Young and old, Cloquet female wrestlers head to nationalsGeneveve Fonoti may only be an 8-year-old, but don’t let that fool you. She weighs 93 pounds and is tougher than most her age. Most kids above her age, too.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Geneveve Fonoti may only be an 8-year-old, but don’t let that fool you. She weighs 93 pounds and is tougher than most her age.
Most kids above her age, too.
Fonoti, a second-grader at Cloquet’s Churchill Elementary, recently competed at the Minnesota USA Girls Wrestling Tournament in Rochester, Minn., where she defeated opponents in fourth and fifth grade.
Placing first without a single loss, Fonoti received a state champion T-shirt and gold medal. Perhaps most importantly, though, the young grappler qualified for this weekend’s USA Wrestling Girls Folkstyle National Championships in Oklahoma City, Okla.
“I’ve never been to Oklahoma before,” she said.
According to her mother, Teresa, their entire family will travel south for the national tournament this weekend. She noted they’ll drive the nearly 14-hour trek starting Friday morning.
“It’s our first time going down there, so we’re making a weekend trip out of it,” Teresa said. “Geneveve puts a lot of hard work into wrestling. She’s really excited for it. We’re excited, too.”
Teresa explained that her daughter got hooked on wrestling when she would attend her older brother’s practices. Although the sixth-grade Dasan has now turned to basketball, Geneveve stuck with wrestling. Nowadays, her younger sister, Leilani, a kindergartener, also wrestles.
Geneveve said she owns quite a few awards.
“I have a lot of trophies and medals,” said Geneveve, noting that she started wrestling when she was 4. “I put them all on my shelf.”
Even with a size advantage at 93 pounds, Geneveve works harder than most second-graders. Teresa said her daughter puts in around four hours of practice per day, four days per week.
“That doesn’t include weekend tournaments on Saturday and Sunday either,” Teresa said with a laugh. “She’s a pretty committed girl and has worked hard to get to where she has gotten to.”
Although Rochester was the first-ever all-girls event she’s been to, Geneveve said she enjoyed it and is looking forward to facing more girls in Oklahoma. However, she was quick to note she likes facing boys, too.
“I get a little nervous, but I’ve beaten a lot of boys,” Geneveve said. “Wrestling is just fun. It makes me strong and I really enjoy that.
“I want keep wrestling,” continued Geneveve, who also plays baseball and basketball. “I want to win [in Oklahoma], but I just mainly want to enjoy it.”
Although admitting he wasn’t aware of Geneveve’s qualification, Cloquet-Esko Coach Al Denman likes her chances down south.
“That’s great that she’s going,” he said. “She’s a toughie.”
Denman’s daughter, Jolynne, is a toughie herself. Like Geneveve, 18-year-old Jolynne will also compete in Oklahoma City. It will be the fourth and final time for the 112-pound Cloquet senior wrestler.
“It’s a wonderful experience,” said Jolynne, who has participated since 2009. “In Oklahoma, it’s like ‘Wow, it is all girls.’”
Along with Jolynne, Cloquet junior wrestler Kristina Erickson will head back to the Sooner state as well. She will be looking to repeat the national championship run she did as an eighth-grader in 2009.
“It’s really cool how our community has been kind of a hot bed for female wrestlers,” Al Denman said. “Down there the competition is phenomenal. Some of the girls’ skill levels are just jaw-dropping.”
Like the Fonotis, both the Ericksons and Denmans will travel down south as wrestling families. Jolynne said that’s something special to her, as she finishes her high school career and possibly seeks to begin a new college one.
“I’ve been thinking about wrestling in college; the schools I have been accepted to have women’s freestyle wrestling,” Jolynne said. “It’s something new and I’m always looking to explore new possibilities.”
One thing is for certain, however. Jolynne said she’ll be rooting for Geneveve.
“I would just tell her not to be afraid,” said the veteran Jolynne. “Just do your best and hold your head high. She is a wonderful girl. I hope she does well.”