ONTARIO – The victory didn’t produce gaudy headlines nor yield a parade but when the Four Rivers Community School girls wrestling team claimed the top spot at an Elgin Class 1A tournament, the win marked a major milestone for a program that didn’t even exist three years ago.
The young Lady Falcon wrestling team of Lacatia and Keelee Mason, Quinn Newberry and Georgie Edmunson beat more than a dozen other teams at the big tournament in January to claim first place in team standings.
Lacatia Mason won first in the 106-pound category while Edmunson clinched first at 135 pounds and Keelee Mason claimed second place at 130 pounds. Newberry finished with a second-place finish at 190 pounds.
For Falcons coach Gerald Whinery, the Elgin tournament win was a statement on the mental toughness of his athletes.
“A lot of it is attributed to their personalities and it shows you, you just need to have the right people,” said Whinery.
Two years ago, when the Four Rivers wrestling program was in its infancy, it would have been a safe bet the program faced at least several years of struggle to become competitive.
Whinery said the first year was a learning process.
“It was kind of like trying to figure it all out – how things worked and how to get scheduling correct,” he said.
Whinery said early on the inexperience was obvious.
“They were timid about wrestling. They didn’t have both feet in the water,” he said.
“Then halfway through the season we got the ball rolling. This year everybody is excited and can’t wait to get to practice,” he said.
Whinery said the small number of girls on the team is an advantage.
“We are able to work individually with each wrestler. We are able to make adjustments a lot faster,” he said.
After the first season, juniors Lacatia Mason, Newberry and sophomore Edmunson returned for another year.
“We are trying to create a program so having the same girls return for a second year is a huge deal,” he said.
Team chemistry is key, said Lacatia Mason, 17.
“If there is drama, we don’t let it affect us,” she said.
Freshman Keelee Mason, Lacatia’s sister, agreed.
“The wrestling relationship we have is really close,” she said.
Whinery said the formation of the wrestling program can be traced to Lacatia Mason and her dad, Dustin.
“It was her effort with her dad and working with administration to really push for a wrestling program,” he said.
Lacatia Mason – who, along with Edmunson is a veteran of club wrestling – said she’s seen a “ton of growth” in the team in just one year.
“I’m happy with where we are at,” she said.
Lacatia Mason said the sport forces her out of her comfort zone.
“Other sports were not as much fun and they didn’t push me,” she said. “It teaches you how to deal with loss, accepting it and then using it to get better.”
Edmunson, once a cheerleader, she said she didn’t want to play basketball.
“So I thought, I might as well try wrestling,” said Edmunson.
Edmunson said she’s also learned from her wrestling career.
‘Wrestling teaches you to get up and go see how good you can potentially become,” said Edmunson.
Newberry, a junior, said wrestling “pushed me past a limit I didn’t think I could go.”
“I like being challenged athletically and wrestling just shows if you put in the time and effort, you can do it,” said Newberry.
Wrestling is a tough sport mentally and physically for all four girls. Lacatia Mason, the team captain, struggled to find the right words to explain the allure of the sport.
“It is hard to explain. It sucks but is also great,” said Mason.
Newberry said the Falcon squad grows closer as the season progresses.
“The team is like a second home,” said Newberry.
Whinery said he and assistant coach Justin Grover emphasize the importance of working together for a common goal.
“We don’t shy away from tough stuff. I feel that is what brought us together, this idea if one person is not doing what they are supposed to be doing it hurts the whole team,” he said.
News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]
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