The Evanston girls wrestling team is front and center in this image of the teams participating in Saturday’s Maine East tournament. Credit: ETHS

Ashland Henson and two of her Evanston Township High School teammates earned fourth-place finishes Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Maine East High School Invitational wrestling tournament.

Ashland Henson wins a match Dec. 9 at ETHS. She was a fourth-place finisher at the Maine East tournament Saturday, Dec. 10. Credit: ETHS

But Henson’s best moments are still to come – and probably in the first period of a given match too.

The Wildkit senior scored a pair of first-period pins at 190 pounds, then dropped her next two matches via falls on Saturday. That effort came on the heels of a stunningly quick pin – in just 15 seconds versus Niles West’s Jasmin Larinsi in a dual meet Friday at ETHS.

Not bad for someone who didn’t win a match last year in her first season competing in the sport. Now, she’s building a reputation as a fast worker with one of the most aggressive mindsets in the ETHS practice room.

Just ask head coach Dillin Randolph.

“Ashland might be our most improved girl when it comes to her overall technique, her toughness, and her grit,” Randolph said. “She’s already got five wins and it’s because she’s gaining confidence in herself with every match. I believe she’ll be a state qualifier, and now she’s starting to believe it too.

“She routinely beats her own [team] record for the fastest pin and it’s because she comes out so strong right out of the gate.”

Henson’s strong start Saturday included first-period pins versus Hannah Price of Huntley (1 minute, 8 seconds) and Elizabeth Villasenor of Addison Trail (17 seconds). She settled for fourth place after being pinned by Trinity White of Oak Park-River Forest in the second period of the semifinals, and again by Anji Gonzalez of Hoffman Estates with 40 seconds left in the second period of the third place match.

Evanston’s other fourth-place finishers were Marlowe Lang at 155 pounds and Natalie Graettinger at 145. Contributing seventh-place performances were Priscilla Hartwell at 125 and Ariana Flores at 115. No team scores were kept at the tourney, which featured entrants from 26 schools.

Marlowe Lang, left, won fourth place at the Maine East tournament on Saturday, Dec. 10. Credit: ETHS

Like Henson, Lang and Graettinger also advanced to the semifinals of their respective brackets with back-to-back wins, then suffered consecutive losses via falls when the going got tougher.

Lang drew a first-round bye before rallying from a 7-0 deficit to pin Conant’s Max Kaminska in the second period, with 1:38 left. In the semis, Burlington Central’s Jada Hall nailed Lang in 1:29, and Nikki Hubbard of Hoffman Estates pulled off a pin against the ETHS junior with just 2 seconds left in the first period of the third place matchup.

Natalie Graettinger wins a match vs. the Niles West wolves on Friday, Dec. 9. She was also a fourth-place finisher at the Saturday, Dec. 11 Maine East tournament. Credit: ETHS

After a bye at 145, Graettinger pinned Oak Park’s Lucy Wegemann in 1:26, then couldn’t cope with Jasmine Zavaleta of Conant (lost second period fall) or Annie Rakoci of Hoffman Estates (lost first period fall).

Flores, a returning state qualifier, couldn’t shake off the rust of a two-week absence due to illness and injury and lost to a tough Huntley grappler Addison Drews by a 3-1 margin in the first round. She bounced back to eliminate her own teammate – Kyra Rivera – with a first- period pin in the consolation bracket, advanced via forfeit, and then blanked Guadalupe Montesinos of Maine East 2-0 in the seventh-place bout.

“Ariana’s had a lot to deal with so far, a lot to battle through,” Randolph said. “But she kept it positive the whole time today, even after she lost her first match. She knows now what she has to work on.

“Not only do I see improvement in these girls from the start of the year, I saw that we improved during the day today, too, even though they all didn’t get the places they wanted. Some of the newer wrestlers ran into some tough matches, but when your biggest flaw is a lack of experience, the way to get better is to wrestle more and get some experience at tournaments like this.” 

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