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Karlee Brooks, Who Began Wrestling In Hawaii, Wins U-17 Nationals And Places Fifth At Worlds


Karlee Brooks was once a club wrestler in Hawaii. Now, she’s a national champ who placed fifth at last week’s U-17 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey.
Karlee Brooks, a former Honolulu Raiders club wrestler, is shown competing in the U-17 World Championships in Istanbul, Turkey. Image credit: Gary Abbott, USA Wrestling and
Brooks, who is of Hawaiian ancestry and attended Mauka Lani Elementary School in Makakilo, moved to Phoenix from Hawaii with her family in 2017. While here, she wrestled with the Honolulu Raiders under coaches Mark Buelow and Chris Stefanelli. Her family is originally from Kaneohe.

Brooks credited this major success to better nutrition and a focus on strength and conditioning. She was also motivated by the fact that she came up a bit short in recent years to make the team for worlds.

“Every year I’d come up short, losing in my semifinal matches and fighting back for third place,” Brooks messaged Bedrock Sports Hawaii. “This year, I made big jumps. I focused on getting stronger and getting more explosive. I was on a strict meal plan a few months before world team trials and all the way leading up to worlds and I never felt better. I wrestled the top girls in the world, beating a girl from Kazakhstan and a girl from Hungary. Unfortunately, I lost some close matches to the returning world silver medalist from Japan and the returning world bronze medalist from Italy.”

The road to the worlds was intense. Brooks had to get through tough competition at 53 kilograms (117 pounds) to win nationals (world team trials) in Spokane, Washington, in April to qualify.
In the national semifinals, the 17-year-old Brooks beat second-seeded Ava Ward of Missouri — who in 2021 won a bronze medal at the World Championships — by technical fall, 11-0.
Then came a grueling best two-of-three final against top-seeded Isabella Gonzales of California. After falling behind 2-0, Brooks won 4-4 (by criteria) in the first match. She lost the second one 2-0 and then took a 4-0 win in the third.
“I was focusing on hitting my shots and having fun, for sure,” Brooks told an interviewer on a video. “Mentality was a big thing and I told myself  ‘no negotiations, I’m going to make the world team this year. (In the finals), I was staying calm and defending really good.”

At the worlds last week, she topped Liliana Kapuyari of Hungary by technical fall, 10-0, to get to the bronze medal match — a 7-4 loss to Fabiana Rinella of Italy.

“Fifth place is not the outcome I wanted, but I do believe I wrestled and performed great,” Brooks added. “There is always room for improvement and I will be getting right back into it moving forward and getting ready for my next tournaments. I think other than wrestling, getting to know other foreigners was the highlight of the trip.”

Brooks is the top-ranked national high school wrestler at 117 pounds and she is No. 7 pound-for-pound. She is going into her senior year at Valiant College Prep in Phoenix.

Karlee Brooks (results)

At 2023 U-17 Nationals and World Team Trials:
>> Round of 32: def. Mia Shepard (Nevada), technical fall, 10-0
>> Round of 16: def. Alexis Segura (Colorado), technical fall, 10-0
>> Quarterfinals: def. Savannah Witt (Pennsylvania), fall, 1:19
>> Semifinals: def. Ava Ward (Missouri), technical fall, 11-0
>> Finals match 1: def. Isabella Gonzales (California), 4-4
>> Finals match 2: lost to Gonzales, 2-0
>> Finals match 3: def. Gonzales, 4-0

At 2023 U-17 Worlds:
>> def. Elmira Saparvekova (Kazakhstan), technical fall, 12-1
>> lost to Sakura Onishi (Japan), 6-0
>> def. Liliana Kapuvari (Hungary), tecnhical fall, 10-0
>> Bronze-medal match: lost to Fabiana Rinella (Italy), 7-4



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