham, Joliet Central (18-11) vs. Ini Odomoso, Homewood-Flossmoor (32-4); 235 - Peyton Kueltzo, Minooka (25-11) vs. Taylor Phillips, Edwardsville (10-4); Fernanda Miranda, Joliet Central (5-1) vs. Phoenix Molina, Tolono Unity (16-3).