By Kyle Daubs
You always hear stories about brothers wrestling in the house or in the front yard.
When people walked by the Bryant household and saw two girls going after it, who knows what people thought?
Maddie Bryant and her sister, Alaynia, were often seen wrestling each other. Now, all that time has passed, it has certainly been used for good measure.
“It was something new to us,” said Bryant. “We thought it was fun.”
It wasn’t that long ago where wrestling was mainly considered a male sport. Not anymore.
The Charleston High School senior became the first Coles County wrestler to participate in the IHSA state series. In its inaugural year of this girls-only state wrestling tournament, Bryant will be competing in the 110-pound weight class.
Bryant, one of 16 state finalists, seeks to medal by finishing among the top six in her weight class.
“I am going to go and wrestle my heart out,” said Bryant. “Placing would mean a lot to me because I know everyone is going to be cheering for me, and I don’t want to let any people down.”
Charleston wrestling coach Mike Stanley believes Bryant has a great first-round opportunity to make a solid first step in that quest. Bryant (16-14) will open against Burlington’s Victoria Macias (20-4 record). Stanley said that records, though, can be deceiving.
“I think she is capable of medaling,’ said Stanley. “If you look at the records, there are a lot better records than hers. However, I think a lot of those matches come from girls wrestling girls. All season long, Maddie has wrestled against the boys.”
Bryant has predominantly wrestled against boys all season. The team was unable to participate in an all-girls tournament due to a COVID-19 outbreak. The IHSA Sectional was the first time that Bryant wrestled back-to-back female wrestlers this season.
Stanley said between that experience this season, and the fact she is a senior in comparison to her freshman opponent, he likes her chances of getting out of the first round.
“With her being a senior, I think that is an advantage,” said Stanley. “That was the first thing I was thinking about when we saw her opponent as a freshman was the strength advantage. I told her to go out and be physical in the first match and use that strength to try and have a leg up. Once she starts feeling out her opponent, that could change.”
Stanley said no matter what happens Bryant usually outworks opponents.
“I push myself in practice in everything,” said Bryant. “I will practice with my step-dad at home. We’ll go over moves. My sister has helped a lot. Coach Stanley has helped me learn new things. I have just learned that if I wanted to go to state, I was going to have to wrestle hard and always keep my head up.”
That included at the sectional where Bryant had to overcome adversity. Bryant defeated Memphis Adkison-Berry of Canton in the quarterfinal, but was defeated by Lawrenceville’s Shaina Hyre in the semifinal. In the consolation bracket, Bryant battled back to defeat Gigi Linnhorst of Edwardsville and Baya Perez of Peoria Richwoods to advance.
It could have been easy to get down, but Bryant said she just “kept on going.” “Hard work pays off,” she added.
Now, Bryant will rely on more hard work to take on the biggest test of her wrestling career.
“It’s pretty exciting given that this is the inaugural state series and she is making school and Coles County history,” said Stanley. “It’s exciting to be a part of. She has put in a lot of work since she was younger. I wasn’t a part of everything, but you can tell she’s out of work. Her success definitely comes from her work ethic. To be where she is today definitely stems from her working hard.”