Coyne, Hernandez at State Finals Friday

By: 
DANE FUELLING
SPORTS EDITOR

The hype and anticipation surrounding this afternoon’s girls wrestling state finals grew even louder with the news that the high school association in Ohio had sanctioned girls wrestling, along with boys volleyball, as emerging sports in the Buckeye state.
168 of the best female wrestlers in the state will gather in Kokomo to compete for 14 individual state titles for themselves and for their schools.
Two local wrestlers are among them and both have excellent chances of wrestling in the finals. Bellmont’s Trinity Coyne has already made one trip to the championship bout, finishing runner-up in 2020 in the Memorial Gymnasium. Coyne, along with her teammate Andrea Hernandez, missed the 2021 state tournament due to different injuries, but this year the two seniors have different mindsets and attitudes.
“This year I am the bad draw,” says Andrea Hernandez, who finished third as a sophomore. Hernandez won her third regional title in three tries by pinning #3 Jadyn Geller of Rochester in the final at Maconaquah last Friday.
Hernandez made the bump back up to 126 for the state tournament and the move seems to have made sense at this point, with Hernandez slotting into the #2 spot in the state rankings on IndianaMat. The only wrestler ranked ahead of the Bellmont senior is a familiar face: Anna Krejsa from Center Grove.
As a sophomore at Delta, Krejsa was beaten by Hernandez after both wrestlers missed out on making the finals and had to settle for fighting over a third-place medal. Krejsa finished runner-up at 120 last season while Hernandez was out injured.
A quick glance at the excellent archives compiled by IndianaMat shows that Krejsa has pinned every one of her opponents of note so far this season and has not needed a third period in any of those matches.
Of course, Hernandez is no stranger to quick pins. She needed just 4.5 minutes to complete three falls en route to her regional title last week. All three of Hernandez’s losses this season have come to Sydney DeLois of New Palestine
With both Hernandez and Krejsa finishing as regional champions, the two will not wrestle in the opening round and could not meet until the finals. With two third-place medals already in her possession, Andrea hopes to not add a third to her collection.
While Hernandez is the declared underdog in her bracket, it is the opposite for Coyne, who is the state’s top-ranked wrestler at 138 pounds.
Coyne could meet Paisley Sanquenetti of Terre Haute South in her opening match. The South wrestler is a two-time medalist, finishing in eighth place each of the last two seasons.
New Albany’s Brittany Jackson, ranked #3 by IndianaMat, was sixth at 145 in 2021 and is a potential semifinal foe for Coyne.
#2 Sierre Pienkowski of Mt. Vernon (Fortville) was the regional champion in the south and will look to become a four-time medalist in her senior season tonight. Two years ago, Pienkowski was the regional champ in Coyne’s weight, but it was a stacked class in the north and the Marauder wrestler finished all the way down in seventh as Coyne reached the finals.
Pienkowski exacted revenge on Liberty Sutton of Logansport in last year’s semifinals after being knocked out by Sutton in 2020, but was defeated by Kaylie Petersen of Evansville Central in the 138 finals.
“Trinity just has a different mindset this season,” says assistant coach Sean Faurote. “The pressure that she used to put on herself is not there this year. Her technique has improved so much from the headlocking days of her freshman year.”
In other weights, several girls are looking to etch their names into the beginning pages of the history book of Indiana High School girls wrestling. Torie Buchanan of West Vigo has won three individual state titles and is a heavy favorite to win again at 113 pounds. Buchanan has already committed to Campbellsville for next year.
North Montgomery’s Catie Campbell has reached the finals in each of her three seasons so far, winning titles as a freshman and as a junior, but finishing runner-up as a sophomore. Local fans might remember Campbell from when she wrestled against Bellmont at Team State at the Coliseum. She is the favorite in a deep 120 weight class.
Campbell’s sister, Cailin, is the favorite at 132 and could face Jay County’s Lilly Lothridge in the quarterfinals. Cailin Campbell is also a two-time state champion.
Perhaps the most exciting weight class of the day is 106, where three young ladies have not only been competing for a girls state title, but are also among the very best in the state with the boys included. New Haven’s Julianna O’Campo, daughter of Bellmont graduate Sam O’Campo, is ranked #1 in the girls rankings and #10 with the boys. She was defeated earlier in the year by #4 Luke Rioux of Avon by a 7-2 decision and dropped a close 9-8 decision to undefeated Levi Johns of Bluffton.
On the other half of the 106 bracket, Joy Cantu of Merrillville and Heather Crull of Northeastern have both been state-ranked with the boys this year. They are likely to meet in the semifinals, with the winner taking another crack at O’Campo in the Finals. O’Campo needed just 1:16 to pin Cantu last Friday.
Kokomo’s Aulani Davis is an exceptional athlete and a two-time defending state champion at 145. The junior has won every match this season by fall.
Yet another multiple state champion is a heavy favorite at 152, with Kiersten O’Neill undefeated on the year. O’Neill’s father left Wabash, where Kiersten won titles in 2019 and 2021, to take the head coaching job at Warren Central. The change in singlets has not changed O’Neill’s fortunes in her senior season.
The area has more chances to win individual state titles than just at 126 and 138 as Jay County freshman Mallory Winner, younger sister of four-time medalist Mason Winner, is the top-ranked grappler at 160. Winner won a tight, 4-1 decision against Grace Hiroms last Friday in the regional finals.
Wrestling is set to begin at noon at Memorial Gymnasium in Kokomo, with regional finalists receiving a bye in the opening round of the 12-man bracket. Wrestling will take place on three mats and all matches wrestled by Coyne and Hernandez will be broadcast on WZBD.

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