Han defeated Antionna Cunningham, of Lebanon, 19-4 by technical fall to win the 136-pound championship at the inaugural Missouri Girls State Wrestling Tournament in Columbia. It was a moment that left Han feeling humbled and happy.
“I felt very honored and great,” Han said. “It was a very proud moment. So many people have supported me. So many people that I looked up to congratulated me, and it was a very happy moment.”
Han had a superb freshman season going 26-0 with 23 falls, two technical falls and one major decision.
Holt coach Andrew Hammond described Han’s win as “awesome.” Of Han, he said, “Esther loves to wrestle and is so coachable.”
Han, who moved to Holt from Carbondale, Illinois, came to the Indians with a strong wrestling and competitive judo background, which helped her pick up wrestling very quickly.
Her father, Sangpill, taught her judo at an early age and those techniques have been a major help to her in wrestling.
“Techniques like the throwing and sweeps help connect me to other wrestling moves,” Han said. “[Judo] really works well on [many] different people because they don’t expect to be thrown. It really connects well if you’re attacking the leg and fail; you can climb up the body and throw [them].”
After receiving a first round bye in the tournament, Han defeated Lotus Van Dyk, of Nevada, in the quarterfinals. Then, beat Heather Pankey, of St. James, by fall in her semifinal match to advance to the championship match.
Hammond is hopeful that Han’s championship will spur even stronger interest in the sport both at the state and local level. Holt had 11 girls compete in wrestling this winter.
Missouri is the ninth state to host a separate state wrestling tournament for girls.
“The girls program in Missouri is only going to go up from here,” Hammond said. “It’s only going to improve our sport both at a local level and a state level.”
Three other area wrestlers also performed well in the state tournament.
Caitlyn Thorne, of St. Charles, finished in third place at 116 pounds. Thorne was 36-5 on the season. Fort Zumwalt West’s Vivian Madrid [26-3] took third in the 121-pound class. Francis Howell’s Emily Eberwine [33-5)] also had a strong showing, placing third at 126.