Morgan Turner made history last season. But after suffering a major injury in December, she thought her sophomore season was history.
As a freshman at Bremen, Turner became the first girl to earn a medal at the Illinois High School Association’s boys wrestling state meet when she finished third at 106 pounds in Class 2A.
Now a sophomore at Lockport, Turner has returned rapidly from a shoulder injury and is back for the postseason — with a twist. She’s competing in the girls state series for the first time.
“I wanted to finish my season out,” Turner said. “I was planning on wrestling with the boys, but things happen for a reason, and I’m thankful to be able to be back and get to wrestle in the girls division.”
Turner is off to a good start. She rolled to the 110-pound championship at Saturday’s Shepard Regional, winning two of her matches by pin, one by technical fall and one by injury default.
This is the first season with regionals for girls, and the next step for Turner will be Feb. 9-10 at the Schaumburg Sectional.
Turner, who won a gold medal for Team USA last summer at the U-17 World Championships in Turkey, was competing with the Lockport boys team at the prestigious Dvorak Invitational in December when her plans were quickly derailed.
“In the first 15 seconds of my semifinal match, I had a break in the top of my shoulder,” she said. “I had a torn labrum. At first, I thought I was going to be out for nine months, but I went to get an MRI and it turned out to be a little milder.”
Still, Turner’s season was very much in doubt. She did not wrestle again until two days before the girls regional.
“The doctors didn’t want me to come back and wrestle boys or girls, so I had to basically beg them to let me come back,” she said. “I’m still wearing a brace. I had one day of practice and then I came here.”
Being away from the mat for nearly six weeks was tough for Turner.
“I missed the competitive practice partners, the competitive wrestling scene,” she said. “I missed a lot of big tournaments, so it was hard to be out.”
Having one of the country’s top high school girls wrestlers competing in the girls state tournament is thrilling for Turner’s teammates and opponents, according to Lockport sophomore Claudia Heeney.
“It does make it more exciting,” Heeney said. “It’s a lot more fun. It’s cool watching her wrestle.”
Heeney, a state runner-up last season, won the 130-pound regional title Saturday. The Porters advanced five girls to sectionals, while the Andrew co-op advanced seven.
Turner is hoping she can bring some extra attention to the girls state meet.
“I don’t elevate the tournament as a person, but I guess the crowd that comes around elevates it,” she said. “It’s the people around me, the people who come to watch me.
“But there are a lot of great girls out there who people want to watch like (Batavia’s) Sydney Perry and many others. So, it’s not just me. But I think I can play a significant role.”
After competing against boys for so long, Turner has some adjustments to make for her girls opponents.
“It’s different,” she said. “It was a little bit easier (Saturday), but it’s only regionals, so it’s only going to get tougher from here. There are a lot of great girls wrestlers in this state.
“I’m really glad to be back, and I can’t wait to see what happens going forward.”