Girls wrestling: Batavia, Palatine, Glenbard North win multiple sectional titles

Batavia senior SueSue Paw is an accomplished athlete in track.

She's aiming to land her first trip to the state track meet in Charleston this spring. She's competed in track for seven years.

"I've been on the varsity for track all four years," Paw said. "Shot put and discus are my two events, but I haven't made state yet."

Paw can check off one of her primary goals after finally landing a coveted trip to the state tournament - in wrestling.

For now, Paw will have to wait a few more months for her track goal, but she was one of the standout performers at the Schaumburg girls wrestling sectional on Saturday.

Paw pinned Andrew's Emma Akpan to win the sectional title in the 235-pound weight class. Paw's meteoric rise in wrestling was among the many storylines at the highly-competitive two-day sectional. Paw (26-14) celebrated her sectional championship by hugging one of her coaches immediately after her victory.

"My coach was following me around school, so I decided to join wrestling this year for the first time," Paw said. "Heart and determination were the keys for me. This is my first year wrestling. I have amazing coaches. I'm so happy."

Batavia junior Sydney Perry is at the opposite spectrum of her novice teammate. A state champion last season in the IHSA's inaugural individual girls state meet last season, Perry (30-0) kept her record varsity unblemished with a dominating performance at sectionals, culminated by a 14-4 major-decision victory over Barrington's Kaia Fernandez in the 145-pound final.

"I feel like I did very good this weekend, but I wished I would've pushed the pace more and had cleaner takedowns but did overall pretty good," Perry said.

Palatine also had a pair of sectional champions, with Jasmine Hernandez (32-1) cruising to the 155 crown to stay on track for another medal. Teammate Sabrina Cargill notched the 170 title.

"I felt great today and just tried to win," Hernandez said. "I just tried to finish every (match) strong. It feels great to redeem myself after not winning state last year and winning state my sophomore year."

Glenbard North was also member of the multiple title club, as first-year student Nadiia Shymkiv continued her strong season by capturing the 105 title. Sophomore Gabriella Gomez claimed the championship at 115. Gomez, who hails from a family of talented wrestlers, is starting to carve out her own name within her family in the sport.

"It feels great to win at 115 after growing some," Gomez said. "I knew I could dominate at any weight class I went to, so I feel this is the right choice I made. I try not to overthink think. I take what I do in the practice room and try and dominate out here. My coaches and teammates helped me put that puzzle together, so I can get closer to that state title."

Bartlett sophomore Emma Engels (14-1) started the championship finals with a title at 100 pounds.

"I just tried to stay focused," Engels said. "Last year I got second at sectionals and finished top eight at state, so my goal is to get a medal. I feel so much better this year. I got a lot stronger in the offseason."

At 110 pounds, Addison Trail's Nina Matthews also comes from a family full of accomplished athletes. Matthews, a catcher and third basemen in softball, is moving up the ranks after landing a spot at state in just her second season wrestling.

"I'm trying to do what my brother did in wrestling," Matthews said. "I'm surprised definitely making state. I just kept my head in the game and avoided mistakes.

Hoffman Estates notched a champion, with Sophia Ball (39-4) relying on several strong showings to easily record the 120 title. Glenbard West senior Khatija Ahmed relished her 130-pound championship in her final sectional appearance.

"I relied on my instincts because I haven't wrestled a long time," Ahmed said. "I've done a lot of other sports but started training specifically for wrestling. The girls on the team all helped me, and we all did amazing."

Conant senior Mannie Anderson (32-4) was one of the stars at the sectional, capping a memorable weekend with the 135 title to add another milestone in her prolific career.

"It felt good to finally set the tone for a state championship, and I'm really excited for that journey and hopefully I will be getting that title," Anderson said, the first female to land a spot in the state tournament last season in program history.

Schaumburg junior Valeria Rodriguez had a huge home crowd following her during the weekend. She didn't disappoint by leaving the gym with a 140 title.

"I was confident and had faith in myself, especially after getting third place at state last year at 155 pounds," Rodriguez said. "I feel a lot more springy and confident."

At 190 pounds, West Chicago junior Jayden Huesca-Rodriguez, a state championship last season, maintained course for a second title by overwhelming the field in her class.

"I'm excited to be going to state again, and want to get another (title)," Huesca-Rodriguez said. "I hope winning gets more girls at my school to try out wrestling. I just trusted myself today."

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