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GFA’s Kayla Batres wins a championship at Midlands Championships

Milford’s Kayla Batres of Greens Farms Academy won a title at the Midlands Championships Saturday outside of Chicago. (Photo courtesy Jack Conroy)

The Ken Kraft Midlands Championships is primarily known as a collegiate tournament. That was the goal when Hall of Fame coach Ken Kraft of Northwestern University decided to put together a holiday wrestling tournament beginning in 1965.

But one doesn’t have to be in college to enter. High school athletes can compete.

Milford’s Kayla Batres, a freshman at Greens Farms Academy in Westport, was one of three high school students to win a Midland’s championship Saturday in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, in the women’s division.

Batres, 15, beat two college wrestlers currently ranked in the top 10 and another high school wrestler who is ranked No. 3 in the country to win the championship at 109 pounds. It is the second year that the Midlands have hosted a women’s division.

Batres won her first match by injury default. In the quarterfinal, Batres beat No. 10 Pauline Granado of McKendree University, 7-2. Granados won a National Collegiate Women’s Wrestling Championships (NCWWC) national championship last March.

In the semifinal, Batres beat Wyoming Seminary’s Rianne Murphy, 10-4 with four takedowns. Murphy is ranked No. 3 in the country at 100 pounds in the latest national high school rankings.

In the championship match, Batres got an early four-point move and beat No. 4 Kaelani Schufeldt of Lock Haven University, 4-2. Schufeldt, an All-American at Lock Haven, recently finished fourth at the U.S. national championships to secure a spot at the upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials.

The tournament was freestyle – which is the style of wrestling at the collegiate level for women. According to FloWrestling, the other high school students to win at Midlands were Michigan sophomore Madison Nieuwenhuis at 101 and Maryland freshman Taina Fernandez at 130.

The decision to compete at Midlands was a last-minute decision, according to Greens Farms Academy head coach Jack Conroy. Batres was competing against the boys at the Sam Cali Invitational at Fairleigh Dickinson earlier in the week when the coaching staff thought why not compete at Midlands?

“We decided the day before. Why can’t she go to Midlands?” Conroy said. “So, we entered her and registered her that night. We were on the flight the next morning.”

Batres, who won a gold medal competing for the U.S. at the U-15 Pan-American championships in November, is the only elite level girl on the Greens Farms Academy program at this time. She trains with the boys program and will compete against the boys.

She is planning to compete in the New England prep school girls championship meet at the national prep school girls championship meet. Her next big international event will be the U.S. world team trials in April. Batres is not eligible to compete at the 2024 U.S. Olympic trials because she needs to be at least 17.

Batres was one of two Connecticut girls to win a medal at the meet. Marlborough’s Emma Heslin of Lock Haven finished sixth at 101 pounds. Heslin went 3-3 with two pins and a technical fall in the meet.

2023 Ken Kraft Midlands Championship (women)

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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