Sophia Figueroa, a sophomore at Sandburg, wrestles for the Andrew co-op.

Sophia Figueroa, a sophomore at Sandburg, wrestles for the Andrew co-op.

Girls Wrestling | Sandburg’s Sophia Figueroa eyes state tourney bid

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By Steve Millar 
Correspondent

Sophia Figueroa is fired up for the girls wrestling postseason.

The Sandburg sophomore competes for the Andrew co-op girls team, which also includes wrestlers from Stagg.

As a freshman last season, Figueroa fell one win short of qualifying for the inaugural IHSA girls wrestling state finals. She was pinned by Lincoln-Way Central’s Emily Peyton in the Andrew Sectional consolation semifinals — also known as the “blood round” — at 110 pounds.

“It gives me a lot of motivation,” Figueroa said. “I’m ready to get to state this year. I know I have a few tough opponents that I need to beat in order to get there, but I’m willing to put in the work in practice to get there.”

This season’s girls individual sectionals will be Feb. 10-11. The state finals are scheduled for Feb. 24-25 at Grossinger Arena at Illinois State University in Bloomington.

Figueroa has been wrestling since fourth grade, when she joined the Orland Park Pioneers.

“My dad signed me and my brother up,” she said. “I liked beating up the boys in practice and I liked feeling strong. It made me feel good about myself.”

Figueroa is involved in multiple combat sports. She also competes in jiu-jitsu and kickboxing.

In the spring, she mixes things up with the Eagles’ badminton team.

“Badminton is a nice change of pace and it’s great to do something in the spring,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun doing something so different. But I love wrestling, jiu-jitsu, kickboxing — all of it.”

Andrew co-op coach Demeri Pajic said Figueroa’s knowledge of wrestling is evident at practices and meets, where she is happy to share her ideas with teammates.

“It’s really cool when you have those experienced girls in the room,” Pajic said. “She’ll notice something that another girl is doing and tell them, ‘Hey, maybe try it this way instead.’ So, that experience isn’t just helping her but it’s helping everybody on the team.”

Pajic said she sometimes worries about how an experienced wrestler will interact with newcomers to the sport. Many of the team’s members just joined within the last year or two, especially those wrestling at the lower weights.

That’s never a problem with Figueroa.

“She’s always great with whoever we pair her up with,” Pajic said. “She’ll help them and she’s always finding ways to make herself better, too. She steps things up.

“She’ll even wrestle the guys. She’ll be like, ‘Oh, I need to change up partners.’ So, she’s always willing to take on that challenge.”

Figueroa has had strong results in tournaments this season, including a second-place finish at the Pontiac Invite and a fourth at the Batavia Invite.

The co-op has been highly successful as a team, winning the championship at both those events and the Schaumburg Invite.

“It’s great,” Figueroa said. “It’s a great to be a part of. All the girls are doing so well and we’re getting so many great wins.”

When Figueroa first started wrestling she competed primarily against boys, and it was relatively rare for her to run into other girls. Now, she’s having a blast taking part in girls tournaments and duals.

“I’ve always loved when I was younger, meeting the girls who were wrestling on other teams and making friends with them,” Figueroa said. “Now that we’re in high school and we’re on girls teams, we get to reunite. All the girls are friends. It’s very cool to be a part of.”

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