By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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NEW PALESTINE — In an emerging high school sport —girls wrestling — Hancock County is home to many top competitors helping grow the sport, but one stands above the rest — Sydney DeLois.

The New Palestine junior, and The Daily Reporter 2023 Girls Wrestling Athlete of the Year, finished her 2022-23 season with a 22-2 record. She placed third in the 120-pound weight class at last week’s Indiana High School Girls Wrestling state finals.

“She’s been wrestling since she was in second grade, so I think her success was due to her experience and level of competitiveness,” Sydney’s father, and New Palestine girls wrestling head coach, Jason DeLois said. “It really wasn’t surprising to me at all that she only had two losses. She only had three losses last year, and over her high school career maybe has 10 total losses, so, I wasn’t too surprised with her performance this season.”

Her first loss came earlier in the season against an out-of-state opponent, and she suffered her only other loss in the IHSGW state semifinals last weekend at Mooresville High School.

Sydney, ranked No. 2 in the state in the 120-pound class, fell 6-0 to West Lafayette’s Rose Kaplan, the state’s No. 1 ranked wrestler. Kaplan went on to win the state title.

But in her third consecutive trip to the state tournament, she still moved up one spot in the final standings.

In her freshman and sophomore seasons, she ended the tournament with a loss in the third-place match. This season, she defeated Hamilton Southeastern’s Emily Anderson with a third-period fall.

“State, as always, is an amazing accomplishment for anyone that goes,” Sydney said. “I feel like the experience there is unlike any other because the pressure is really on all day in that tournament.”

A third-place state finish was just one of Sydney’s many accomplishments on the season.

She placed first at The Gobbler tournament, first at the Ben Davis Girls Invitational, and first at the IHSGW Regional tournament.

And she did so each time in dominant fashion.

At The Gobbler tournament she pinned all five of her opponents, at the Ben Davis Invitational she pinned all three of her opponents, and at the IHSGW Regional she pinned all four of her opponents.

Not only were they all victories by fall, they came quickly. Eleven of the 12 pins en route to her three first-place finishes came in the first round.

“As a wrestler, we always strive to excel a little bit. She’s learned some new techniques and done things a little differently. We haven’t really grown the last couple of years as far as weight. We’ve only gone up one weight class over the past three seasons, so it’s not a lot to adjust to,” coach DeLois said. “It’s fairly easy to excel when you’re not going up several weight classes.

“I would attribute that to her toughness and her ability to have a good position. Since the very first day of practice, she’s always had good positioning, and that’s not really something you can teach. I’ve been coaching for over 20 years, and you just can’t teach stuff like that. Natural positioning is a thing that you grow to love when you see it as a coach.”

It’s not just her success and ability on the mat that makes Sydney special, it’s what she feels she needs to do off of the mat, too.

Being one of the top competitors in the state for a sport that is growing each and every day and is on the cusp of becoming sanctioned by the Indiana High School Athletic Association, adds pressure to what she does, but it also gives her a chance to be at the forefront of helping grow the sport.

“Being at the forefront, I would say I feel pressured, but happy,” Sydney said. “I know some of the girls in our district, and I talk to them and I try to go and support them as much as I can. They know that I’m in their corner.”

While she’s made three straight state appearances, and holds the title as one of the best girls wrestlers in the state, DeLois still has one last accomplishment that’s been evading her — a state championship.

She believes her experiences and what she learned this season will help her get over that hump next year in her final high school season.

“This season, the mistakes that I’ve learned from are just the small ones, really. The small ones have a great deal of punishment, but next season I’m hoping to learn from them and improve upon them,” Sydney said. “And I’m just hoping to win state next year.”