High School girls wrestling continues to show a bright future

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On February 11th, 2022, the IHSA launched its first-ever girls’ wrestling sectional, setting the stage for the first state tournament for female grapplers to earn medals of their own. Following two seasons of successful tournaments, the amount of not only female wrestlers but schools with enough participants to field full teams has grown exponentially. To add more excitement, this will be the first season where the sport will have a regional round in addition to sectionals and state, thanks to the expansion. The Naperville area has experienced a similar increase as local teams have seen their numbers grow and grow in recent years. This Feature Story is sponsored by Edward-Elmhurst Health.

New and familiar faces to girls wrestling

Some girls have been wrestling for a long time, while others are new to the sport but were excited for the opportunity to compete once the IHSA made things official.

“Last year, I was the only girl on the team, so when I started becoming a part of this community and meeting girls from different schools, I wanted this opportunity for Neuqua and just to open the door of opportunity. We have five girls now, and I’m thrilled with how that’s going so far. This season has been strong so far, and we’ve been working really hard,” said Neuqua Valley wrestler Sofia Gold. 

“I have never wrestled before, my friend told me that I should come to practice. Usually I’d be doing theatre, but I was still in that sports mode and wasn’t feeling theatre, so he was like you should come to wrestling practice, and I said ok, and then I was on the wrestling team,” said Waubsonie Valley girls wrestler Sofia Parranto. 

Schools like Naperville Central, which was one of the few local schools to have wrestlers competing at the inaugural sectional in 2022,  have started up varsity girls teams. Naperville North, Metea Valley, Waubonsie Valley and Neuqua Valley all have at least some female wrestlers, if not a full roster. The schools are bringing in athletes who want to get the most of the experience while building a foundation for these new programs to thrive for years to come.

“We all start somewhere. Girls wrestling hasn’t been around in a long time but we’re growing in a big way. I also like the competitiveness from the different girls that I wrestle,” said Naperville Central wrestler Bianca Arredondo. 

“Wrestling is a great opportunity to be involved if you’re not involved during the winter. Wrestling is a great opportunity we take everyone without experience and all the girls this year are brand new. They have done amazing and have won some matches,” said Gold. 

From the tennis courts to the wrestling mats

New competitors like Waubonsie Valley junior Sofia Parranto, who qualified for state in doubles tennis this fall, are giving wrestling a go for the first time. Despite the Warrior being a novice to the sport, she has already built a close bond in the wrestling room. 

“We know each other. We’re with each other. For example, tennis varsity practices with varsity and never interact with JV, whereas for wrestling, we practice with JV, freshman. I’ve been wrestling with fellow girls and guys, an experience that I wasn’t expecting,” said Parranto. 

The male wrestlers are excited about the growth of the sport as well and believe everyone deserves a chance to dream, believe, work, and succeed on the mats. 

“It started off small for us with two girls but now we have a team with about eight wrestlers, and everybody is working hard, improving, and the more we work, the more we can get out the better. I’m glad wrestling is growing as a sport and building back up,” said Naperville Central wrestler Hagan Taylor. 

“It’s a great thing. I love seeing all the girls come out. Our girls are doing great in the practice every day and taking care of business as a team. I love it,” said Naperville Central Will Erbeck. 

Lessons learned for newcomers

Those trying out the sport for the very first time knew it was going to be full of life lessons and growing pains, but those who now have a season under their belts feel more confident and are ready to start piling up the wins. 

“I’ve gained a lot of discipline and confidence. I showed myself that I’m capable of a lot more than I was before. I never could’ve imagined that if you told me freshman year that I would be able to start this girls team and be a part of it being the only female on the team. It’s been an incredible opportunity,” said Gold. 

Bright future for High School Girls Wrestling

As the numbers keep growing, and with the addition of more teams, duals, and tournaments, the sport of wrestling itself is set up for a bright future in the Naperville area and the state of Illinois.

“I’m excited just to get more girls involved in the sport and for us to have full teams and duals. A lot of people didn’t believe in what I was doing, especially being the first one but a lot of that has changed this year with the team growing and it’s gotten a lot better. But I’m very excited for the future of girls wrestling. It has a lot of potential,” said Gold. For more prep sports stories, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page!