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2x State Champion Ugochi Anunobi

Randallstown senior two-time all-girls state champion Ugochi Anunobi (170) recently returned from a four-day trip to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, a sojourn she asserts gave her “more in my arsenal.”

Anunobi received tips from world team coaches Katie Kriebel and Geneva Gray, rubbed shoulders with team members Skylar Grote, Jacarra Winchester, Sarah Hildebrandt and Dymond Guilford, befriended high school junior national champions Kaidence Gerg, Keilikk Hevani, Nau Rarick, runners-up Alexandra Alli and Mia Cienega, third-place finisher Mia Collins, and fifth-place winner Grace Leota.

The 17-year-old takes a record of 18-1 on the year and an exemplary 62-1 career mark into Saturday’s second-annual Queen Of The Jungle Tournament at Queen Anne’s, which features 35 teams from Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia and representing 15 different counties in Maryland.

Anunobi is expected to be joined by one-time state title winners in Southern-Anne Arundel County junior Domencia Gladwell (115), Crofton junior Lexy Pabon (125), Northern junior Emma Hardeman (125) and Queen Anne's junior Ally Conley (105).

By pinning all three of her 170-pound rivals, Anunobi won last month’s Ken Berlett Sr. Fall Classic at Milford Mill. She flattened two more opponents to win the Davison Classic at Randallstown earlier this month.

Anunobi earned her initial state title as a sophomore at the all-girls state championships at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro by completing an 11-0 season at 155 pounds despite having to overcome an injury to her left shoulder during her 13-9, championship victory over Elizabeth Heglar of McDonough.

As a junior, Anunobi finished with a mark of 30-0 that included being 3-0 (all pins) against boys. She earned her state championship victory with a 7-4 decision over previously unbeaten Azariyah Johnson (15-1) of Stephen Decatur, this, after reaching the finals on pins in 27 and 32 seconds before winning her semifinal bout by 16-1 technical fall.

Anunobi follows the Rams' first repeat champion, Jaylen Hyman, winner of titles as a sophomore and junior in 2019 and 2020 before attending Life University in Marietta, Georgia.

Hyman earned the 187-pound title as a sophomore in 2019 with a 9-8 decision over Perryville's Kali Shiflett that followed a 14-1 major decision over Ilyanna Anderson of Charles H. Flowers. As a junior in 2020, Hyman won a 164-pound clash of defending state champion by pinning Sawyer Graham of C. Milton Wright in 5:54.

Anunobi can become the program’s first three-time state champion under Rams’ coach Earnest Davison, a Tulsa, Oklahoma native who wrestled at Morgan State from 1992-’97.

“Jaylen and Ugochi are both very tough girls,” said Davison, 50, who placed second, third and fourth in his high school regional tournaments. “I just try to bring out the best in them, and Ugochi has returned with more motivation from the Olympic Training Center.”

Ugochi spoke with Legacy Wrestling in this Q&A regarding her trip to the Olympic Training Center among other things.

Legacy Wrestling (LW): On what day and date do you recall receiving the invitation?

UA: I got the email on December 30, and I immediately booked my flight within the same hour. I got the invitation from Jessica Medina, who is one of the head coaches and camp coordinators for USA Wrestling and the Olympic Trainer and a coach at Ferrum College. I still have the email.

All of my needs while I was there were taken care of. My only expense was the flight. I flew down on a Wednesday and was met at the airport by the transporter who was to take us to the Olympic training center. I was late, so I had to take a quick shower and go right into the first practice session. It was miserable, but it was an experience.

LW: Did Jessica Medina characterize why you were chosen?

UA: I know I was the only girl from Maryland who went up there, but I don't believe I was the only Maryland girl who was invited. It was because I was among those who achieved All-American status, and I had placed fourth at the Fargo Junior Nationals at 164 pounds in July.

That was interesting and very stressful. I was worrying a lot because it was only my second national tournament and my first one for freestyle. I went into it a little bit nervous, but overall, it was a great and very rewarding experience.

LW: How were the amenities where you stayed?

UA: We stayed in the dorms of the USA Wrestling Team grounds with those who were in camp for weightlifting and a few other camps were there. It was two to each of the rooms, very cozy.

The floor I was on didn't have as many wrestlers so our showers were a little more freed up than others so there was no fighting to get to the showers after practice. My roommate was Mia Collins from New York.

She’s an awesome wrestler who placed third at Fargo. I feel as if wrestling is a bit more popular in New York. I feel as if they have a lot more opportunities to get out there probably because the community is larger in New York.

LW: Did you practice with Mia?

UA: Mia was smaller than me, so we didn't get the opportunity to practice together, but we had been together and trained together when we were on Team Razor in a dual competition before. I'm pretty sure she was a state champion in New York, but I'm not sure.

LW: Did you meet or train with anyone who is famous?

UA: I met Geneva Gray, the sister of six-time or eight-time world champion Adeline Gray, who I believe has the most world championships in American wrestling ever. Geneva was helping me out with my technique and helping me to clean up a few things that I was working on. There weren't too many other wrestlers there because they were going off to compete in Serbia.

LW: What did you learn from Geneva?

UA: I kind of learned that not everything is black and white. There are different styles. If you're heavier, you might not wrestle like someone who is much lighter than you are. Working with her (was good), I had always been coached by people who are smaller or skinnier.

Working with her kind of showed me I can work with how my body is. Conditioning for me may not look the same as it does for someone who weighs, like, 150 pounds. They may like running more.

That’s different, whereas I may have to condition differently in a way that's more beneficial to my muscle growth and something like my diet. It's treating my body as it is, as opposed to as if I'm a 105-pounder.

LW: How did you feel as the only Marylander?

UA: Even though there were more girls there from other states, I kind of avoided comparing myself to the other girls.

I knew that I was there for a reason and that I earned my spot. There's no better or worse, but it was just about giving each other our props for earning our spots there.

It was an awesome experience and I made so many friends there. I met so many Fargo finalists and so many people.

LW: How are you better for the experience?

UA: A lot of the moves I already knew, but I've improved my muscle-memory where I can move from one to the other if one isn't working. I just have more in my arsenal. I'm not special, but if I continue to work harder, I'll not only be in a room with excellent girls, but I will also be that excellent girl in the room.

LW: Are you close to choosing a college?

UA: There have been a lot of offers from schools, but it wasn't enough for what field of study I want to go into, which is exercise science or physical therapy. I want to be a professional athlete, so my degree and my career will be a backup plan. I'm almost certain where I'm going to commit to, but I'm not going to share the name just yet. When I am ready, however, I will let you know.

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