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Two state wrestlers make finals in Fargo, three bring home medals

From left, Norwalk’s Calli Gilchris, Southbury’s Sarah Henckel and Milford’s Kayla Batres each won medals at the USA Wrestling Junior and 16U national championships Sunday in North Dakotia. (Photo courtesy Sarah Jadach)

Three Connecticut girls earned medals in Fargo on Sunday at USA Wrestling’s Junior and 16U national championship tournament at the FargoDome.

Norwalk’s Calli Gilchrist won a championship medal for the third straight year with a second place finish at 117 pounds in the Junior women’s freestyle competition. Milford’s Kayla Batres finished second at 106 in the 16U tournament with teammate Sarah Henckel of Southbury finishing third at 152 pounds.

Gilchrist won her first five matches to earn a spot in the finals for the first time. She had one pin and a tech fall victory. In her semifinal win over Missouri’s Angelina Vargas, Gilchrist got a takedown with 24 seconds remaining to secure a 16-13 decision.

Vargas cut a seven-point lead to one, 14-13, with 1:10 remaining thanks to a pair of takedowns and an exposure of the back.

In the finals, Maryland’s Alexandra Szkotnicki was one of five girls to repeat as champions in the Junior freestyle tournament with her 12-6 win over Gilchrist. Szkotnicki, 19, had an 8-2 lead after one period before Gilchrist rallied with a pair of takedowns to cut the lead to two, 8-6, with 1:37 remaining.

Two takedowns in the final 53 seconds secured the win for Szkotnicki, who is ranked No. 2 in the country at 117 pounds.

Gilchrist, who is ranked No. 8 in the country at 117, will be attending Choate Rosemary Hall this fall. She was sixth a year ago at 112 pounds and third at 112 in 2001.

The other Connecticut finalist on Sunday was Batres, the 15-year-old from Milford, who went 5-1 in the tournament with a pair of technical falls to win her first medal from Fargo.

After two technical fall wins, Batres, beat New Jersey’s Charlie Wyle, 8-3 in the quarterfinals and bounced Iowa’s Reanah Utterback in the semifinals. 6-1.

In the final, Batres got the early 2-0 lead with a first period takedown but Florida’s Mary Manis got a takedown with six seconds left in the period to tie the match at 2-2 but really took the lead on criteria.

No one scored in the second period to allow Manis, 16, to win the championship.

Henckel, who will be a junior at Blair Academy this fall, went 7-1 to finish third. Henckel, the top seed and a defending champion (138), didn’t give up a point as she won her first three matches by technical fall in 19 seconds, 1:29 and 1:07, respectively.

She lost in the quarterfinals to Michigan’s Maddie Hayden by pin in 2:52. Hayden advanced to the finals before she lost to Florida’s Mya Bethel by technical fall.

Henckel ripped off another four victories with a pin and a 10-0 win by tech fall in the consolation finals. She finished third with a 10-1 win over New York’s Brynn Shepardson.

Five other Connecticut wrestlers competed in the 16U freestyle tournament, formerly known as the Cadet Nationals. Norwalk’s Rylee Donahue (132) and Berlin’s Sybella Landrie (112) were each 2-2 with one pin.

Connecticut had six other wrestlers in the Junior Women’s tournament and each won at least two matches.

Stamford’s Samantha Yap (106) went 5-2 in the tournament with four consecutive wins in the consolation round after a tough second round loss,

Stratford’s Lindsey Rywold (122) and Amity’s Camryn Brown (138) were each 3-2 on the day with Guilford’s Brianna Seixas (152), Esther RiBeiro (144) and Foran’s Kelly Aspras (144) each finishing 2-2 on the day.

According to USA Wrestling, there was a record 720 entries in the 16U women’s tournament. In 2011 at the first Cadet National tournament for women, there were 81 entries. The Cadet Nationals were renamed the 16U natiionals in 2019.

The three days for the boy’s freestyle tournament begins Monday and runs through Wednesday night with the finals. The Greco Roman tournament is Friday, July 21 and Saturday, July 22.

Results from 2023 USA Wrestling Junior and 16U national championships.

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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