Harlee Hiller didn’t join the Loyola wrestling program to win a state title.
But when the opportunity presented itself, the sophomore didn’t shy away from it.
A week after Massey Odiotti became the program’s first state champ at the boys individual state finals, Hiller became the second with a dominant performance in the second IHSA girls state tournament Friday-Saturday, Feb. 24-25, at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington.
Hiller (32-5) pinned her first three opponents before beating Anna-Jonesboro sophomore Zoee Sadler 8-1 in Saturday’s 105-pound title bout.
It’s the second state medal for Hiller, who took third at 105 a year ago in her debut season as a wrestler.
But it’s hardly her first time in the spotlight. She has international experience in judo, which calmed her nerves during crunch time in wrestling matches.
“I feel like just going into tournaments, knowing that I’ve been in the big lights before and I’m ready — it’s helped a lot,” Hiller said.
What also helps is that the two sports’ skill sets are complementary. But that wasn’t the only reason she decided to join the Ramblers last season.
“I just really wanted to be part of a high school team,” Hiller said. “And knowing that I could do my throws in wrestling, I thought that (going out for wrestling) was a great idea.”
It sure looks that way, as she has two more years to add to her collection of state hardware.
Last year’s sudden-victory loss in the semifinals remained front of mind for this season.
“I feel like that really motivated me,” Hiller said. “I had regrets in that match. I didn’t go as hard as I possibly could.
“So in (this year’s) I just knew I had to leave everything on the mat and win or lose, just have no regrets.”
Loyola coach Matt Collum had no regrets either.
“She wrestled awesome,” he said. “She wrestled hard, but she also wrestled smart too. She didn’t force things.”
Winning runs in the family, of course. Hiller’s mom, Wendy Amonte Hiller, has coached Northwestern women’s lacrosse to seven NCAA titles, and her dad, Scott, is an assistant coach for the Wildcats.
“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Hiller said. “My parents are always motivating me and they’re great coaches.”
She’s following in their footsteps, too. Practice starts Monday for Hiller and the rest of her Loyola lacrosse teammates. But for the weekend at least, she and the Ramblers could bask in another milestone to cap a season full of them.
The Loyola boys set program records for sectional qualifiers, state qualifiers and state finalists in addition to getting their first individual champ.
“Hopefully it improves the program as a whole,” Collum said of all the success. “I’d like to have our guys down here for team state next year. That’s always the goal — winning team state titles. And getting more and more individual titles and more medals.”
Loyola senior Alexia Vasilopoulos (120) also traveled to Bloomington to compete in the finals. Vasilopoulos (12-5) won her opening match by pin (2 minutes 27 seconds) before dropping her next two
New Trier and Highland Park high schools also had representation at the girls state finals. Trevians sophomore Jillian Giller (25-11) wrestled at 140 pounds and bested her first opponent with a first-period pin before dropping her second match in overtime and her wrestleback by minor decision, 14-12.
Giants junior Clara Ugaz (17-11) competed at 135 and did not advance to Day 2.
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