Amara Ehsa stuck two fingers in the air as she was officially crowned state champion at 105 lbs at the 2023 Class 5A-6A State Championship on Feb. 23. The junior has now added two state titles to her collection after becoming the first state placeholder on the Derby women’s wrestling program last season.
Ehsa defeated Dodge City’s Jessica Rivera with a first period pin. It was the second year in a row that Ehsa had defeated his opponents via pin in his state title match. Ehsa and Rivera faced each other twice before the state tournament. Rivera defeated Ehsa in the first tournament of the season, and Ehsa earned a win at the regional tournament.
According to the coaching staff, there were people who doubted her after the opening tournament loss, and she had to fight hard a period of doubt. As the season progressed, she began to prove that she was the fighter to beat in the weight class.
“There were a lot of people who doubted her, and I think at one point she started to indulge in that too,” said coach Kelly Heincker. “As the year went on, she continued to stay true to herself. She has got to prove to others and to herself that she has the talent to compete at a high level”.
Ehsa made it to the final with a quick 3-0 win in the opening rounds of the tournament on 22 February. During the title game, Heincker told Ehsa to avoid following up on a cradle attempt because Dodge City is trained to use it to their advantage which it carries in a way to generate offense. Ehsa followed his coach’s instructions which paid off.
“I had a locked crib and I heard Coach Heincker not do it, and luckily I listened to that and let it go,” Ehsa said. “Later, he told me [Dodge City] he can use the cradle against you and pin you easily so luckily i listened.
Ehsa led the program with three state finishes with a pair of state titles. But the Panthers sent a career-high five fighters to the tournament, including three freshmen.
Junior Trinity Williams capped off an adversity-filled season with a fourth-place finish at 190 pounds. Williams wasted time with injury and had to fight through the consolation rounds after losing to eventual runner-up Makayla Rivera of Olathe West in the quarterfinals.
Heincker said Williams has shown resilience to fight through the consolation bracket, which has been a result of her growth this season. Williams went 3-1 on the second day of the tournament.
“[Williams] it hurt most of the day, but it continued to hurt throughout the tournament,” Heincker said. this season, and it’s so nice to see the results of his daily actions.”
Freshman Brooke Downs (130) had one of the toughest opening rounds across the board, facing 2022 state champion and 40-win wrestler and eventual repeat state champion Nicole Redmond of Olathe South. Downs Tournament to next round. Freshman Analicia Lopez (235) also came off Day 1 with a couple tough games. Chloe Spears went 1-2 at 170 hers in the first hers state tournament. The coaching staff said all three freshmen had tough ties but showed plenty of growth and potential.
“We did what we came to do, which is growth,” Heincker said. “Overall, the tournament has been a huge success because it’s another building block in our growth as a program.”
The women’s program had a full roster of 14 athletes this season and won the AVCTL-I for the first time. Derby have struggled with injuries all season and the coaching staff are keen to see the team grow. The Panthers will be a senior group next season and don’t anticipate losing anyone from its varsity roster.
“There’s a lot of excitement around the program, and the junior class sees it as their job to build the program to a point where the program doesn’t taper off,” Heincker said. “It’s exciting because it’s not just the five state qualifiers that we’re excited about; there’s a lot of talent ready to make it.”
Cody Friesen is the sports editor of the Derby Informer. Contact him with sports advice at [email protected] and follow @Derby_Sports on Twitter for the latest updates.