A-J Junior Wildcat Wrestlers Compete in First Girls Folkstyle State Championship

Yorkville—Three girls from the A-J Junior Wildcats Wrestling Club were recently part of a historic event in Illinois wrestling: the first ever Illinois Girls Folkstyle State Championship.

Featuring 100 of the top female grade school, junior high and high school wrestlers from around the state, the day started with a training session and motivational talk with Team USA member Adeline Gray.  By the end of the day, Gray had signed a multitude of autographs for her young fans on notebooks, bracket boards, shoes, duffle bags and pretty much anything a marker would work on.

“No matter how much time you put in with your female wrestlers, when you have someone of Adeline Gray’s stature in the room you are immediately upstaged,” joked club president Rollie Hawk.  “But in a good way.  There’s just instant credibility.”

“When these girls are adults, a lot of them will be coaching their own teams but for now getting coached by a woman with wrestling experience is a special thing.”

The A-J Junior Wildcats were represented by six-year-old Zoee Sadler, eight-year-old Madilyn Hawk and twelve-year-old Catie Mays.  A-J had five girls on their roster this year, a point of pride for the squad.

“You don’t run into many teams with more than one or two girls.  The fact that we had five girls come out and join our club this year says a lot about what we’re doing,” said Hawk.  “One had a non-wrestling injury and another couldn’t make the trip but we were proud to have three girls able to come to Yorkville to represent not only our club but our region.”

One of the difficulties of girls-only tournaments is that as the sport is being built, the age ranges have to be flexible.  As a result, eight-year-old Hawk wrestled girls of ten and eleven and Mays, normally in the novice division, wrestled girls normally in the senior division.

Both girls finished third in their respective brackets.

“As we remind our girls, it’s the pioneers that take the arrows.  What they are doing here today is going to make all the difference for girls in the coming years,” added Hawk.  “Not every girl wants to cheer or play basketball in the winter; girls like Madi, Catie and Zoee are giving those girls another option.”

“I don’t know if they have any idea how big the things they are doing right now really are in the grand scheme of girl’s athletics.”

Six-year-old Sadler finished at the top of her bracket and as a result won a paid entry into the national championship and a Team Illinois singlet.  All three girls would be qualifiers for the girls folkstyle nationals in Oklahoma City and will likely wrestle in the Illinois Girls Freestyle State Championship this summer.

A-J Junior Wildcat Wrestlers Compete in IKWF State Series

Rockford—Two Junior Wildcat grapplers made it past the sectionals to compete in the IKWF state series.  Nicholas Jiminez and Eric Reed, both eighth graders, finished the season by representing their team in Rockford at the IKWF State Finals.

Jiminez wrestled in the Senior 275 bracket.

Jiminez’s only match was against Reid Fleeger of Xtreme Wrestling Club.  The match ended in a 1-0 loss for A-J.

“It was one of those matches that came down to a single escape,” explained club president Rollie Hawk. “You can spend hours going back to whether you should have made a different call.”

A first year wrestler, Jiminez had an impressive season.

“Nick didn’t lose very often this year and he’s one of those kids that’s been blessed with a ‘Division I’ body.  I hope he uses this loss as a motivator in high school.  He could have a long career in football and wrestling if he puts in the time.”

Reed wrestled in the Senior 189 bracket.

Reed’s first match ended quickly in a pin by Nathan Schultz of West Carroll after just 39 seconds.  But as Schultz advanced to the semifinals, Reed got the chance for one more match in the consolation bracket.

In a very tight match, Reed lost to Will Poole of Chicago in a 6-4 decision.

“He left with tears but no regrets,” said Hawk.  “He battled like I’d never seen him battle before.  If he wrestles that aggressively in high school, he’s going to have a lot of success.”

“It was nice to end the day on a positive,” said assistant coach Jay Kisat.  “Eric gave it everything he had.”

Eight-year-old Blake Mays would compete in a separate state tournament—the Illinois Midget Championship—exclusively for wrestlers aged eight to ten.  This tournament featured over 650 wrestlers from all corners of the state.

This was the first year Mays was age-eligible for this tournament and he finished the day 2-2.

“He’s had an amazing season, “ said Hawk. “With over fifty wins this season, he won more matches than most kids even compete in.”

“He’s one of our ‘year round’ wrestlers.  So those nine- and ten-year-old kids had better watch out for him next year.”