Prep Wrestling

Lisbon's Jannell Avila wins a girls' state wrestling title, with state champion brother in her corner

Freshman claims gold at 138; Waverly-Shell Rock takes team title

Lisbon's Jannell Avila keeps hold of Logan Magnolia's Olivia Diggins as they wrestle in the 138 pound final at the State
Lisbon’s Jannell Avila keeps hold of Logan Magnolia’s Olivia Diggins as they wrestle in the 138 pound final at the State Wrestling Tournament in Waverly on Saturday afternoon. (Waterloo Courier)

WAVERLY — Robert Avila Jr. could have been wrestling Saturday.

The 2019 Class 1A 126-pound state champion from Lisbon could have joined the rest of the Lions’ boys’ wrestling team in Clinton for the Bob Leuders Invitational.

But he didn’t.

Instead, Robert Avila traveled to Waverly to watch his sister, Jannell Avila, pick up her first state title as a freshman at the IWCOA girls’ state wrestling tournament.

For a wrestling family, it couldn’t have worked out any better.

“My brother was a state champ his freshman year also,” Jannell Avila said. “I got little siblings coming up in the sport, so for them to see me wrestle, it’s awesome.”

The family dynamic appeared throughout the day, but it became even more clear following Jannell Avila’s finals match.

After two scoreless periods against top-ranked Olivia Diggins of Logan-Magnolia, the Lisbon freshman came through with a takedown in the third.

Diggins eventually found a way to escape, but it came too late. Jannell Avila refused to get taken down in the final seconds and secured her state championship.

When the final whistle came, the emotions poured out. Jannell Avila ran to Robert Avila — who coached her from the corner — and hugged him before spreading the love to the rest of her family.

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“I like to see her compete and be the best she can be,” Robert Avila said. “Whatever she needs help with, I’m always there, too. If she needs something, I’m always right there just for her to go to.”

While there were other dominant performances across the two-day tournament — including Iowa Valley’s Millie Peach winning the 195-pound title with four pins, Iowa City West’s Salima Omari capturing the 285-pound championship with three falls, and Waverly Shell-Rock’s 156.5 points to take home the team title — both Avila siblings still have three years remaining to add to their legacies.

“We’re just touching it,” Lisbon coach Tait Simpson said. “She’s got to go even higher. With the kids we have in the room and all the talent around her, she’s only going to get better. Her brother’s only going to get better. Come three years from now, she’s going to be really good.”

With athletes such as Jannell Avila coming around, girls’ wrestling continues to grow in Iowa.

After 87 wrestlers took part in last year’s unofficial state tournament, 376 athletes registered to take the mat in 2020.

More participants means more competitive meets. Jannell Avila is already up for that, though.

“This state — this country — is growing bigger in girls’ wrestling, and I want to be one of those top wrestlers in this country,” Jannell Avila said. “That’s my main goal right now.”

Now, the season is over for one of the Avila siblings. That leaves the other looking to keep the streak going by taking home a second gold medal of his own.

And maybe the cycle will repeat.

“It’s another one in the family, another one in the books,” Robert Avila said. “Now, she’s got to get ready for No. 2 next year, and I’ve got to get ready for No. 2 this year, too. We’re just going to keep pushing ourselves — not just us two, but the rest of the family.”

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