Bremen’s Morgan Turner becomes the first girl to medal at the boys state wrestling meet

Five years after Richards’ Mia Palumbo became the first girl to win a match at the boys state finals, Morgan Turner became the first female placer in the event, which began in 1937.

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Bremen freshman Morgan Turner became the first girl to earn a medal at the boys wrestling state finals, taking third at 106 pounds in Class 2A.

Bremen freshman Morgan Turner became the first girl to earn a medal at the boys wrestling state finals, taking third at 106 pounds in Class 2A.

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The surging popularity of girls wrestling in Illinois means Morgan Turner could have chased a state title against other females.

But that was never an option for the Bremen freshman.

Gambling on herself paid off in a big way last weekend in Champaign. Five years after Richards’ Mia Palumbo became the first girl to win a match at the boys state finals, Turner became the first female placer in the event, which began in 1937.

Turner lost 3-0 to eventual champ Anthony Alanis of Grayslake Central in the Class 2A 106-pound semifinals and went on to finish third. She’s happy, but not satisfied.

“I wanted to take first but I think third place is also great,” Turner said.

Turner, who finished 35-3 this season, figured she’d be competitive against IHSA boys opponents because she was an Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation champ going against males. That’s why she never considered entering the IHSA girls state series, which is in its second year.

“The girls, I’m not taking anything away from them,” she said. “But I’ve been wrestling boys my whole life. So when competing with the girls, it’s easier. I haven’t had anybody to push me yet.

“I know it’s more to come as I grow older, but [wrestling against] boys is more of a challenge and I’m definitely used to them.”

Bremen coach Mike Collins saw from the get-go Turner would be up to the test she set for herself.

“Watching her at the first meet, I was impressed with her balance and her skill,” he said. “She is by far one of the most skilled wrestlers I’ve ever coached.”

And Collins knew Turner wouldn’t be fazed by the bright lights and sensory overload of the state tournament at State Farm Arena, where competition goes on simultaneously on six mats and fans can get loud.

“This isn’t her first rodeo,” Collins said. “She’s wrestled in big tournaments internationally.”

Collins sees only better things ahead for Turner, who was undersized for her weight class, competing at about 100 pounds.

Bremen freshman Morgan Turner became the first girl to earn a medal at the boys wrestling state finals, taking third at 106 pounds in Class 2A.

Bremen freshman Morgan Turner became the first girl to earn a medal at the boys wrestling state finals, taking third at 106 pounds in Class 2A.

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As she continues to do weight training and grow, “she’ll be that much stronger,” he said.

And she’s also had plenty of family support, including from her senior brother Nore. He also wound up on the awards podium, taking fourth at 120 in Class 2A.

“It’s a sibling rivalry, I’ve always wanted to be better than him,” Morgan said with a smile. “He’s been helping me. Usually, he’ll be like, ‘I bet I can beat you at this.’ But on the journey to place here, he’s ... helped me practice. He’s helped me mentally, emotionally and physically get ready for this tournament.”

That’s why it was so meaningful for the Turners to share the spotlight on the awards stand.

“I was so happy for Nore,” Collins said, “He has had bad luck with broken bones. He broke his leg playing football, we were hoping he’d be back for the second half of the season.”

But Nore got healthy in time to go 33-5 and make the medals stand in his final prep season. Sharing that moment was meaningful for Morgan, who contrasted this feeling with one year in kids wrestling when the siblings did not win ttles.

“Being able to place is definitely great, especially since it’s on a higher level,” she said. “I feel like me and him on the podium together is definitely history.”

And this could just be the beginning of the history she could make.

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