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  • Val T.

‘My love for this sport is unmatched:’ Gerald wins at 105, helps Rochester finish 3rd at home invite


Sports Editor, RTC

Rochester sophomore wrestler Lilly Gerald won the 105-pound weight class at the Rochester Girls Invitational Saturday. She went 3-0 with two falls. She is 8-0 with seven falls on the season. She helped Rochester finish third in the 28-team field.

Lilly Gerald started with jiu jitsu and has developed a love for wrestling.

She has also developed a love for winning.

One week after winning her weight class at the East Noble Invitational, Gerald went 3-0 to win the 105-pound weight class at the Rochester Invitational at the RHS gym Saturday.

With help from Gerald and seven other wrestlers who placed, Rochester scored 140 points to finish third.

Penn won with 224 points, and Hobart was second with 163.

The tournament consisted of 227 wrestlers representing 28 schools.

Other Rochester placers included Grace Hiroms, who lost by fall to New Haven’s Kaily Bussard by fall in 3:31 and settled for second at 155; Laine Peppler, who had a 4-1 lead over Mishawaka’s Desiree Couve in the final at 145 before losing an 8-4 decision and finishing second; Amber Blackburn, who was fourth in the 130A class; Kyra Doran, who was fifth in the 130A class; Lexi Haughs, who was fifth at 145; Makenna McKee, whose day was highlighted by an eight-second pin over Wabash’s Alyssa Crowley in the wrestlebacks and who finished sixth in the 130B class; and Lakodah Clevenger, who was seventh in the 135B class.

Rilyn Strasser had two wins by fall at 115 but did not place.

There are nine Rochester girls grapplers – two seniors, two sophomores and five freshmen.

Gerald won by fall over Wawasee’s Isabel Schwartz in 3:26 and over Fort Wayne North Side’s Jacki Shackleford in 52 seconds to reach the final. She then beat Mishawaka Marian’s Lilly Anderson 11-5 in the championship match.

Relentless attacking Anderson, Gerald, a sophomore, recorded five takedowns and an escape without yielding a takedown herself. She used both a high crotch to a lift and a single-leg takedown successfully.

“I kept telling myself that I worked so hard to get to where I am,” Gerald said. “If I just gave up now, it would be pointless. Then I would be the biggest loser in the world.”

Gerald said her performance at last year’s Rochester Invitational was motivation for this year. She said she went to the Wabash Wrestling Camp at Manchester University where she wrestled both boys and girls. She said she worked on her technique there. She said she also went to summer workouts and weightlifting sessions here in Rochester, all while making time for a full-time lifeguard job at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Campground in Plymouth.

Then came freestyle wrestling tournaments at the start of the school year.

“It feels really great,” Gerald said. “I worked really hard all summer for this. Last year, I don’t think I even placed at this tournament. So there’s lots of improvement there. I spent a lot of time over the summer working to get this. And I was honestly just hoping to place top three, so this is a big accomplishment. It feels great.”

Gerald started wrestling when she was a seventh-grader. Before that, she started with jiu jitsu when she was a third-grader. She said wrestling was a natural progression.

“I was always training,” Gerald said. “And jiu jitsu is not too far off from wrestling. You just can’t choke somebody, which is like fine. I still train jiu jitsu; it is the reason I love wrestling. … My love for this sport is unmatched. It is my lifestyle. I love it.”

Rochester coach Tristan Wilson said Gerald’s match against Anderson was the best he had ever seen her wrestle.

“She wrestled the entire match,” Wilson said. “That was probably my favorite match I’ve ever seen from Lilly. Because she wrestled the entire match and kept attacking the entire way. She didn’t care about if she got gassed. She didn’t care about anything except scoring points, and it showed because she was scoring points all the way to the end.”

Hiroms finished second at state at 160 last year. She wrestled in the 155A bracket and went 4-0 with two falls, an injury default and a tight 4-2 decision over Olivia Bohde of New Haven.

