Phillips d’Alton ponders becoming a state champ

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GODFREY — It’s been nearly a week since Antonia Phillips of Alton High became state wrestling champion. Her 6-2 victory over Savannah Hamilton in the 140-pound weight class final on Saturday secured a place in AHS history, as well as in the community.

“Sometimes I forget that,” Phillips said, “but then I look at my championship chart and I’m like, ‘I’m a state champion’.”

Phillips is the first AHS state wrestling champion and with this year’s tournament being the Illinois High School Association’s postseason series being her first for female wrestlers, she’s something of a trailblazer.


Phillips, who has been deaf since the age of one, is also a pioneer for the deaf community. She felt the need to make a statement and set an example for young Deaf athletes, especially girls.

“I hope I influenced them to encourage their kids to wrestle,” Phillips said. “I know it’s going to take a long time, especially as women’s wrestling continues to grow.”

Coming from a family with several deaf children as well as his mother, Phillips’ family contingent at the Bloomington State Tournament was limited to his brother Antoine, a sophomore who is also a deaf student athlete who wrestles at Alton. But when she got home, the family had rolled out the red carpet.

“I think they’re still thrilled with my win at State,” Phillips said Thursday in a text interview. “They were really proud of me, especially my parents. They said I should be proud of myself too. I represented the school and the people in the community and that’s very important.”

“I’m not going to lie, they’ve been spoiling me a bit lately. I don’t even have to do chores for a week.”

Phillips said her classmates, teachers and everyone at Alton High have shown their support.

“I can tell everyone at Alton High was super excited for me,” she said. “Some of the kids in the hallway were giving me a high five and punching me.

“It’s really good to know that I have so many supporters at my school. I’m really grateful for that.”

While the humble high schooler may forget from time to time, her followers haven’t forgotten that she’s a state champion. In fact, Alton High has planned a celebration in his honor for 2:45 p.m. Friday in the AHS auditorium.

“It was amazing to see her ride in her age bracket on Friday and Saturday,” said Alton sporting director Chris Kusnerick. “She’s a great kid who excels academically.

“And she’s also a very good wrestler.”

Although she accepts all the congratulations, Phillips is aware that she still has competitions to come.

“I’m going to a (practice) session this afternoon,” Phillips said. “I’m trying to stay busy and in shape this off-season. Since I was a junior, my time is limited. I’m trying to do everything I can to improve myself.”

Winning the state championship topped her list last weekend, but being part of the first IHSA Girls State Wrestling Tournament was a close second.

“The state tournament experience was a better experience than I expected,” Phillips said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time.

“It was great to see so many girls competing for the same thing that I always wanted to compete for.”

Alton High wrestling coach Eric Roberson said Phillips was one of the hardest working wrestlers on the team.

“She works extremely hard and has never made excuses because she’s deaf or because she’s a girl,” Roberson said. “She’s had to struggle a lot with the boys and she’s doing really well.”

Through it all, Phillips said a surprise celebration by the Little Redbirds Wrestling Club meant the most. She spent her formative years as a young wrestler in this program.

“The best thing to come out of it,” she said of the surprise celebration. “I normally hate surprises, but it was a good thing to do. I appreciate everyone who participated.”

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