By Michael Smith
Grain Valley’s Sevreign Aumua was surprised when she saw Ali Howk put on a pair of wrestling shoes at a wrestling practice at Blue Springs High School a few years ago.
“I remember seeing her when my little brother was practicing at Blue Springs,” Aumua said of Howk. “When she came in, I thought she was a cheerleader at first. We saw her unpacking her shoes and getting them on. I was confused at first. She then started wrestling the guys and she inspired me to do the same.
“She showed that girls can wrestle guys.”
Howk was a former wrestler for the Blue Springs High School team. She wrestled before a girls division even existed in Missouri. Howk constantly had to wrestle against boys, and in 2016, she became the first female from the Kansas City area to qualify for the state tournament when the then-sophomore took second place at the Class 4 District 4 Tournament.
Howk was the lone female on the Wildcats from 2015 to 2017, and was an inspiration to Aumua, who is currently a high school freshman and is ranked No. 3 in her weight class according to the MissouriWrestling.com poll. While Aumua is wrestling in an era where there is a girls division in Missouri, like Howk was for Blue Springs, having Aumua in the Grain Valley wrestling program is “like having one of the other guys,” said head coach Jeff Bowman.
“She brings a different role to the team,” Bowman said. “She takes care of them but she is also stern. She can also go toe-to-toe with some of them and that’s fun to watch.”
She is the lone female in the program, meaning that she goes up against all males in the practice room. She hasn’t been intimidated by that at all. In fact, Aumua is having one of the most dominant seasons of any freshman girls wrestler since females got their own division in the 2018-19 season.
The freshman is 25-0 and is heading into the Missouri State High School Girls Championships as a No. 1 seed in the 151 pound weight division and will get a first-round bye.
Aumua, wrestled against boys growing up since she was in fourth grade and was successful doing so.
“I saw my brother (Sjoeren) wrestle in fourth grade and that’s when I got into it,” Aumua said. “I fell in love with it.
“I had a pretty good win-loss record in club (wrestling). In 2017, I won Boys State (in the 12-and-under division).”
Even when Aumua entered the Eagles program, it wasn’t unusual for her to be practicing with all boys. It was something she’s used to.
“Some of the guys (at Grain Valley) I have wrestled against in club, so they have been partners before.” Aumua said. “I already knew some of them. They are stronger than most of the girls I’ve wrestled, though.”
Grain Valley 138-pounder Tanner Barker was one of the guys to give Aumua a warm welcome.
“I’ve rolled around with her on the mat in the off season. She is like family to me,” Barker said. “I help her get some extra work in so she’s ready for the state championship.
“She’s a beast. She will get after it in here. There are no brakes with her. She’s all gas and just keeps on going.”
What was actually scary for Aumua was being a part of the football team. She was a left guard for the freshman team, the junior varsity squad and even got playing time at varsity. There were times she even had some pancake blocks while on the field.
“”They all respect me and support me,” Aumua said. “It was really scary (playing in a football game), but it was a good experience. It was scary because I hate to disappoint others. I had some pretty good blocks.”
Bowman said he hopes that Aumua’s success will help Grain Valley get more girls on the team. The freshman has already tried to recruit some to join, but most of them were already playing basketball. However, she expects four more girls to join her for the 2021-22 campaign.
“We have more girls coming from middle school next year,” Aumua said. “That’s going to be new for me because I am used to being the only girl. I think it will be fun working with girls and helping them get better because some of them will be new with wrestling.”
For now, Aumua is aiming to become Grain Valley’s first state champion since Mavrick Alexander became the program’s first in 2015. She will have some tough competition in the 151-pound weight bracket as she has defending state champion Haley Ward of Fort Osage and undefeated Hannah Jansen of Webster Groves to potentially compete against.
The dominant season the freshman has had can’t be understated. She’s ended all of her matches by pin except one, which was an injury forfeit. Thirteen of her pins (54 percent) have come in less than one minute into the match.
Her quick matches have been a product of the chicken wing, a move she’s perfected.
“I’ve always liked to use (the chicken wing) in club,” Aumua said. “I force it now. It’s easy for me because I have worked on it so much. It’s my go-to move.”
She will try to ride that move to a state championship, and Bowman has all the confidence in the world that the freshman can do just that.
“I think she matches up well with the other girls (in her weight division),” Bowman said. “I think the world of her. We’re going to hustle and fight and we’re going to give them a tough match. I honestly think we are going to come out on top no matter who it is.”+