Murphey has sights set on fourth state crown

By Steve Williams

Ella Murphey is on the homestretch of reaching a four-year goal she set as a freshman wrestler at Hardin Valley Academy in 2020-21.

That goal was to match what Kenya Sloan had accomplished in girls wrestling at HVA in 2018 – win four state championships and go undefeated.

Sloan, who posted a career prep record of 87-0 as a 165-pounder, went on to compete successfully at Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

“I still have no defeats on my high school record and I’m on my third state championship going for my fourth,” said the 185-pound Murphey last week after winning by a fall in the first round over South-Doyle’s Jill Bocskovits in a regular season match at Knoxville Catholic.

The win upped Murphey’s season won-loss record to 16-0 said Matt Bates, who is in his second season as her high school coach. She went 15-0 each of her first two seasons and 18-0 last year as a junior.

Due to a lack of matches, however, it doesn’t look like Murphey will reach Sloan’s win total, but the goal from the start has been winning four state titles and going unbeaten.

Ella says her high school coach as a freshman, Marc Giles, was the one who sparked her interest in matching Sloan’s accomplishments on the mat.

“It was a little bit of an expectation that was put on me,” she said when hearing Coach Giles say: “That girl, she’s going to be a state champion.”

When Murphey won her first state title, she recalled, “I didn’t realize how big of a deal it was. And then I kept getting better and went for my second and third.”

Ron Sobel was pleased to get to coach Ella her sophomore season.

“With many schools not having a wrestler in her weight class, a lot of times during the regular season she had to wrestle in a lower or higher class and those matches were exhibitions and didn’t count on her official record,” said Sobel.

“When she got on the mat she was “just dominant” added Sobel. And if he had to pick one word to describe her, he said it would be “powerful.”

Still, it hasn’t been a breeze to stardom for Ella. She twice has had to overcome injury.

She said her personal coach Junior Hernandez has been a key to her success. She trains with him in the summer and tries to practice with him as much as she can.

Murphey said she thought she was a good wrestler as a freshman and sophomore, “but Hernandez really made me a great wrestler and he has worked with me through all of my struggles and injuries.”

In her junior season, she won the state championship with a broken right hand.

“It was not comfortable, but he helped me around it,” she said. “I got the cast off a week or two early so I could wrestle.”

It was an injury that could have sidelined her and ended her streak of state titles.

In her sophomore season, she suffered a torn meniscus.

In both of the years she had an injury, “mental toughness” helped her get through it, she said. “And working out a lot also helped.”

Ella got started in the sport in Hardin Valley’s 7th grade program and even before that at home with her brother Marshall, who is five years older and was a three-year state qualifier for the Hawks.

They still go at it, too.

“At home in our very small living room, we will fight wherever,” said Ella. “We still do that. I wouldn’t say it’s wrestling, but it’s definitely fighting. He keeps me physically tough.”

Murphey plans to wrestle in college, but has not signed and is looking at her options.

“I want to go to the Olympics,” she said. “That’s the end goal right now.”

As for academics, Ella said she wants to go into Art and Architecture.