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Southington’s Ashley Reed finishes second in NHSCA nationals

Two-time All-American Ashley Reed of Southington finished second at the NHSCA national tournament at 160 pounds Sunday. (Photo courtesy Derek Dion)

It hasn’t been easy for Southington High senior Ashley Reed to compete on the wrestling mat in the past two years.

As a girl, there has not been as many opportunities to wrestle as boys have. She has battled injuries throughout her career. And like all of us have done in the past 14 months, she has had to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic that cancelled the high school wrestling season in Connecticut.

But when she gets a chance to compete, she has excelled.

For the second time in her scholastic career, Reed earned All-American honors by finishing second at the National High School Coaches Association (NHSCA) national championship tournament at Virginia Beach, Va., on Sunday.

Reed finished second at 160 pounds, falling to Cheyenne Bowman of La Habra, California, who was ranked No. 3 in the country at 152 pounds in the latest girls high school rankings by USA Wrestling, FloWrestling and the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

Reed was one of three Connecticut girls to earn All-American honors at the NHSCA nationals. Bristol Eastern’s Ella Nichols finished fourth at 160 pounds while Bridgeport’s Jacklyn Smith took seventh at 185 pounds.

Reed advanced to the finals with three consecutive pins in 41 seconds, 1:25 and 3:56. In the semifinals, Reed pinned Virginia’s Stella Steigler, who was ranked No. 12 at 152, in 3:56. In her first three bouts, Reed didn’t give up a single point.

“She wrestled really well in her first three matches,” Southington High coach Derek Dion said. “(Bowman) was really strong and they both wrestle a similar style. She got in on her leg and got her off balance. But Ashley wrestled tough.”

Toughness has been part of Ashley’s career. “She outworks everyone in the room,” Dion said. “She isn’t a complainer She is a good hard-working wrestler.”

Preparing was a challenge this year due to the pandemic. Reed won the initial CIAC Girls Invitational in March 2020 but when the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping across the nation, all sporting events and practices were cancelled.

Last year’s NHSCA national tournament was cancelled along with the Junior National and 16-and-under tournaments in Fargo, North Dakota during the summer. The high school wrestling season in Connecticut was never allowed to begin with schools and wrestling clubs only allowed to conduct non-contact drills until late March.

But Reed did what she could. One of her teammates, Darius Mangiafico, has a wrestling mat in his garage so they worked out and practiced. The training had to stop in early February when Reed came down with COVID-19.

But once she was healthy again, the duo resumed training in Southington and with some clubs in the central Connecticut area. “They both worked their tails off,” Dion said of Reed and Mangiafico. “When you have a good training partner, it helps.”

It’s Reed’s second NHSCA All-American medal. She finished second at 144 pounds in the 2019 NSHCA tournament, the first year that the NHSCA hosted a competition for the girls.

Reed has committed to attend North Central College in Naperville, Illinois ,next fall and plans to wrestle for the Cardinals.

Nichols, a junior at Bristol Eastern, won four of her first five matches in the tournament with three pins. She also lost to Bowman in the quarterfinals, getting pinned in less than a minute.

After the loss to Bowman, Nichols won three straight matches in the consolation round with two pins and a 3-1 victory over No. 12 Stella Steigler thanks to a first period takedown and a third period escape. Josette Partney of Missouri pinned Nichols in the consolation final in 2:37.

Nichols, currently ranked No. 3 at 164 pounds, is also a two-time NHSCA All-American. She was seventh at 136 pounds in 2019.

Smith lost two close matches, dropping a 3-1 decision in OT to Savannah Issac of Ohio on a takedown with 39 seconds in OT and a 2-1 loss in double OT to Cynthia Esquevil of California due an escape with three seconds left.

Smith claimed seventh place when Mia Stubblebire of Maryland forfeited her match.

While the national high school girls polls rank athletes in 14 weight classes, the NHSCA had just six weight classes for girls.

2021 NHSCA national tournaments

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of Connecticut Wrestling Online. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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