Wilmette, Sports

Hiller’s ‘really bad’ midseason injury doesn’t stop her from medaling once again

A couple months ago, Harlee Hiller didn’t know if she’d wrestle again this year.

From that perspective, getting to Saturday’s IHSA state finals at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington was a darn good result.

But a 4-3 loss to Glenbard North junior Gabby Gomez — now a three-time champ with an 83-0 career record — in the 115-pound title bout was a tough finish to a challenging season.

“I think I wrestled hard and did my best,” Hiller said. “I knew it was going to be a close match.”

Gomez (38-0) had takedowns in the first and third periods, while Hiller (24-9) had one escape in the first period and two more in the third of the championship bout.

Just to be competing at all was a win in a way for Hiller, who was third at 105 as a freshman and won the 105 championship last year.

Her title defense hit a speed bump well before the finale, however.

“I injured my elbow halfway through the season and I didn’t come back till regionals,” Hiller said. “It was just tough because I didn’t know if I was going to come back or not.

“So I’m really happy that I was able to get this opportunity and I’m thankful for that.”

Loyola coach Matt Collum appreciated the grit Hiller showed in coming back from her injury.

“She worked really hard to rehab that elbow and get back down here,” Collum said. “She did miss two or three weeks back in December. But she came back, she worked hard. That’s all you can ask for.”

The runner-up finish will be fuel for Hiller going forward, for next year “and for freestyle season,” she said. “I’m going to keep wrestling and I’m going to do better.”

“I know she doesn’t like losing,” Collum said. “So she’s definitely going to be motivated to get better.”

Hiller is part of the recent resurgence for Loyola Academy wrestling. Last week, Kai Calcutt won the Class 3A 215-pound title and Quinn Herbert was second at 190 at the boys individual state meet. That’s on top of last season, when Massey Odiotti was the Ramblers’ first boys state champ and Calcutt was a runnerup.

“Putting people in the finals obviously helps get your program on the map,” Collum said. “We want to win. (But) I’m proud as heck of Harlee for battling out there, coming back from a really bad injury, getting out there and getting after it.

“It’s a tribute to her. She’s tough.”

Best of the rest

New Trier junior Jillian Giller (33-6) finished in the top eight at 140 pounds, going 2-2 and missing a medal by one win.

Also competing at state were Highland Park senior Clara Ugaz (19-7) at 135 and New Trier senior Nina Aceves (28-10) at 155.

The Record is a nonprofit, nonpartisan community newsroom that relies on reader support to fuel its independent local journalism.

Subscribe to The Record to fund responsible news coverage for your community.

Already a subscriber? You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time.

Mike Clark

Related Stories