Home World Iowa commit Kiyah Chavez powers up for Oswego

Iowa commit Kiyah Chavez powers up for Oswego

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Junior catcher Kiyah Chavez wasn’t always a workout warrior in the weight room for Oswego.

But look at her now.

Thanks to a couple of coaches, Chavez hopped aboard the weightlifting train. It has helped her in a variety of ways for the Panthers and also led to her collegiate commitment in October.

“When I was younger, people would ask where I wanted to play in college,” Chavez said after a Wednesday practice forced by the inclement weather. “I’d say Iowa. It was my dream school.”

Iowa, a Big Ten school, has been a longtime favorite for Chavez because she has relatives from her mother Ashley’s side of the family living in the Iowa City area.

The inspiration to work at improving her strength, according to Chavez, came from Jill Harvey, her Orland Park Sparks travel coach.

“Sophomore year, I had just come from my basketball game to a softball practice and was wearing my basketball jersey,” Chavez said. “I was warming up with bands and stretching.

“(Harvey) told me I had no muscles.”

Oswego's Kiyah Chavez (10) poses for a portrait on April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Aurora Beacon News)
Oswego’s Kiyah Chavez (10) tosses a ball after practice on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt / The Beacon-News)

That hurt more than a little, almost bringing Chavez to tears. It also got her into the gym.

“Harvey is a little bit crazy,” Chavez said. “But once you buy into her, it’s the best thing.”

Chavez was familiar with the weight room after taking the class of John Hugunin, who now teaches and coaches at the school after starring in football at both Oswego and Drake.

Hugunin oversees the weight room, and in short order, Chavez bought in big time. It started with after-school lifting sessions with members of Oswego’s football team.

“I’d tell (softball teammates) I was lifting with them and they’d say, ‘Why would you do that to yourself?’” Chavez said. “It was strange at first. I felt out of place and was out of place, but they weren’t mean. They’d spot me when I needed it.”

It soon became one of her passions.

Earlier this week, with the Panthers having softball games canceled due to the weather, Chavez was back in the weight room, doing three reps of a 275-pound squat and putting up a program-record 190-pound bench press.

Going sleeveless? It’s not a problem.

Oswego's Kiyah Chavez (10) poses for a portrait on April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Aurora Beacon News)
Oswego’s Kiyah Chavez (10), who loves being a catches, takes a break after practice on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt / The Beacon-News)

Now, Chavez has even been joined by several of her teammates for in-season lifting sessions four times a week at 5:15 a.m. under Hugunin’s supervision.

Chavez took it a step further this winter. Halfway through her varsity season for basketball, she switched to wrestling and advanced to the sectional, coming within one win of qualifying for state.

“I mainly did basketball for cardio,” she said. “I was OK but I wasn’t a weapon. Playing time wasn’t an issue. I was getting what I deserved.”

Still, Chavez kept wondering if wrestling, suggested earlier by several other coaches, might be a better option. First, she had to convince her dad, Francisco, and her mom.

They were worried a wrestling injury could jeopardize her softball scholarship but came around.

“I still think it’s a weird sport,” Chavez said of wrestling. “It’s so physical and challenging. I didn’t realize how much they run. I was dying at first. It’s also humbling as much as it is redeeming.

“When you win, it’s all you. When you lose, all you. I had a really hard time dealing with losing at first, never having done an individual sport.”

She said she will be back on the mat next year.

Oswego's Kiyah Chavez (10) poses for a portrait on April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt/for the Aurora Beacon News)
Oswego’s Kiyah Chavez (10) shows off her batting stance after practice on Wednesday, April 3, 2024. (Troy Stolt / The Beacon-News)

Chavez, meanwhile, is off to another strong start in softball. She hit .375 last spring but missed 10 games late with a thumb injury as the Panthers finished 23-12.

So far this season, Chavez is batting .722 with three doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs for Oswego (5-2), which one four out of five tournament games during a spring break trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama. She produced a walk-off squeeze bunt in a 2-1 win over Springville.

Oswego coach Paul Netzel is looking forward to a turn in the weather.

“When (Chavez) went down last year, we did a nosedive,” he said. “We couldn’t put our finger on it, what the trouble was, until we were done and realized she’s the glue that kept us together.”

Netzel believes Chavez’s work in the weight room has helped a ton.

“I have no doubt that she’ll step in at Iowa in two years and not only be the starting catcher but the leader of that squad,” he said. “She’s that kind of personality.”



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