Ninth-grader Sarah Ilori finished fifth in the 147-pound weight class in the inaugural NJSIAA Girls Wrestling State Championship on March 2 in Atlantic City. In order to qualify, Sarah had to wrestle in the very first Girls Regional Wrestling Tournament at Red Bank Regional High School. To advance to the state tournament, a wrestler had to finish top three in their weight class. Sarah accomplished this by finishing in third place in the North Region. She won five out of six matches. At the state tournament, she had to avenge a loss to an opponent from Kingsway High School in order to finish fifth. Sarah is a hard worker who is very focused at practice and it paid off. — Union wrestling coach Dino DeBellonia.
When/how did you start wrestling?
I started wrestling in November (beginning of the winter season) because I wanted to be different and try something new. Also, I had wanted to do something for the school.
What do feel was a bigger accomplishment, finishing third in the regional championship or fifth in the state championship?
Personally I feel that they are both really big accomplishments though I wish I had done better. When I got the 3rd place in the regional championship I felt accomplished because my whole family came to watch me wrestle. But when I got 5th in the state I felt really accomplished because it was the first time girls had their own state competition in NJ and that I was making history.
According to your coach you beat an opponent at states that you lost to earlier. How gratifying was that?
It is extremely gratifying when you are able to beat a person that you just lost to. It just shows that I improved and that I listened to my coaches correction’s.
Since this was only your freshman year, have you set any goals for your sophomore, junior and/or senior seasons?
My goals for the upcoming wrestling seasons are to get first place in the regional and state championships three times in a row.
How was it, attention from family, friends, etc., having so much success in your freshman year?
Honestly, I never thought wrestling would bring so much attention. Usually, I like getting attention but sometimes it could get a little overwhelming being known as “the girl who wrestles” all the time.
Are you involved in any other school sports/activities? What is your particular interest in them?
In the spring season I do shot put, javelin, and discus. I love the field events because it make me stronger and prepares me for the next wrestling season.
What are your plans for the spring and summer?
In the spring and summer I am planning to attend Yale St. wrestling club so I can get better prepared for the upcoming season.