BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the fifth season since Section VI sanctioned its first high school girls wrestling tournament, 32 grapplers from Western New York competed at the inaugural NYSPHSAA Girls Wrestling Invitational on Friday in Syracuse.
“It’s long overdue,” Section VI girls wrestling chair Alex Conti said. “This is now into the 51st year since Title IX came through. We’ve had a committee together since 2014, and we’ve been working hard to get this. It’s kind of crazy that New York State hasn’t had it, seeing that 36 other states beat us to it.”
Gabriella Barone, a seventh-grader wrestling for Niagara-Wheatfield, won the 100-pound championship. Newfane seventh-grader Alexa Doxey (126 pounds) and West Seneca junior Christina Evans (145) were finalists. There were seven wrestlers from Section VI in the semifinals across 13 weight classes.
While not yet fully sanctioned for NYSPHSAA championships, girls wrestling was approved last summer as an “emerging sport” for development. That led to the creation of the invitational, which brought together 208 girls for the daylong event at SRC Arena at Onondaga Community College.
“This is an exciting time for us as we host our first formal event for only girls wrestlers to compete in a statewide invitational tournament,” NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas stated in a news release. “There are nearly 1,000 girls competing on girls wrestling teams across the state and we’re pleased to be able to have an event to showcase them on [Friday]. We are hopeful this will develop into a state championship in the near future.”
NYSPHSAA selected from a group of 456 applicants on the basis of experience, grade level, and representation across the state. Section VI is one of six sections in the state with all-girls teams, and 10 of the 12 sections sanction girls wrestling in some form, according to the NYSPHSAA.
Many of the WNY representatives competed at the Intersectional Girls Wrestling Championship last winter that drew entrants from Sections III, IV, V and VI. This season’s culminating event will be held on Feb. 18 at Chautauqua Lake.
“When I first started, there was like girl divisions, but there wouldn’t be very many girls there, and usually all the girls would just wrestle in guy divisions,” Lake Shore sophomore Alexiya Thuman told News 4 before winning the 118-pound title at last year’s intersectional tournament.
“I feel like a lot of girls are getting into it and there’s a lot of new girls too. So there’s a lot of new people coming into the sport.”
Evans and Lewiston-Porter senior Meghan Edwards were intersectional champions at different weights last year, and highly-seeded in the 145-pound division at the state invitational.
Here are the wrestlers from Section VI who competed in the inaugural event:
94 pounds: Meyah Aponte (Fredonia), junior; Lily Pieczonka (Niagara Wheatfield), eighth-grade
100 pounds: Leah Waite (Fredonia), freshman; Gabriella Barone (Niagara Wheatfield), seventh-grade; AJ Johnson (Fredonia), junior
107 pounds: Hannah McCarley (North Tonawanda), junior; Brenna McCarley (North Tonawanda), junior; