‘Nothing was stopping her from winning’: Lexy Pabon leaves no doubt, becoming Crofton’s first wrestling state champion

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Crofton's Lexy Pabon celebrates her win over Perry Hall's Rachael Wheatley in the 125-pound final of the girls state tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday.

Nerves coursed through Lexy Pabon, but they felt different this time.

She’d been in this position one year ago. Then a junior standing on the mat at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro, one match stood between her and becoming a state champion — and Crofton’s first.


It didn’t happen then, but it did on Saturday in the 125-pound final of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association girls wrestling tournament.

Memories rushed back from last year, but Pabon reminded herself that it was just a match. She just had to leave it out there, she thought. Give all she had, for her teammates and for herself.


Pabon took Perry Hall’s Rachael Wheatley down to the mat for an early 2-0 lead in the championship match. Those margins always worry her coach, Jason West. A lead is great — until you get complacent and find yourself facing a deficit.

“But in the back of my mind, I knew,” West said. “As soon as she took the mat, nothing was stopping her from winning.”

When the second-period whistle blew, Pabon attacked again. But this time, she put Wheatley on her back. It took only moments. The official’s hand slapped the mat, and Pabon rose to her feet something that the state of Maryland had never had before: a Crofton wrestling state champion.

“It’s amazing. I am so proud of myself,” Pabon said. “I’ll come back and see my name up there [on the Crofton gym wall] and it’ll be cool.”

Crofton's Lexy Pabon takes Perry Hall's Rachael Wheatley down to the mat in the 125-pound final of the girls state tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday.

Pabon started wrestling just two years ago. She’d always had an aggressive disposition, so naturally, she said, she’d roughhouse with her older brother, Lonnell Owens-Pabon, who weighed about 100 pounds more than she did.

Anything he would do, so would she, West said. But the two became separated when Crofton High opened. The older brother remained at South River, where he went 36-1 as a senior last year, placing second at the state tournament after helping the Seahawks win their first state dual meet title, while the younger Pabon joined the inaugural Cardinals wrestling squad.

“She had a knack for it,” West said. “Right away, I could tell she was going to be a very good wrestler. She had a decent foundation coming in. It was her relationship with her brother that made her want to do it. Then it was her own drive that pushed her to wanting to be successful.”

Pabon succeeded enough to earn her spot in last year’s 120-pound state final. But she couldn’t stop Northern-Calvert’s Emma Hardeman from escaping in the final moments and lost a 2-1 decision.


Pabon would not wait nine months to improve. She dedicated herself to wrestling in the offseason, switching her denomination to freestyle as well as Greco-Roman, learning skills she would need to be successful at the next level. She leaned on the wisdom of Maryland national freestyle coach Justin Wildy.

West and assistant coach Michael Doestch came to support Pabon in tournaments throughout the summer and saw the progress. Over time, she sharpened her body as well as her mind. She adopted a “no-quit attitude” and homed in on technique to better understand positions and how to get out of situations she didn’t want to be in. She focused on attacking when the opportunity presented itself.

It was all on display Saturday.

Crofton's Lexy Pabon celebrates her win over Perry Hall's Rachael Wheatley in the 125-pound final of the girls state tournament at The Show Place Arena on Saturday.

“The improvement from last year to this year is just ridiculous,” West said. “She already had the attitude, the willingness to do well, the aggression. But now that she’s fine-tuned her technique, it’s almost not fair.”

Moreover, Pabon discovered her identity as a wrestler. Before, she felt she mirrored her older brother’s style. But as a senior, Pabon’s time on the mat was all her. And it was effective.

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“Aggressive and fast. I think that’s one thing I stand out from other people with. I’m a hard hitter,” Pabon said. “My blast doubles would be my signature move, or double takedown with speed. I’m light on my feet.”


Pabon continued to develop throughout the winter, putting her summer work to good use. West watched other high school girls twist themselves into knots trying to keep up with her.

“It was something special,” West said.