Partly because they are outstanding athletes. Partly because they dominated their opponents. But mostly because they each placed second in the state meet last month, sophomore Zoee Sadler of Anna-Jonesboro and junior Alivia Ming of Goreville are our unanimous picks for Co-Wrestlers of the Year in the female division.
Sadler finished a robust 41-6 this past season for the Wildcats, which included a 35-5 mark against boys in her weight class and 6-1 mark against girls.
In her two-year career at A-J, Sadler has compiled a 75-18 record. She dropped down to 106 pounds this season after competing at 113 last year.
Ming sported a 39-11 record this season with the Blackcats, including a 25-2 mark against girls and 14-9 mark against the boys, and now stands 70-38 for her career while competing at 138 pounds. She, too, wrestles mostly against boys.
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“Zoee is a very technical wrestler who doesn’t put herself in a bad spot very often,” said Anna-Jonesboro coach Chase Hargrave. “She is good at understanding how to use her opponents’ momentum against them.”
Hargrave said Sadler has a tremendous work ethic who puts hours into her craft.
“She is constantly wanting to get better and has become one of our team leaders,” he said.
Hargrave added that Sadler, whose twin brother, Drew, placed second at state on the boys’ side, is more of a counter puncher so to speak when wrestling boys – waiting for her opponent to make a mistake - but is more aggressive and on the attack when going up against girls.
“Because most girls aren’t as strong as boys, Zoee is able to bring more pressure against them,” Hargrave said. “It’s a totally different approach and she’s good either way.”
Sadler said winning a state championship would have been better, but second place was not too shabby.
“Getting that far and placing that high means a lot to me,” she said. “I’ve been working toward a championship for so long now that I can almost taste it. I want to get back up there next year and win it, and then win it again my senior year.”
Sadler said she learned much about wrestling from her brother and coaches.
“As I got more experienced, I learned how to compete better,” she said. “It’s important to be strong and it’s important to be good with your technique, but it’s also important to be smart. You have to take advantage of your opponents’ weaknesses.”
Sadler said she only grappled with boys during the regular season and faced her first female opponent in the sectional. She went on to win the sectional and her first couple of matches at state before finally falling in the title bout.
“This offseason, I plan to develop my upper body more and compete in some freestyle wrestling tournaments,” Sadler said. “I’m hoping to qualify for the national tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.”
Sadler is also a member of the A-J/Cobden soccer team this spring, which she said, “helps keep me in shape.”
The sophomore added that she appreciates the support she has received from family and friends.
“There have been so many who have been supportive, especially my family and teammates. I can’t say how much I appreciate them all.”
Ming is building a dynasty of her own at Goreville.
“I would have liked to have won it (state championship), but getting second was pretty nice. It’s a lot better than when I finished fourth last year,” she said. “It was a great experience competing up north and I am looking forward to making it back there. I have one more year to finish on top.”
Ming explained that guys just try to use brute force to manhandle her into a defeated position.
“You have to learn how to roll with it – work your technique to get the guy into a position where you can score. It takes time. Girls are more flexible than guys and so it’s not as easy to do certain moves with them. You have to make adjustments.”
Ming, who is a Vienna High School student, is no stranger to contact. She played football for a couple of years on the Vienna-Goreville team. That experience toughened her up for wrestling.
Whereas Vienna is the host school in football, Goreville is the lead school in a cooperative agreement between the two districts for wrestling.
“I’m now one of our team captains,” she said. “I like joking around and having fun before practice starts, but once it starts, I’m all business. I want to get better on the mat. I want to get stronger and improve my technique as much as I can.”
Goreville head coach Bart Pulliam said Ming is the total package – a very good athlete who is a team leader and an outstanding student.
“Alivia is very dedicated with a great attitude,” he said. “She runs our warmups at practice every day. This was her third year with the program and her second time competing at state. She had simply an outstanding season.”
Pulliam added that Ming helps recruit wrestlers for the program.
“Alivia does a little bit of everything for us. She’s like our taxi cab driver. I think she’s going to get better and better.”
Like Sadler, Ming plans to compete in various freestyle wrestling tournaments this summer.
“I like pinning people. That’s why I love wrestling,” she said.