Brentwood High senior Zoe Arrindell remembers the thrill of standing on the medal podium at last season’s Missouri girls wrestling state tournament.
She also recalls how hard it was to get there.
A two-time state qualifier, Arrindell earned a sixth-place medal at 103 pounds as a junior. But this season the elevator to carry her to a higher step on the podium has been stuck on the ground floor.
“I’m trying to make it a good year, but it’s definitely been odd,” Arrindell said.
After Arrindell traveled out of the country to St. Martin to visit family, she needed to quarantine for two weeks. Then, a member of the Brentwood boys team contracted COVID-19, putting the entire wrestling program on pause for another two weeks.
Only Arrindell and sophomore Annsleigh Alexander compete for the Brentwood girls team, so participation in dual meets was limited. Arrindell arrived Feb. 3 at the District 3 championships at Holt High School with a 5-0 record, with three wins by forfeit and having wrestled only two actual matches.
“I’ve really struggled to get matches this year,” Arrindell said. “At times, I was just taking byes to get matches on my record, so it really wasn’t helpful.”
At the district tournament, Arrindell registered impressive first period pins over Lily Meyer of Winfield and Camrin Watkins of Francis Howell Central. But as the championship match with undefeated Alyssa King of St. Charles moved into the second and third periods, Arrindell’s strength and stamina began to fade.
King racked up points and riding time and earned a 7-2 victory. It was the 25th win of the season for King, but only the sixth that did not end in a pin.
The runner-up finish earned Arrindell a trip to the sectional round Saturday in Versailles, where she will need to place in the top three in the 102-pound weight class to advance to the state meet for the third successive year.
Missouri’s girls wrestling state tournament is scheduled for March 9 at Cable Dahmer Arena in Independence.
“This was my first tournament. I’m trying to get it together and finish strong,” Arrindell said. “I’ve had a lot of practice time so I’m still confident.”
Her practice partner is three-time Brentwood boys state qualifier Owen Brotherton, who has helped Arrindell stay sharp in the absence of actual matches.
“He has pushed me and he’s the reason that I am as strong and as capable,” Arrindell said. “I think (postseason success) will be a mix of keeping my head in the game, not being overconfident, taking notes on (possible opponents) and letting my coaches be my eyes off the mat.”
The sectional round is new this season and Arrindell welcomes the additional chance to test herself against top competition.
“It’s interesting. It’s like the road to state is different every year so I’m enticed to see how it will go,” Arrindell said. “I’ll just stay in the moment and enjoy it.”
When she was younger, Arrindell attended matches to watch her older brother Amari wrestle and became an avid fan of watching World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) on television.
She was a sophomore when girls wrestling became a sanctioned sport in Missouri.
“I gave it a run and qualified for state unexpectedly. After that I just kept with it,” Arrindell said.
Arrindell is planning to study pre-med in college and is leaning toward attending Xavier University of Louisiana, located in New Orleans. Her love for learning is evident in her academic excellence, her club involvement and her development as a wrestler.
“It teaches me. I respect the sport and it respects me back,” Arrindell said.
Xavier University does not offer wrestling as part of its NAIA athletics program, but Arrindell refuses to call this postseason her final experience in a wrestling room.
“I’m stopping for now, but we’ll see where it goes. I may eventually get back into wrestling,” Arrindell said.
And it is that reverence for the sport that has Arrindell looking at what the season could become instead of what it was not.
“I feel confident, I feel capable and that’s why I’m here,” she said.