OTTAWA — Women’s wrestling, at both the international and local level, has been a rapidly growing sport in recent years, so much so that it is on the IHSA’s short list of “emerging sports” and seems likely to gain full-fledged status sooner rather than later.
That growth was readily apparent late Dec. 27, as more than 50 young women representing 11 different high school programs — including Putnam County, Princeton and Ottawa — met in Kingman Gym to compete in the first-ever Ottawa Girls Wrestling Invitational, with Putnam County’s lone entrant, Luna Gonzalez, earning the championship at 152 pounds.
“I’m happy because they made an only-girl tournament, and I feel like that will be better for the girls who are afraid to wrestle guys or who prefer wrestling other girls,” said Gonzalez, who said she’s the lone female on the Putnam County wrestling roster. “It was good to compete against other girls.”
Gonzalez scored victories over Pekin’s Audry Driscoll, Kaneland’s Marisa Sosa and finally Ottawa’s Ivy Jones to take first at 152.
“We had 14 girls (in the OHS program) last year and have eight or nine girls this year,” said Ottawa coach Pete Marx, “and we wanted to give them the opportunity to wrestle at home. ... We just started sending out emails to all the schools we knew had girls wrestling and tried to get them out here.
“Not too bad, 55 girls out here today, and our girls are wrestling really well. It’s great to see this.”