The state series has returned for winter sports in Illinois. Some athletes have been waiting as long as three years to crown a new champion! Find out more about the exciting return of the state series in the latest feature, presented by Edward Medical Group.
“We’re all just a lot more serious this year last year was just conference and now like we really gotta get backed out in because obviously it’s much bigger meets so like we’re really pumped up.” “This is a better season than last year, lot longer and last year was shorter fun but this one was way better.”
At this time a year ago, high school sports were three weeks back into action after a COVID-19 pause that was initially lifted on January 27th 2021. Once the state hit phase four, the athletes were released from their warm homes and ready for some competition. However with the season resuming so late in the year, winter sports were only allowed a regular season schedule of competition and no postseason besides conference tournaments. One of the biggest adjustments in the 2021 return was wrestling being moved to the late spring and badminton moving to the winter to help slow the spread of COVID along with the timing of gym space. Badminton was the first IHSA sport to have a state series after the long break. Wrestling did have a postseason, but it was run by the IWCOA and did not count in the IHSA record books.
Fast-forward to a year later and sports like wrestling, girls gymnastics, and girls bowling are ready finish the postseason with state just around the corner. Boy’s swimming has also hit postseason week with sectionals on the horizon.
“It just feel a lot better I had a whole season under my belt I just feel more prepared going into these next couple weeks.”
For wrestlers such as Antonio Torres and Ethan Olson, they were grateful wrestler into the month of June but with a normal tournament returning after a year off the two along with their other teammates are in for a big push no matter the competition. Torres comes into the postseason as a 2020 state qualifier, while Olson looks to make his first ever state appearance as a senior for Naperville Central.
“This is a little tougher than the IWCOA like that was a little easier and qualified for that but this is the real stuff this is tough I’m enjoying to have it back.”
“I wrestled like three weeks last year but it really didn’t do much I still made it to the state finals but I wasn’t really prepared I was pretty fatigue and gassed before I even went to the match so I didn’t pull out my full potential so I feel like this I can go out and do what I usually do.”
As all the grapplers get set to hit the mats at U of I, girl’s gymnastics and bowling are two other sports to hit the state finale with a couple of area competitors hoping to make a name for themselves in the big stage. For gymnastics, it was a memorable season for the Naperville North girls. Not only did the Huskies capture a regional title but they also qualified two first time state gymnasts in seniors Katie Kristle and Rigley Jump. Jump was competing in her first season with the varsity team, while Kristle took advantage of opportunity to showcase her style after a fifth place finish in the all-around at the Oswego Sectionals.
“This has been my goal all four years and I have just been a little short I mean last year I didn’t have the chance sophomore year I was just off by a couple tenth’s so senior year to come out and finally make it especially in all around I get to do everything that I’ve been dong instead of just one event it’s really awesome.”
Kristle and the Huskies did get an opportunity last season for competition but all they had to compete for was conference standings. Now with a more traditional season coming to an end she is ready for any twist and turns.
“It’s really exciting that we get to have this again especially because we made it this time so I mean we don’t even know if we would’ve made it last year because we never got that chance and to make it on top of that it’s really cool.”
Now let’s go to the bowling alley as three time defending DVC champions Metea Valley girls bowling look to showcase themselves in the state series after not getting the chance in 2021. Mustang Sydney Lewis is one of those bowlers looking to bring the fire on the big stage after two stellar seasons on the lanes. In her junior year Lewis became Metea Valley’s first ever bowler to roll a perfect game in team history. After a third place in the Hinsdale South sectional Lewis and the rest of her Mustang squad are off to state and is ready for the tough competition.
“We really wanna go to state this year like last year we missed out on it because of COVID and we really wanna like show we are Metea Valley and we’re here to go to state we’re here to win.”
And we are about a month away from boys basketball crowning its first state champion since 2019! No sport has suffered a longer wait to return to state competition, as the last time we saw the boys state tournament in March of 2020, the season ended in heartbreak for every team after being canceled in the sectional round.
“It feels great especially after all the seniors last year left we came back with like no experience at the varsity level for this team so we got something kinda to prove to everyone.”
Regardless of the results, every winter athlete was grateful to be back to a normal routine.
For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Patrick Codo.
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