JAMESTOWN — Not sure about wanting to attend college, Ellie Harlow turned to her younger sister for advice.
Karlie Harlow has been one of Ellie’s biggest supporters. Even though she has another year to make her own decision, Karlie’s words during a long conversation between the two helped Ellie decide she was ready to make her choice.
Ellie officially put pen to paper on Thursday when she signed her letter of intent to wrestle at Siena Heights University.
“The biggest thing is that coach [Dominic] Adams has always checked on me and I was very open with him and myself not knowing if I was going to go to college or not,” Ellie said. “He understood and told me if I wanted to I could come visit him.
“I went to the school and saw it was a small school, similar to the Jamestown area and that was very comforting to me knowing there won’t be a lot of people there. I feel like I fit in there and that I could do big things there.”
The move has been 14 years in the making for Ellie, and it was not always a sure thing to happen.
Ellie is the first individual girls champion from Greeneview High School, winning her weight class at the inaugural Ohio girls state wrestling tournament in 2020. She was the runner-up in 2021, and is ranked as the No. 21 girls wrestling amongst her weight class in the country, according to January’s Team USA wrestling rankings.
Starting wrestling at age four, Ellie joined her sister at open mat sessions with their father, Eric, who had wrestled in high school. Ellie said while she didn’t fully grasp things in the beginning, it did not take long for her to know wrestling would be the sport for her.
“She’s been at it for 14 years and Ellie has always said that wrestling is not just a sports but a way of life,” said Eric, who is also one of her team coaches. “The work that she has put in and out of wrestling has put her into a spotlight.”
The work almost came to a halt as high school began. While taking family vacation trips to wrestle in different states growing up, Ellie said those were her some of her few opportunities to wrestle other girls.
Starting high school in 2019, Ellie did not have as much of an interest in only wrestling against boys and spoke with wrestling coach Mark Matt to be more of a team manager and assist Karlie’s training.
“When the girls tournament came around, that has reignited a passion in her because she knew this opportunity was there for her,” Matt said. “She chased after at hard and won that state title and last year was runner-up and now here we are weeks away from the next state tournament. She’s one of the top ranked girls and she’s worked really hard for this opportunity.”
Matt noted her growth in a leadership role during that time as a freshman when she wavered, and Eric said she came into her own role of being in charge of the team as much as her coaches.
Now a senior and champion — one of her favorite memories in wrestling — Ellie again was unsure about her future and what the next step would be, according to Eric. He nor Wendy, Ellie’s mother, wanted to force her into any immediate decisions on her future either.
She had decided not to pursue a nursing career from her studies at the career center and briefly looked into work opportunities after graduation. Being particularly close to her family as well and Siena Heights being located in Michigan, the separation was another obstacle which would need to be overcome.
The conversation with Karlie went a long way to helping Ellie figure things out. She will study to become a special education teacher, which is a subject close to Ellie having several family members with special needs. And she will continue to wrestle as she has for most of her life.
The choice is already being put at ease, as a gym full of friends and family wearing her new school’s logo on their shirts showed at the her signing event to let Ellie know her support will end after graduating from Greeneview.
She will be a member of the first-ever class at Siena Heights, which is beginning its women’s wrestling program in the 2022-23 calendar year.
Eric said her love of the sport and drive to win will help her in the next stage of her life. And recognizing her own success over the last 14 years in wrestling, Ellie said she believes she has to be a champion at the collegiate level as well.
“I’ve just pushed myself so hard to get to where I am today that if I stopped wrestling now it could haunt me,” she said.
A state champion and lifetime grappler, her best accomplishment for her future may be having wrestled with her life decisions.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.