Emma Heslin (l) and Jackson Heslin became the first brother-sister combo to ever capture state wrestling championships in Connecticut and the first siblings to win on the same day.
On Feb 27, Emma and Jackson Heslin of Marlborough made history, becoming the first siblings to win a wrestling state championship on the same day. They also became the first brother-sister combo ever to be crowned State Open wrestling champions by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC).
Emma Heslin, a senior, defeated Elena Quintaro of Southington to win the State Open in the girls’ 99-pound tourney. In winning, she also became the first female wrestler at RHAM High School to capture a state championship.
“I love seeing the sport grow. It’s the fastest growing female sport right now and I hope that seeing my name up on the banner in our gym will inspire other girls here,” said Emma, who embraced the moment. “I was so happy and I was excited for my team.”
Senior teammate Claire Keene (126 lbs.) placed third at the State Open as the Raptors girls finished fourth overall.
Emma said the program, both boys and girls, is extremely close and added that being the first female to even win a state title for the program is an honor.
“I love this sport and am so humbled that I’m in this position. I am so grateful to the girls that have paved that path to give me the opportunity to wrestle,” she added. “I hope it inspires more girls to get on the mat because it is just such a great sport and it has made me an all-around better person.”
Jackson, who is a freshman at Xavier High School in Middletown, won a 120-pound State Open title by downing top-seed Ethan Titus of Canton.
“This is what I’ve trained for all year,” said Jackson, who also won the Class L title the previous week. “Coming into the tournament I was confident in my ability to win. What really helped me was knowing I’ve outworked everyone.”
In addition, he became the first freshman wrestler at Xavier to win a State Open title. The Falcons also captured a State Open championship as a team, winning the program’s second title and first since 2012.
“We’re all family,” Jackson said of his team. “This was the goal all year. It’s awesome to accomplish it as a team and celebrate together.”
Both the boys and girls State Open championships were held last weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at the Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven.
Emma, who entered her bracket as the #3-seed, beat Lena Alves of Killingly in the quarterfinal round. She then defeated #2-seed Madison Arthur of Gilbert in the semifinals before taking down Quintaro in the title match.
Jackson also entered his tourney as the 3-seed in his bracket before eliminating Jaiden James of Norwich, Jake Elpi of Branford, and Ben Zuckerman of Fairfield to reach the championship bout. He then knocked off Titus to capture the State Open.
Because they go to different schools, the siblings didn’t get to watch each other wrestle many times this season, so having the State Open held at the same venue allowed the two to cheer for each other and celebrate the historic moment together.
“To accomplish this together means so much,” said Emma, whose championship match was first. “I knew [Jackson] was going to win because that is what he does. I’m just so happy we got this together.”
Jackson added that the siblings didn’t talk much about winning a state championship together during the season until they realized it became a possibility prior to the State Open.
“[Emma] found out she could go 99 pounds and we knew we had a shot,” he said. “When we were both going into the finals the next day I thought this would be cool if we both won—both Heslins winning.”
Jackson will now compete at New England Regionals this weekend and both will head to the 33rd National High School championship in Virginia Beach, VA. during the last weekend in March.
Following her graduation this spring, Emma plans to continue wrestling in college but has yet to make a decision on where.
Her hope is to take the sport as far as she can, adding, “I’m just getting started and this could become a career path where one day I could be coaching a girls’ team at a high school.”
Jackson has three more seasons on the high school mats where he hopes to join some rarified air and become a “four-timer” by winning additional state titles over the next three years.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin