Girls wrestling: Lakes' Heft finishes 2nd at first state tournament

 
By Mike Garofola
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/28/2022 12:09 PM

BLOOMINGTON -- Olivia Heft's sensational wrestling season came to an end here Saturday afternoon at Grossinger Motors Arena when the Lakes super sophomore fell short in her 115-pound final against her nationally ranked opponent during a 10-3 defeat.

The first IHSA girls state tournament was a rousing success all across the board as an appreciative crowd watched 11 wrestlers from the Northwest suburbs and Lake County earn medals -- including Heft (14-1), who turned in a stellar six-minute effort against Maya Davis (9-0) of Glenwood, who came into the weekend ranked No. 7 in the nation.

 

"She was big, and strong, and had so much experience, but I am really proud of how I wrestled her, and for the two days I would compete," said Heft, who came into the sport in middle school and quickly rose to the top of her weight class.

"I fought hard with Maya. I didn't allow her to throw me, so it was a great finish to my season, and I am so thrilled to be a part of the first girls state tournament in history," added Heft.

Heft was one of six girls from Lake County who came back with an inaugural state medal, including Warren senior Adriana Demos (19-4), who was third at 145 and will wrestle next fall at Albion College in Michigan and study broadcast journalism.

"I was fourth as a freshman, tore my labrum the next season, then missed most of last year so to be in the first IHSA sanctioned tournament and finish third overall is really amazing," said Demos, who is the current Miss Teen Illinois, and went through rehab on her shoulder with former Libertyville star Trey Ayala, who earned 142 career boys wrestling victories under Wildcats coach Dale Eggert.

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The Grant duo of Ayane Jasinski (100, 11-3) and Crystal Villegas (130, 18-2) both were fourth overall, while the trio of Keira Dafnis (Wauconda, 27-9, 135), Sajra Sulejmani (Stevenson, 5-4, 145) and freshman Ireland McCain (Round Lake, 18-8, 120) all claimed fifth-place medals.

"Last year I didn't place, so to come back this year to medal is really great, so I am going to work as hard as I can so I can get back here and do even better," said Jasinski, who is in just her second year in the sport.

Dafnis, who will wrestle next fall at Augustana, came all the way through wrestlebacks after her tourney-opening loss, was thrilled to be a part of this historic weekend.

"I am so happy the IHSA decided to give girls wrestling its own state tournament, and after basically beating myself in my first match, I was proud I didn't give up, and came back to go home with a medal," said Dafnis, who finished with 14 pins this season.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

McCain's brother, Aidan, was fifth at the boys' state tournament last weekend at 182 pounds.

Maine East senior Hannah Suboni-Kaufman (26-3), one of the favorites at 120 in advance of the tournament, finished third overall to complete an extraordinary career for the Blue Demons.

"That was a tough loss in my semifinal (to eventual state champion Cadence Diduch of Freeport) but I put that behind me, and went after the next best thing. I am very proud of being a part of the first state tournament and my third-place medal," said Suboni-Kaufman, who is sifting through collegiate offers before making a decision.

Her teammate, Amy Villegas (19-2), was sixth overall at 110.

Schaumburg sophomore Valeria Rodriguez (32-2) was third at 155, while the Saxons' Bethany Regione (125, 28-4) earned fifth-place honors.

"I wasn't surprised Val and Bethany came back after earlier losses. We told them to put that behind them and go out and wrestle like we know they can and they did," said a proud Saxons coach Matt Gruszka.

"This is a tough two days of competition, both physically and mentally, with plenty of bumps along the way where you wrestle 45 minutes after your last match in order to stay alive, but our freshmen all won a match and I really thought we did well at a great first girls state tournament."

Buffalo Grove junior Bethany Conroy (25-6) brushed aside an injury to earn a well-deserved fifth-place medal at 155.

"I suffered an injury to my rib cage in my quarterfinal, but I was not going to let it affect me. I've worked too hard to get to this tournament and although it bothered me the rest of the day, I did my best to get a state medal in a very deep and talented weight class," said Conroy, who after her loss in the semifinals to eventual state champion Lexi Ritchie of Tolono Unity, finished in style with a pin in her fifth-place bout.

Samantha Anderson (Conant, 14-6) claimed a sixth place medal at 135, while Evelyn Simon (110, 15-8) and Sophia Ball (115, 17-8) from Hoffman Estates were both one victory short of earning state medals.

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