Angelina Kelley was a fighter long before she took up wrestling.
The 7-year-old O’Fallon girl was born two and a half months premature, weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces. Doctors kept her in the hospital for six months, until she reached 5 pounds.
“She was a miracle baby,” said her mother, Kallie Frederick, 39, noting Angelina turned out fine with no health problems, other than mild asthma.
Today, Angelina is a second-grader at Marie Schaefer Elementary School and a wrestler who has won two state championships.
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On Sunday, she’ll be a TV star.
The petite girl with blond hair, blue eyes and a big personality will appear on the NBC show “Little Big Shots.” It allows children from all over the world show to off their talents for host Steve Harvey.
Her talent: wrestling.
“Wrestling is fun, and I’m good at it,” Angelina said this week, wearing a purple “Princess” T-shirt and glittery high-top sneakers with peace signs.
The show is co-produced by Harvey and Ellen DeGeneres. This month’s Season 2 premiere had 12.9 million viewers, according to an NBC press release.
Angelina wrestles three boys in her segment, which was taped in July at Warner Bros. Studio in Hollywood. It will air at 7 p.m. CST Sunday.
“It’s really exciting,” said Brad Miller, 40, Angelina’s coach with the O’Fallon Little Panthers. “She’s a good kid. She stays focused. She works hard. She’s a scrapper. She doesn’t give up.”
She stays focused. She works hard. She’s a scrapper. She doesn’t give up.
Coach Brad Miller on Angelina’s wrestling
Angelina plans to watch the show with her family, including brothers Shawn, 10, and Cameron, 11, who taught her how to wrestle when she was a toddler.
Grandma Michele Frederick, 75, also will tune in. She’s the one who saw an ad for “Little Big Shots” performers and called the network last spring.
“I thought, ‘Why can’t she be on TV?’” Michele said. “I’ll bet they don’t have a little girl wrestler.”
The family sent photos of Angelina and video of her wrestling and speaking. They curled her hair, going for a “Shirley Temple look.”
A month later, Angelina and her mother took the first of two trips to California for rehearsals and filming. The whole family went the second time around.
“They sent us to L.A., and they put us up in the Hilton, and we went swimming,” Angelina said. “It’s beautiful there.”
It wasn’t the family’s first TV experience.
Kallie’s daughter, Alexis, 17, starred in a 2015 episode of the A&E reality series “Beyond Scared Straight,” which gives youths a jail experience to keep them out of trouble. That filming took place in St. Clair County.
“The episode was called ‘Lexi’s Lockup Lash Out,’” her mother said.
The family moved to O’Fallon three years ago to be closer to Kallie’s sister. They formerly lived in Alabama and Alaska.
Kallie gave birth to Angelina in a Seattle hospital after Alaska doctors recognized pregnancy complications. Newborn Angelina was about the size of a Beanie Baby that someone gave her as a gift.
“She was so tiny,” Grandma Michele said. “I used to make a joke that her diaper was the size of a Band-Aid.”
I like to win. I don’t like to lose. If you lose, it’s like embarrassing.
Angelina on wrestling
Today, Angelina stands at 3-foot-7 and weighs 41 pounds. She joined the Little Panthers a year ago, wrestling both girls and boys. She won most of her matches and received a Rookie of the Year award.
Two years in a row, Angelina has placed first among girls in her division at the Illinois Kids Wrestling Federation tournament in Jacksonville.
“Every match, I thought she was going to lose because (her opponents) were so much bigger than her,” brother Cameron said. “But as soon as the match started, she’d grab their legs and sling them down.”
“They were pinned within 30 seconds,” added Michael Kaufmann, 37, Kallie’s boyfriend. “She wanted to get the title and go home.”
After the “Little Big Shots” filming, producers persuaded Kallie to sign up Angelina with a talent agency for possible modeling or acting jobs. She has a web page at KidsCasting.com.
But until opportunity knocks, Angelina seems perfectly happy playing T-ball, cheerleading for Little Panthers football and, most of all, wrestling.
“I like to win,” she said. “I don’t like to lose. If you lose, it’s like embarrassing.”