Girls wrestling: Confident Rodriguez claims title at Hawk invite

With a huge field of 27 teams competing, the second annual Girls Hawk Invitational at Hoffman Estates was going to be a huge test Saturday for girls wrestlers from all across the Daily Herald area.

In the end, it was state powerhouse Homewood-Flossmoor that took home the team title with 172 points as the Vikings were able to power past runner-up squad Schaumburg with 147 points.

Oak Forest held off the host Hawks 139-135 for third place while Lockport placed fifth with 106 points. Glenbard West barely managed to edge Conant 101.5 to 99 for sixth in the massive tourney.

After placing third in the state at 155 last year as a sophomore, No. 2-ranked Schaumburg junior Valeria Rodriguez (23-1) rolled to the 140-pound championship Saturday with a 55-second pin over Grayslake North's Quinna Sheets in the finals.

"It's everybody's dream to take first place and win a (state) championship," said Rodriguez. "It's always about confidence, high self-esteem in what I know and what I'm taught, and I trust my coach (Matt Gruska) more than I trust myself."

"The girls ran into some tough opponents, and she (Rodriguez) always wants to wrestle," said Gruszka. "She came out as a freshman, she fell in love with it, and she never looked back."

Glenbard West junior Alycia Perez (23-2) was impressive in pinning her 100-pound opponent in 3:47 for the title while Maine South senior Angela Lee improved to 19-1 with a pin over Schaumburg's Madyson Meyer in the 115-pound finals.

"I'm very proud of myself since I didn't get a chance to compete last year and I get a chance to redeem myself," said Lee. "I practice with the varsity (boys) and there is less than a month until sectionals so I can't take a day off."

Hoffman Estates got a crown from Sophia Ball (29-3) with a pin at 120 before teammate Abby Ji (22-4) also took home first place with a pin at 130.

"I thought we wrestled well. Obviously there is some tough competition here and to be in the top four in this tournament is a big deal," said Hoffman Estates coach Leo Clark. "We're just excited, we have the potential to get five to six girls downstate, and most of our girls are sophomores."

Other second-place finishers were Glenbard West's Khatija Ahmed (125), Conant freshman Ewa Krupa (130), Burlington Central's Jada Hall (155), and Downers Grove South's Gracie Swierczynski (170).

Defending state champion Attalia Watson-Castro (26-1 at 135) of Homewood-Flossmoor was named outstanding wrestler of the tournament.

"She (Perez) has been wrestling really solid so her hard work has really started to pay off," said Glenbard West assistant coach Ted Glazier. "She's just started to come into her own right now so we're really hopeful she can make it downstate and get on the podium."

Conant coach Brad Bessemer is also optimistic about the future for his young squad.

"We're young, we're green, and we have a small group of senior leaders," Bessemer said. "She (Krupa) has been solid all year, she won one tournament earlier this year, and she is a super-consistent kid."

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