SOUTHINGTON — Ashley Reed, the Southington wrestler who won a state crown at the inaugural CIAC girls tournament a year ago, completed her decorated high school career with an impressive national showing.
Reed finished second in the 160-pound division at High School Nationals, the annual event staged by the National High School Coaches Association in Virginia Beach, Va.
She pinned her way through the brackets before being defeated by Cheyenne Bowman of California in the final on Sunday.
“She wanted to win that last match,” Southington coach Derek Dion said Thursday. “That girl was an excellent wrestler. Ashley was close. She battled and wrestled well the whole tournament. I'm glad she got down there to do something for the season — anything.”
With the 2020-21 CIAC wrestling season a casualty of the pandemic, High School Nationals marked the only competition this year for Reed and Southington teammates Darius Mangiafico, Jared Mangiafico, Ben Gorr, Josh Howard and Colton Thorpe.
Reed cruised her way to the 160 girls final with three pins. She didn’t allow her opponents to score in any of those matchups.
This is the second time Reed has finished second at High School Nationals. She was third at 144 pounds in 2019, the initial year for girls competition.
In 2020, Reed won the 160-pound title at the CIAC's inaugural Girls Invitational Wrestling Tournament as a junior.
Dion said the Connecticut wrestlers were at a disadvantage having their first matches coming in a national tournament. He noted that most states had a high school season.
“With a full season, who knows, she could have won," Dion said. “All of the boys wrestled well for not wrestling all season. They all showed a lot of heart and wrestled hard.
“We didn’t have much time to try to get into some kind of shape. We haven’t had that match competition to get that blood flowing. A lot of the kids got caught with nerves in their first matches because they hadn’t wrestled all year. That was tough to overcome.”
Dion said it was difficult road for Reed, but she persevered.
“She had to battle. Every time she got on a roll and started wrestling well, she ended up getting injured," Dion said. “She came in her freshman year and had two ankle surgeries and missed the entire season. She had elbow surgery and a concussion. It was one thing after another for this poor kid. I can't imagine how good she would be without injuries the last four years. She's been hampered and hasn’t been able to reach her potential yet.”
Despite all of that, Reed signs off as a state champ and a two-time All American. Reed will continue wrestling in college at Division III North Central College in Naperville, Ill.
“I excited to see what she can do with a few years of good health," Dion said. “Her junior year she had a winning record against boys and was able to win the state championship and be a two-time All-American. All are great accomplishments, but I can't imagine how good she could have been if she had the opportunity to train for four straight years.”
Reed said she’s pumped to wrestle at North Central College.
“They have a good coaching staff and I've had a chance to meet a lot of girls on the team,” she said. “I have a very good opportunity there.”
Reed was also considering Sacred Heart and Elmira for college. She will study in the physical therapy and physician assistant programs.
Reed is excited to get back in action after wrestling was cancelled this past winter.
“I was bummed out; I was most likely going to have a varsity spot this year,” Reed said. “I was happy to wrestle at Nationals. I feel I could have wrestled better in the finals. I was proud how I pinned my way to the finals. It was nice to have Coach Dion there with me one last time.”