When Alaynia Bryant found out she could channel her anger in a healthier fashion, it made joining wrestling that much easier.
“I had a lot of anger as a kid,” said Bryant. “I found joy in it, so that is why I have been wrestling since I was five years old.”
With female wrestling in its second year, female wrestlers own their own state series but predominantly wrestle both genders during the season. There’s a certain type of toughness you have to own because of it, but Bryant will be the first to tell you she doesn’t care what you call yourself.
You better be ready to compete.
“I always go out aggressively,” said Bryant. “I’m not scared of anything. I’m confident in myself that I know what I can and can’t handle. If I know I have a tough opponent, I’m going to do whatever I can to beat them.”
It feels even better when it’s a boy wrestler though.
“Especially when it’s the guys,” said Bryant. “They are naturally so much stronger.”
That experience helped Bryant land the No. 1 overall seed at the Peoria Richwoods Sectional. Bryant received a first-round bye and then defeated Randi Campe of Urbana by fall just 12 seconds into the match. Bryant made the Sectional Championship by defeating Faith Loyd of Carbondale by fall with 2:41.
In the championship, Bryant defeated Holly Zugmaier of Edwardsville by fall with 5:06. Bryant ended Loyd’s season with an 18-8 record and Zugmaier’s record at 22-11. Meanwhile, Bryant’s record increased to 13-9. While the record may not have shown the wins like the others, Bryant spent most of this season wrestling the boys.
“It helps. It’s amazing because I know I put in the work,” said Bryant. “This has always been something I wanted. I’m going to go out and get it done.”
Bryant’s first opponent in the State Finals will be Ashley Villa of Lincoln Way Central High School. Villa is 9-4 on the season. If Bryant can win, she will take on the winner of Noelani Rodridugez (26-5) of Waukegan or Aubrie Rohrbacher (28-5) of Huntley.
Surely, there will be some friendly competition among sisters. Bryant’s older sister, Maddie, was the first female state qualifier out of Charleston last year but lost both her matches.
In the end, Bryant is hopeful she can go as far as she can because she knows she can hang with anyone.
“It’s amazing because I feel like I have more drive,” said Bryant. “I am going to go out and do the best I can. I finally got a dream and did something I always wanted to reach. There are going to be some challenges but I am going to just go out and do my best.”