Home Sports Breakout star: Only a freshman, Claudia Heeney puts Lockport girls wrestling on national map. ‘She’s relentless.’

Breakout star: Only a freshman, Claudia Heeney puts Lockport girls wrestling on national map. ‘She’s relentless.’

by staff

Lockport’s Claudia Heeney has burst onto the girls wrestling scene as one of the top competitors in the state as just a freshman.

But Heeney may not have ever started with the sport if it wasn’t for the one girl on her younger brother’s club six years ago.

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“My little brother Griffin started wrestling first when he was really young,” Heeney said. “There was a girl at the club. She doesn’t wrestle anymore. But I saw her wrestling and I was like, ‘Maybe I should try it.’ That’s how it started.

“There was just something about how tough it is. The fact that it’s so tough makes it where you can be so much more proud of yourself when you get good outcomes.”

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Heeney has had nothing but good outcomes so far in her high school career. She continued her undefeated season Thursday with two wins at the Andrew triangular.

Andrew co-op had a perfect night, winning its dual meet over Lockport 51-30 and beating Homewood-Flossmoor 51-26. H-F beat the Porters 39-30.

Although Lockport came up short in both duals, Heeney continued to be untouchable. The 125-pounder pinned Andrew’s Sophia Fontana and received a forfeit victory in the H-F dual.

Heeney (28-0) is ranked No. 2 in the state at 125 by Illinois Matwomen. She has even cracked some national rankings.

“She’s relentless,” Lockport coach Nathaniel Roth said of Heeney. “She’s just amazing. I can’t even put it into words. Even as a freshman, she’s a fantastic leader. She motivates the rest of the girls to do their best.”

Lockport's Maya Herandez, left, works over Andrew's Kate Cygan during the Andrew triangular in Tinley Park on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Heeney has a chance to make history in several ways when the postseason rolls around.

Lockport had two qualifiers for the inaugural Illinois High School Association girls state finals last season but is looking for its first medalist, and of course, its first champion.

“I’m really excited about it, especially with it being only the second ever state series for girls,” Heeney said. “I’m really looking forward to it. When I first started wrestling, there’d be maybe one or two other girls at tournaments.

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“So now, to go to all-girls tournaments and have some all-girls teams, it’s just insane. People say it’s the fastest-growing sport, but you don’t really know it until you see it.”

Andrew co-op, which includes girls from Sandburg and Stagg, has established itself as one of the deepest teams in the state.

Lockport's Monica Skibicki, left, stops a takedown attempt from Andrew's Layan Saleh during the Andrew triangular in Tinley Park on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

Kate Cygan (120), Nola Oben (140), Addy Gath (155) and Mickaela Keane (170) went 2-0 on the night for the Thunderbolts.

Cygan celebrated her senior night as she winds down a high school career that’s been quite the wild ride.

“My first match ever, when I was a sophomore, I dislocated my elbow and missed the whole season,” Cygan said. “Last year, I came back and qualified for state, and now I’m just trying to do it again.

“I’m really excited about our team. We have great coaches — they’re very supportive and show us a lot of great techniques. And we all work hard in practice.”

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Homewood-Flossmoor's Attalia Watson-Castro, top, tries to stop Lockport's Lucy Madrigal from escaping during the Andrew triangular in Tinley Park on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023.

H-F’s Attalia Watson-Castro, the lone state champion from the Southland last season, had pins in both her official matches Thursday but left Tinley Park with some extra motivation after being stunningly pinned by Andrew’s Alyssa Keane in an exhibition match.

Ini Odumosu, who finished fifth at state last season, had a pin and a major decision for H-F at 190.

“I’m definitely taking more risks this season,” Odumosu said. “Last year, I was more of a defensive wrestler. I’ve learned multiple times this year and that being defensive all the time doesn’t always work.

“I had a couple losses, but I learned from them. I’m really a different wrestler now and I’m excited for the postseason.”

Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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