By Mark Jurgena
COLLINSVILLE — Collinsville’s Taylor Dawson had a highly successful holiday break after winning a pair of tournament crowns.
She won the 130-pound crown at the Jacksonville Invite on Dec. 27 then two days later took the Wonder Women crown at Battle High School in Columbia, Mo. on Dec. 29.
In Columbia, she won six matches pinning five opponents and moving her season record to 28-0 with 25 pins.
“I feel like I performed really well,” said Dawson. “I defeated two state champs and one state finalist. I went from getting fifth last year to winning this year so I would say that’s a huge improvement. I think that lifting weights and wrestling all summer helped me win this year. Both of those helped me have confidence in myself as well. Winning this tournament is just the beginning. I feel like a different wrestler than I was last year.”
Dawson ran the gauntlet beginning in the quarterfinals where she met a state runner-up then took down two state champs to win the crown.
She beat Alexis Dunwiddie of Jefferson City, Mo. 5-4 in the championship contest. The loss dropped last year’s Missouri state champion to 22-2 so far this season.
“It was a super exciting finals match,” began CHS coach Jordan May. “I will say this is probably the best tournament I have seen her wrestle. She kept her calm the whole time and showed a lot of confidence.”
In the semifinals she beat Kaylan Hitchcock of Olathe, Kan. (North) by pin at 4:20. Hitchcock was last year’s Kansas state champion and dropped to 16-3 on the season.
Dawson beat Addison Harkus of Nixa, Mo. by pinfall at 2:19. Harkus was the runner-up at 125 last season and is currently 28-4 this year.
In the opening rounds she pinned Stella Grothauas of Park Hill, Mo. by pin at 3:25, Ive Smith of Waynesville, Mo. in 56 seconds and finally pinned Brookelynn Meeks of Blair Oaks, Mo. at the 2:54 mark. Meeks is 19-6 after the holidays.
“She came into this year and told me she was going to go undefeated and that she’s going to win the state title,” commented May. “I think her latest tournament has set the standard for that. She’s proving to us and to herself that she’s a lot better than she thinks she is and that going undefeated is within reach for her and obviously winning the state tournament is as well.”
Dawson won the 130-pound class in Jacksonville as well. She beat Taylor Sutton of East Peoria by pin at 2:09, then pinned Sofia Petronijevic of Berwin-Cicero (Berwyn) by pin at 4:39.
In the finals, she beat Kinnley Smith of Canton by pin at the 2:50 mark. Smith fell to 14-3 overall.
But she wasn’t the only Kahok doing work in Central Illinois.
Leann Cory took third place at 135 pounds.
She beat Faith Comas of Berwyn-Cicero (Morton) by pin at 3:06 to win third place.
In the opening round, Cory had beaten Imani Hawkins of Triad by pin at 17 seconds then beat Lillien Roughton Decatur (Unity Christian) by pin at 3:25.
In the semifinals, she fell to an undefeated Karen Canhola of Morton at by pin at 1:36.
“Leann is only a freshman so we have a lot of room to grow with her,” said May.
Tashieya Taylor took third at 155.
She pinned Anna Vasey Tolono (Unity) at 2:29 for third place.
Taylor had beaten Tahlor Granger Belleville West in 29 seconds to start the tourney then pinned Macee Hammond Robinson in 36 seconds to move to the semifinals.
In that semi, she was defeated by Elanna Hickman Alton (Sr.) by pinfall at 3:25.
“They’ve been having a lot of battles since last year,” said May. “Hickman actually dropped down to 155 for this tournament. Tashieya was holding her own but ended up losing. But she did pin everyone she beat. Our girls definitely like pinning people.”
Hannah Jones took seventh place at 170 pounds by winning three matches.
Jones beat Derika Gradford of Mt. Vernon by pin at 3:41. She scored a pin over Dekota Hall of Decatur (Eisenhower) at 1:26 with a pin.
She finished beating Gradford again via pinfall at 2:17.
“She didn’t have the tournament she thought she was going to have,” May began. “But I’m still really proud of her she did really well.”
Emma Ford won a match at 125 over Anne Porter of Springfield by pin at 31 seconds.
In the team standings, Collinsville tied for fourth place with Canton. Both schools had 81 points. Schaumburg won the 39-team tournament with 219 points.