Ashlyn Eli is pleasantly surprised to be carrying an 18-1 W-L record into the post-season, while emerging as the headliner for Nixa’s inaugural girls season on the mat.
“The season has actually played out better than I expected,” the Lady Eagles’ 103-pound freshman said.
Nixa coach Dustin Martin is hopeful Eli will receive the No. 1 seed at 103 for this weekend’s Class 1 District 3 Tournament at Nixa. Action will get under way Friday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 10 a.m.
Eli has been dominant, but hasn’t enjoyed an entirely smooth journey to this point. She’s dealt with her share of adversity.
Most notably, Eli lost her practice partner, Chloe Brower, early in the season. Brower, who had also established herself as one of the Lady Eagles’ leaders, suffered a broken elbow.
“I definitely have missed her,” Eli said. “She was at the same level as me. It’s hard to wrestle against someone who is not the same level as you.”
Eli’s nerves prior to a match have been a season-long topic of discussion in Nixa’s camp. She relates her nervous energy has carried onto the mat and at times affected her performance.
It’s been a constant struggle.
“I’ve been working on how nervous I am before matches,” Eli said. “Both my brothers have been a help since they have wrestled for a long time. They tell me not worry about it, just go out and wrestle like I have been wrestling.”
Ashlyn’s brothers are Jordan Eli, a former Nixa wrestler who graduated last year and Kolyn Eli, a rapidly rising star at 145 pounds as an Eagles sophomore.
“I was the same way when I started,” Kolyn said of battling butterflies. “I would get super nervous. Now, the only time I get nervous is if I’m wrestling somebody my skill level. We always try to calm her down and tell her she’s going to win.”
The top three finishers in each weight class at Districts will advance to State. The field at Nixa will include representatives from 53 schools.
Eli is ranked No. 4 at 103 by MissouriWrestling.com. She will not see the three wrestlers ranked ahead of her this weekend. Among the eight 103-pounders in the rankings, Eli, Ray-Pec freshman Shelby Patterson and Camdenton freshman Taylor Mustain will compete at Nixa.
Eli has yet to lose against in-state competition. The lone blemish on her record is a loss against a grappler from Texas at the Kansas City Stampede.
Eli’s repertoire is ever-growing. Her only experience prior to this season was as a third- and fourth-grader while living in North Dakota.
“She is a very hard worker in the practice room and is expanding her technique every day,” Martin said. “Our goal is for her to qualify for state.”
“I’ve showed her the basic moves I do,” Kolyn said. “She’s getting pretty good at them, probably better than me. I have a good feeling about her qualifying for State. I think she can do it.”