Season Preview: Girls wrestling gains traction at EGHS

Darina Lubenov, Staff Reporter

As a wrestler, Janet Perez has heard plenty of comments about being a girl.

“Yes, I’ve definitely heard it before,” Perez, a sophomore, said. “When people see me, I’m pretty small, and they just don’t realize the potential that I have.”

For the first time in Elk Grove wrestling history, the team will have female wrestlers potentially wrestling varsity spots. It’s Perez’s second year wrestling at Elk Grove, and her fourth wrestling season overall, as she also competed in junior high.

Perez continues her high school tenure going into the 2019-20 season, looking forward to both co-ed and girls-only tournaments, and she’s looking to contribute a winning mindset for her team.

Over the past five years, Elk Grove has joined a growing trend of teams turning co-ed, changing the standards and perceptions of a sport that has been available to Illinois high schoolers for more than 90 years. Elk Grove’s first four-year female wrestler was 2019 graduate Maddie Reed, who competed for JV.

“Girls wrestling is an emerging sport right now,” Vargas said. “We are looking to get these numbers to grow.”

In addition to Perez, sophomore Sabrina Alejandre will compete for the JV Grens after managing the team for last year’s wrestling season.

Head coach Dan Vargas also said “there will be all-girls divisions at some tournaments” throughout the season.

Alongside the IHSA, the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association (IWCOA) is an organization that has begun to focus on girls wrestling. The organization has 13 scheduled tournaments for high school female wrestlers on its website, including a tournament at Conant High School, in which Vargas said both Perez and Alejandre will compete.

In addition to the girls, EG’s wrestling team currently has about 50 wrestlers on its freshman, JV and varsity rosters com bined. The team Coach Dan Vargas tells me, the team is planning on working on individual success rather than team success this season.

Season Preview

The EG wrestling team experienced several key graduation losses after 2019 twins Matt and Griffin McEnroe moved on to wrestle in college. Matt McEnroe was a sectional qualifier last year, and Griffin went downstate.

Despite the key losses, Vargas said some wrestlers can step into the roles that the team lost. Sophomore Brady Tosterud, junior Tuvshin Zuunbayan and junior Jacob Slonski all have had previous varsity experience.

Unlike last year’s lineup, this year’s varsity roster is looking smaller, with only about 10 wrestlers. Along with Zuunbayan, Slonski and Tosterud, others including sophomore Danny Gaskill, senior Adam Macro, junior Emanual Gonzalez and sophomore Ty Macina are all wrestlers who will get a lot more varsity experience.

Despite these lower numbers, the team’s freshman lineup consists of 25 wrestlers. Up and coming freshman wrestlers include Marco Avelar, Jacob Elsner and Mitch Janczak, who were all part of the Junior Grens wrestling club previously, according to Vargas.

“We’re looking to get them started as soon as possible,” Vargas said about the new freshmen.

The varsity team began its season in a quad against St. Viator, Niles North and New Trier on  Nov. 25.