Senior Chloe Wagner takes on leadership roles in wrestling and soccer

Lauren Koscielniak, Writer

About 12 years ago, her life as an athlete began—and she doesn’t see it ending any time soon. Senior Chloe Wagner is a dual-sport athlete who reigns as the Girls’ Michigan State Champion wrestler for her weight class and claims All-League and All-District titles in soccer as of her junior year.

“Freshman year, I had an injury in my hip and I needed hip surgery to fix it after my sophomore wrestling season,” Wagner said. “Then, I took my junior year off from wrestling, but tore my hip again during soccer and had surgery on it that August.”

“When my coach (Brent Harvey) passed away,” Wagner said, “I believed it was my calling. I decided to come back senior year. I knew my coach wanted me to wrestle, so I decided to; I found the love for it again.”

Upon her return to the mat this winter, Wagner dedicated much of her time to proving herself and her position on the team through cutting weight and three hour practice sessions.

“It takes a lot of determination,” Wagner said. “Not anyone can just ‘do’ wrestling. You need to have the right mindset for it, you have to be tough. It is just you and your own mind out there on the mat, nobody else’s. It is not like a team sport, it is all in your hands and what you do. When it comes down to the duel, the outcome is determined based on what you do for the team, but individually, it is just you and that’s what I like about it, because you cannot blame it on anyone else when you lose, there is nobody else out there.”

Most recently, Wagner has been titled State Champion at Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) first-ever all female wrestling tournament, earning her a place at Nationals to be held in Oklahoma this month.

“Anyone can go to nationals,” Wagner said. “You go wrestling for your state, and every state brings their best wrestlers. The best of each weight are chosen to represent their state against other states’ top wrestlers. Placing at Oklahoma qualifies us for BodyBar, and nobody can just wrestle there. If you place top three at BodyBar, then you are chosen to be on the U.S. Women’s National Team and wrestle overseas in tournaments representing the United States. It means a lot to be going there, this year will be my third year. It is a whole new atmosphere; a huge venue and a lot of college coaches are there watching us too. It is a higher level of competition and one of the best tournaments in the country.”

Team wrestling is to rely on the individuality of each member, and allowing his or her personal strengths to benefit the team as a whole. Hours spent training together brings kids, who may never have crossed paths otherwise, onto the same mat.

“I have made lifelong friends from wrestling,” Wagner said. “I have met my closest friends through wrestling and I would spend almost every weekend with them; I spend every day with the girls on the wrestling team. We spend six out of seven days a week together, and sometimes we’ll even hang out, spend the night together. They are like sisters to me. It is an unbreakable bond that you have with these people, you are with them so long and it is unlike any other sport, it brings everyone together.”

With over 21 hours per week spent together during season arises several years worth of friendships found in her teammates, especially in sophomores Kendra Ryan and Ella Turnblom.

“Chloe is very hardworking,” Ryan said. “Seeing her work hard makes you want to do the same thing. She knows a lot about the sport and is very helpful answering many questions. Chloe is definitely a great example for Ella and I, and other girls who want to wrestle. We have definitely become closer since the beginning of the season. My relationship with [Chloe and Ella] means so much to me now. We all worked hard this season, and we showed everyone what hard work looks like, too.”

Wagner’s final wrestling season with Fenton High will end with Nationals. She hopes to see her hard work pay off from years of practice.

“With wrestling, you have to leave everything on the mat,” Wagner said. “You give it your all, and take your last breath. I don’t like to disappoint people, so when I’m wrestling, whether I win or lose, if I walk off the mat and am satisfied with how I performed, it is a win for me. I think hard work is one of the biggest takeaways from wrestling. People always talk about how wrestlers are the hardest working people they know, because you are training in that room for three hours and you can’t give up.”
Similar to the friendships in wrestling, Wagner credits her (more than) 12 years of soccer to the people that believe in her who have kept her on the field.

“It is mainly the people I am surrounded by: my coaches, family and friends,” Wagner said. “Everyone saw the potential in me that I didn’t see. There were a lot of times I wanted to quit, but didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and I knew they saw something in me. Now that things have begun with colleges, I finally see how the hard work has paid off.”

As a year-round athlete, Wagner is a part of Canton Celtic Soccer Club in the summer and fall on her Midwestern Regional League (MRL) team, who travel the midwest to play against other MRL teams. In the spring, she joins Fenton High’s own girls varsity soccer team, as she has since freshman year.

“High school is more or less about having fun with the girls,” Wagner said. “One memory I will always remember is when we went go-karting before one of our games against Saginaw Heritage, but the biggest memory is of my man, [Coach Steve Burrows]. He left a legacy on all of us. We hadn’t seen him at a game in awhile and all of us girls knew he was ill. He pulled up to one of our games and got out of his car with his little lounge chair he sits in every game. All of us girls saw the car door open and it was him, so we all stopped the warm-up and ran over to his car and surrounded him in a group hug. Then he gave us a speech before we went out onto the field, and there wasn’t a single dry eye.”

Soccer has been a passion for two-thirds of her life. Wagner can say, as a four-year varsity athlete on the soccer team, that she takes away much more than a letter.

“Freshman year when I got pulled up to varsity, I thought ‘these girls are like my big sisters,’” Wagner said. “It was like they were there watching out for me. Whenever I saw them in the hallways they would say ‘hi,’ and it wasn’t a thing I had to be scared of, I was protected. I have a lot of friends through soccer, whether I played with them five years ago, or I play with them now. I even keep in contact with all of them today, and everybody still says ‘hi’ and asks how I am doing. High school is the soccer season I like most because it is not as serious as club, but still requires dedication.”

Hundreds of athletes pass through each year, and some coaches have the opportunity to work with a player during all of his or her four years.

“It didn’t take long to realize that she was a special athlete,” varsity soccer coach Matt Sullivan said. “She is a coach’s dream player because she gives 100 percent everyday, and does it with a smile on her face. She leads by example, never makes excuses, and is a fierce competitor. I have been coaching for over 20 years and there are a handful of players that I consider ‘warriors.’ Chloe is one of those players and I am not sure I can give a bigger complement.”

With dedication to more than a dozen years of athletics, Wagner inspires and advises others of what it takes to be on top.

“Failure isn’t fatal, but failing to fix it may be. It is okay to lose; losing a match or a fight can and should be a learning experience for all of us. Sure it is tough, but we need to use that emotion to fuel our work habit, assess our current skill set and improve. If you improve from your ‘loss’ then it really isn’t a loss. You have to give everything your all in life. I am looking forward to seeing where I am led and what’s next with this journey I have been on.”