BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — There are a total of 63 high school girls certified to wrestle here in Section VI. For many of those girls wrestling at their respective schools, they’re the only girl on their high school team.
With women’s wrestling being one of the fastest growing sports in the country, these girls hitting the mat here in Western New York are hoping to add more girls to their teams, ASAP.
“I’ve always been the one singular girl,” Cheektowaga sophomore Haley Rome said. “There’s always been maybe one or two popping in during modified, then quitting. But last year on varsity I was the only girl on the team.”
“When I first started wrestling in middle school, it was rare to find another girl on another team, like maybe one or two once in a while,” Southwestern senior Mika Walters said. “I feel like in recent years it’s gotten more coverage and more girls are just trying it, so you’ll have teams with three or four girls, so it’s growing.”
This year, Cheektowaga has two girls on their team, and to be able to have that camaraderie off the mat is incredibly special.
“Getting out of the locker room, being able to talk about, ‘oh I did this and this and it was really cool,’ or just getting to talk about the tournaments, or just having someone to be with, because all the boys are with all the other boys,” Cheektowaga senior Molly Foxe said. “If I was alone, I feel like it would be a different experience. Having another girl on the team really helps out a lot.”
This year, Section VI has come together to create all-girl practices in different cities to bring some of the wrestlers across Western New York together to create more of a bond with the other girl wrestlers in the area.
“This is the first year that they’ve had these in Section VI, New York City has always had these huge programs, like giant teams in high schools, but it never caught on in Section VI until now,” sixth year wrestler Walters said. “They’re finally doing things and people are starting to care because they realize there’s enough of us to make teams.”
“There’s a lot of things that you can relate to with the other girls,” Maple Grove freshman Madeleine Wadsworth laughed, “Like during practice if your hair gets caught, they know how it feels, where sometimes the guys don’t really understand. So you can relate to a lot of things with them.”
Section VI Girls Wrestling Director Alex Conti is on a task force that reaches across the entire country and is aimed at continuing to grow the sport. As for continuing to grow it here in Western New York, Conti says there is a process that goes into it.
“There’s probably about nine of us that have been pushing to get women’s wrestling. There’s a recipe, we have to get six sections to have four women’s teams on it, then we will have our own state championship,” Conti said. “These young ladies have to continue to encourage more young ladies to come out, coaches need to change the mindset of that it’s just for boys, because it’s not.”
“All of us wrestling coaches say ‘Oh it’s such a great sport because it teaches discipline, it teaches motivation, it teaches this, it teaches that,’ so all of those great lessons, why would we limit it to half of the population?”
“So hopefully in the next year or two, we have a full-fledged New York State Public High School Athletic Association state tournament for these young ladies,” Conti said.
But in order for that to happen, more girls need to sign up to wrestle. If any girl is out there on the fence thinking whether or not they should join a team, these girls have something to say to you:
“Why not? Why not try it? It’s something that will teach you so much more than just wrestling,” sixth year wrestler Walters said. “It’s a mental sport, you learn so many things. I have more discipline, I have more determination than I would have ever if I didn’t start wrestling.”
“It’s a lot of hard work and you have to be really disciplined with dieting because you have to make a certain weight, but it’s really fun,” second year wrestler Wadsworth said. “You get to know guys that you didn’t know beforehand, then you have a better relationship with them.”
“It’s just a fun sport,” fourth year wrestler Rome said. “It’s not about how much hard work you put into it, it’s about the friendship and the family that you make from it.”
“I’d like to see it obviously grow more, and I’d like to see more girls tournaments going on, and I’d like to see more girls getting involved with it,” first year wrestler Foxe said.
“If I come back here in a few years to look at the wrestling team, I want to see instead of two or three girls, maybe five or six girls on the team, just to see more and more people doing it.”