By JARED BELL
Quiovany Santos and Mia Palumbo had no clue.
Before last weekend’s IHSA sectional tournaments, both female wrestling stars had no idea about the other.
Funny thing is, after their weekend accomplishments, now everyone knows who they both are.
After an exciting and thrilling weekend, both Santos and Palumbo stole headlines as they became the third and fourth females in history to qualify for the IHSA State Tournament.
“(After the sectional) was actually the first time I had heard of her,” Santos, a 106-pound senior at Chicago Dunbar, said of Palumbo. “It’s really cool to have her win, too. Not a lot of girls can do that, so to know that there’s another girl at another sectional who was able to win was pretty neat.”
It was a first as both Santos and Palumbo became the first female wrestlers in IHSA history to win a sectional title and, for all they accomplished last weekend, they are this week’s GO EARN IT co-Wrestlers of the Week.
2017-18 GO EARN IT WRESTLERS OF THE WEEK
2/4: Stone Engle, Mercer County
1/28: Zach Williard, Carbondale
1/21: Bilal Bailey, TF North
1/14: John Paul Smith, Wheeling
1/7: Michael Donatelli, Geneva
1/1: Noah Villarreal, Aurora Christian
12/24: Jack Jessen, Willowbrook
12/17: Joe Roberts, Yorkville
12/10: DJ Hamiti, Joliet Catholic
12/3: Connor Gaynor, Mt. Carmel
11/26: Trevor Chumbley, Marmion
“It was really nice to be able to do this with someone else,” said Palumbo, a 106-pound freshman at Richards. “We have shown other girls that we can compete with and be just as good the boys.”
Santos, who only began wrestling three years ago, won a title at the Class 1A Chicago Hope Sectional. The senior star won her quarterfinal match by fall, her semifinal by technical fall and won the championship match by forfeit.
With the victory, she improved to 30-4 entering the IHSA State Tournament, which starts Thursday in Champaign.
“It was actually a bit of a surprise,” Santos said of her title. “I never doubted myself, but I knew it’d be tough. Afterward, everyone was congratulating me and telling me how great of a job I did.”
Palumbo also had an impressive showing at the Class 2A Hinsdale South Sectional.
After the freshman won by tech fall in the quarterfinals, she won by a 4-0 decision in the semifinals and a 3-0 decision in the championship match.
In her three sectional matches, Palumbo didn’t give up a single point as she improved 28-3 this season.
“I put in a lot of work to try to get to state, so I thought I had a real good chance to get there,” said Palumbo, who began wrestling at age 4. “When I won, it was an awesome moment, and everyone started clapping and cheering for me.”
By qualifying for state, the duo joins an elite group of female state qualifiers. Glenbard North alumna Caitlyn Chase became the first female to qualify for the state tournament in 2005, while Carbondale graduate Alli Ragan qualified for state in 2007.
However, neither won a sectional title and neither won a match at state, something both Santos and Palumbo are looking to change this weekend.
“If I could win a match and if I could medal, it would mean a lot because that’s one of my next goals,” Santos said. “Being able to accomplish it would be pretty neat.”
No matter what happens, each has already made a name for herself and has shown what females can do in the sport.
“It’s a really good feeling to be someone who someone else’s kid can look up to,” said Santos, who is looking to wrestle in college. “I love showing young girls that they can do whatever they want.”
Together, Santos and Palumbo have proved that anything is doable.
“I hope that our success shows that girls can be just as strong as the boys, if not stronger,” Palumbo said. “We can go out and work to be just as good.”