Lyons Township High School senior Alex Flores seriously considered joining wrestling as a freshman girl, even though there only was a boys team.
“Then I showed up and it was clearly just dudes, so I was like, ‘No,’ and I walked out,” Flores said. “I wondered if [LTHS] were ever going to start their own girls team because I knew Morton had a girls team.”
The wait is over.
Flores is among 11 girls part of the Lions’ first official team this season. On Jan. 21, they finished fifth (78 points) at the West Suburban Conference Meet at Addison Trail among 11 teams.
Other team members are junior Journie Wickert-Harris, sophomores Avi Gonzalez, Sienna Garcia-Rizzo and Xochiti Flores and freshman Sofia Turek, Maddie Pieroni, Jax Tamburello, Kiera Jesse, Juiceylena Roman and Beatriz Xochimitl.
Last year, Flores found out that the LTHS girls program would be starting following the first IHSA-sanctioned state meet in 2022.
She’s the only senior on the team.
“I would say [I enjoy] coming to practice every day, just being on a team with everyone, meeting new people. And we’re learning together. We all barely started together so we’re building off what some people know. We’re all coming together to be better together.”
Girls head coach Darwin DePina was hired last November after previously coaching LTHS freshman boys wrestling. The girls practice alongside the boys at North Campus but separately, pairing off by comparable weight classes for drills.
The girls began with little wrestling exposure. They scheduled six duals, one quad and five invites before the IHSA Schaumburg Sectional on Feb. 10-11.
“They work hard and they learn so much. For their first time, it’s awesome,” DePina said.
At the WSC meet Jan. 21, Flores (150 pounds), Turek (130) and Roman (135) finished third, Gonzalez (110), Pieroni (170) and Garcia-Rizzo (235) were fourth, Jesse (190) was fifth and Wickert-Harris (125) sixth.
Turek’s enthusiasm has been fueled by having junior brother Matthew on the boys team.
“I think it’s really cool that we’re the first girls and we’re able to pave the way for everyone else behind us,” Turek said. “I’ve always wanted to win and a challenge for me has been it’s OK to lose if I try really hard.”
Tournaments like the Batavia Invite on Jan. 14 allowed the Lions to compete against other sport newcomers. Gonzalez and Turek were individual champions with Turek beating Wickert-Harris in the 125 C-division final.
In a dual meet just prior to the invite against Glenbard North, Gonzalez was dominated at 115 by No. 1 nationally rated sophomore Gabriella Gomez, the defending 105-pound state champion.
“[Gonzalez] got pounded but guess what? She came back the next day ready to wrestle, ready to go. I was really impressed with that,” DePina said. “That’s where I’m excited about the future, how much they’ve learned and how much they will learn.”