But it was another New Haven wrestler, Bussard, who caught Hiroms in a headlock to get a fall in 3:31.

“She hung her head,” Wilson said. “The girl from New Haven, Bussard, she’s a tough wrestler. And she just made one little mistake, and then she just got caught. A headlock is very hard to get out of. She was running a spiral ride, and she just hung her head a little bit too much. The girl reached back, caught it and threw in a headlock. … Yeah, we can use that one situation to correct, but it doesn’t change any thought or any feeling. She’s been wrestling phenomenal, and she’s going to continue to wrestle phenomenal, and she’s going to continue to train hard. If anything, this just lit a fire, and I would hate to be the next girl to have to wrestle her.”

Peppler, a sophomore, won three matches by fall and had the first two takedowns to take a 4-1 lead against Couve before Couve got a reversal and a two-point near-fall to take a 5-4 lead. Couve later got an escape and a takedown to finish the scoring.

Peppler has gained the reputation as the hardest working member of the team, often coming to school early for some pre-first period weightlifting – “Championship Mornings,” in Rochester wrestling parlance.

“She took every advantage of every opportunity that we gave her this year, and it paid off,” Wilson said. “We have so many opportunities, and because of other things, people can’t do it, but she said, ‘Wrestling is my goal. Being on the podium this year is my goal. I’m giving everything I can to it.’ And I think with the program that we have, it just shows.”

This marked the second year of the Rochester Invite. It started at 9 a.m. and ended just before 5 p.m. and occupied four mats in the main gym. The auxiliary gym was unavailable because the boys basketball team was hosting Oak Hill in a scrimmage.

The growth of the tournament has led to some future logistical challenges.

“We’re coming to a point now where it was pretty tight today,” Wilson said. “I would like to see this tournament grow, but I think we need to figure out some scheduling stuff because we’re going to need both gyms eventually. This is just going to keep growing and growing year-in and year-out.”

ROCHESTER GIRLS INVITATIONAL RESULTS: Penn 224, Hobart 163, ROCHESTER 140, Illiana Christian 126, Southport 116.5, Wawasee 103, Crown Point 102, North Miami 100, Warsaw 99, Rensselaer 96, Mishawaka 94, New Haven 85, Lakeland 84, South Bend Riley 82, Northfield 74, Carroll (Fort Wayne) 51, Fort Wayne North Side 49, Mishawaka Marian 45, Bremen 37, John Glenn 35, Wabash 30, Huntington North 28, Peru 27, Frontier 24, Chesterton 19, Plymouth 15, Manchester 8, Maconaquah 3


105 – Lilly Gerald – champion, 115 – Rilyn Strasser – did not place, 130A – Amber Blackburn – fourth, 130A – Kyra Doran – fifth, 130B – Makenna McKee – sixth, 135B – Lakodah Clavenger – seventh, 145 – Laine Peppler – second, 145 – Lexi Haughs – fifth, 155 – Grace Hiroms – second (155A champion)


100 – Angelina Clay (Lakeland), 105 – LILLY GERALD (ROCHESTER), 110 – Joanna Cantu (Hobart), 115 – Madison Waltz (Carroll (Fort Wayne)), 120 – Ciara Rodriguez (Wawasee), 125 – Gelissa Reginald (Southport), 130A – Kynna Yoder (Warsaw), 130B – Aubrey Troutner (Huntington North) – overall champion, 135A – K’yla Johnson (Southport) – overall champion, 135B – Kaylee Smith (Mishawaka), 140A – Lindsey Dill (Northfield), 140B – Heidi Selis (Penn) – overall champion, 145 – Desiree Couve (Mishawaka), 155A – GRACE HIROMS (ROCHESTER), 155B – Kaily Bussard (New Haven) – overall champion, 170A – Alexis Gates (Northfield), 170B – Amani Reed (Penn) – overall champion, 190 – Stacia Crabtree (Rensselaer), 235 – Jezel Guerro (Penn)

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