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Athlete of the Week: Yorkville wrestler Kerigan McKenna takes 2nd in girls state tournament

Yorkville junior Kerigan McKenna took second place at the Illinois Girls Folkstyle State Championships this past Saturday
Yorkville junior Kerigan McKenna took second place at the Illinois Girls Folkstyle State Championships this past Saturday

Jake Oster has seen both sides to Kerigan McKenna.

Yorkville's junior is a typical giggly teenager when she walks into the wrestling room for practice.

"But when we start wrestling, the switch comes on," said Oster, Yorkville's wrestling coach. "She's a girl that likes to compete."

McKenna, indeed, means business.

At the first-ever girls state tournament sponsored by the Illinois Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association in Springfield last weekend, McKenna took second in the 122-pound weight class.

McKenna pinned all three opponents at sectionals to reach state, then pinned Mascoutah's Eve Slago in 49 seconds and Larkin's Cassandra Brother in 2:48 to reach the finals. There she lost a 10-0 decision to East Peoria's Randi Robison.

For her achievement, Kerigan McKenna is the Record Athlete of the Week.

"My first two matches were good matches. That last one, I think I underestimated her," McKenna said. "She got me on two good moves. The third period I kept trying to turn her, but she was stronger than I expected."

McKenna is no stranger to the state experience.

She's won Illinois Girls Folkstyle State Championships two of the last three years. McKenna, who transferred to Yorkville from Naperville North this year, went 13-2 in JV matches. She also got in two varsity matches.

"She's not one to shy away from competition," Oster said.

It's easy to see why.

The McKenna triplets – Kerigan and brothers Sean and Quinn – started wrestling with the Waubonsie Wrestling Club when they were 6. Sean now wrestles at Marmion, Quinn at Naperville North.

Their dad, Robert McKenna, wrestled at Naperville Central.

He passed along wrestling to his daughter, but that's not all. He also showed her the basics in boxing since she was little.

During wrestling season, she goes to wrestling practice until 5:30 p.m., goes home to eat, then heads to Pache-Ko Boxing in Aurora for practice from 6 to 8 p.m.

McKenna had her first bout in November, winning by technical knockout, and will be competing in the Golden Gloves Tournament in April in suburban Cicero.

"I've been trying to get more [bouts]," McKenna said. "Wrestling and boxing, they're both aggressive sports. Other than that there's not much similarity."

McKenna also practices judo, and with high school wrestling season over plans to take up jiu jitsu.

McKenna last year earned a spot on the Illinois/USA wrestling team. She traveled to Las Vegas, Texas and North Dakota.

She's beaten a wrestler who made news this month.

Mack Beggs, a 17-year-old transgender boy from Texas who had been taking testosterone for well over a year, was thrust into the national spotlight after winning the girls state title.

McKenna wrestled Beggs in 2015 in Fargo, North Dakota.

"It was when [Beggs] had started taking the testosterone," McKenna said. "At the time I had no idea [he] was doing that. I just thought of it as a normal match. I wrestle boys all the time. Everybody was talking about it for a while. It was cool that I beat [him]."

McKenna admitted to being scared about the move to Yorkville from Naperville this year, but she liked the fit.

Interest in girls wrestling has taken off the last two decades. Since 1994, the number of girls wrestling in high school has gone from 800 to well over 11,000, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association.

Oster had a girl that wrestled for him at Lockport go on to the Olympics, and has had other girls wrestle for him at Yorkville. McKenna had wrestled with Yorkville's Brett Stauffenberg and Justin Harnes in kids' club.

"I like how they're more into wrestling here at Yorkville," McKenna said. "At the scrimmage for wrestle-offs, the people from the school come out to support wrestling."

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