NEW HAVEN, February 29, 2020 – Four girls have won medals in the CIAC championships meets highlighted by Montville’s Jessica Bennett finishing second at 103 pounds in Class M in 2009. Bennett is one of two girls in state history to have qualified to wrestle at the State Open.
But that was competing against the boys.
On Saturday, girls finally got a chance to compete against their peers. Seventy-five girls competed in the first CIAC Girls Invitational that was held along side the State Open championship tournament. Ten girls were crowned as Girls Invitational champions but if you asked them or their schools, they would say they are state champions.
“It was great,” Southington’s Ashley Reed, who won a championship at 145 pounds said. “I hope (girls wrestling) explodes before I leave.”
“This is the greatest way to grow women’s wrestling right now,” Amity coach Todd Patterson said referring to the Girls Invitational tournament being held along side the State Open on one of the biggest stages of the year for high school wrestling in Connecticut. “Right now, there are a bunch of kids here to watch their brothers. They are tuned in and some are saying that could be me someday. It’s a great opportunity for these girls. It is really exciting.”
Most of these girls have spent their high school careers competing against boys.
Northwestern’s Lily Schwartz has been on the varsity team for four years. It was a rare when she was paired up to face a girl on the mat.
“This is very interesting,” she said. “I never had the opportunity to wrestle 1-on-1 with girls (in a tournament). It’s totally different (than wrestling a boy). You can go out there and you can assume they are like you. It is definitely a more even playing field. Now, it comes down to skill and whoever is more determined out there.”
Reed has had more opportunities to wrestle girls. She has competed with Team Connecticut at the USA Wrestling national championships in July in Fargo, North Dakota. She competed at the National High School Coaches Asssociation’s first-ever girls tournament last March and earned All-American honors by finishing third at 144 pounds.
“Girls are much more flexible,” she said. “You have to use different moves (than with boys) to turn them (to their back).”
Reed was one of the 10 girls to win the first CIAC Girls Invitational with a pin of Montville’s Baylee Gagneir in 3:45 in the finals at 160 pounds. Reed was 4-0 with three pins in the tournament.
Two wrestlers from Amity and NFA brought home championships. Three freshmen and two sophomores came up as champions.
The finals began at 126 pounds and freshman Linda Holeman of Ledyard came away with the first Girls Invitational title by pinning Schwartz in 4:43. Holeman went 3-0 in the tournament with three pins to cap off a great freshman season with the Colonials.
Holeman became just the second girl in Ledyard history to place at the Eastern Connecticut Conference tournament two weeks ago finishing fifth at 126 pounds. And at last week’s Class S tournament, she was 2-2 and one victory shy of earning a medal and a spot in the boys State Open.
Amity freshman Camryn Brown went 4-0 at 132 pounds with four pins to win a championship. Brown pinned Conard’s Emma Alford in the title match in 1:49. The 132 and 120 pound weight classes were the biggest weight classes in the tournament with 12 wrestlers each.
Bristol Eastern sophomore Ella Nichols had three pins to win her weight class at 145 pounds. Nichols, who is ranked No. 9 in the country by USA Wrestling and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, pinned Montville’s Aida Flores in 1:02 – the fastest pin time in the finals.
Nichols, who was named the tournament’s Outstanding Wrestler, earned All-American honors at the NHSCA nationals by taking seventh last March and third in the 16 and women’s division at the USA Wrestling national championships in Fargo last July.
Nichols’ older brother, Tommy, wrestled for the State Open title at 138 pounds minutes before her finals match but he lost to four-time Open champion Ryan Jack of Danbury.
At 182 pounds, Trumbull’s Jacklyn Smith won the round robin competition with two pins with East Haven’s Zayuri Castaneda winning the round robin competition at 235 pounds with two pins.
Amity sophomore Ariyanna Orosco won the championship at 99 pounds by pinning Fairfield Ludlowe’s Ruby Spadone in 5:33.
Stamford freshman Samantha Yap went 4-0 with three pins to win a title at 106 pounds. Yap had takedowns in the second and third period to pull away from Brien McMahon’s Anna Vladimiskaya with a 6-2 victory. There were 11 wrestlers in this weight class.
At 113, NFA junior Savannah Vanase blanked Wethersfield’s Alden Johnson, 6-0, in the title match.
In the final girls match of the evening, NFA’s Destiny Mateo (120) beat Berlin’s Christianna Morley, 3-1 in overtime. Morley got an escape with 1:54 left in the third period to tie the match. In overtime, Mateo got a takedown with 31 seconds remaining to win the championship.
Sydney Dameron of Griswold had the fastest pin in the tournament with a 20-second win in a consolation round contest at 132 pounds.
2020 CIAC Girls Invitational
At New Haven
Team results – No scores kept.
Final: Ariyanna Orosco (Amity) pin Ruby Spadone (Fairfield Ludlowe), 5:33
Final: Samantha Yap (Stamford) dec. Anna Vladimiskaya (Brien McMahon), 6-2
Third: Taylor McCormick (Somers) pin Kristina Topper (Northwestern), 0:27
Fifth: Brenda Leite (Danbury) forfeit over Ariyanna Orosco (Amity)
Final: Savannah Vanase (Norwich Free Academy) dec. Alden Johnson (Wethersfield), 6-0
Third: Kaleigh Carillos (Norwalk) dec. Karla Flores (Montville), 9-7, OT
Final: Destiny Mateo (Norwich Free Academy) dec. Christianna Morley (Berlin), 3-1, OT
Third: Julianna Morris (Pomperaug) dec. Sabrina Sedor (Stafford), 5-3
Fifth: Valerie Turgeon South (South Windsor) pin Annika Santos (Ledyard), 4:27
Final: Linda Holeman (Ledyard) pin Lily Schwartz (Northwestern), 4:43
Third: Emily De souza (Amity) dec. Virgina Juarbe (Waterford), 14-1
Fifth: Mary Morley (Berlin) pin Anala Smith (Shelton), 1:49
Final: Camryn Brown (Amity) pin Emma Alford (Conard), 1:49
Third: Simona Barbagallo (Plainville) dec. Claire Keene (RHAM), 6-5, OT
Fifth: Sofia Guarino (Haddam-Killingworth) dec. Ashley Wood (New Fairfield), 7-0
Final: Ella Nichols (Bristol Eastern) pin Aida Flores (Montville), 1:02
Third: Yanilis Castillo (New Britain) dec. Brianna Seixas (Guilford), 7-6
Fifth: Nolyette Ortiz Verastequi (Windham) dec. Makayla Thorpe (Windsor), 5-2 2:12
Final: Ashley Reed (Southington) pin Baylee Gagneir (Montville), 3:45
Third: Natalia Chorzepa (Berlin) pin Claire Jackson (Amity), 3:34
Fifth: Hayden Richardson (E.O. Smith) dec. Samantha Hall (Suffield/Windsor Locks), 8-2
182 (round robin)
1. Jacklyn Smith (Trumbull) 2-0, Caroline Gonzalez-Garcia (Windham) 1-1, Emily Bemos (Windsor) 0-2
235 (round robin)
1. Zayuro Castandeda (East Haven) 2-0, Ruby Camejo (New Haven) 1-1, Natalia Morris (Manchester) 0-2
Outstanding wrestler: Ella Nichols, Bristol Eastern (145)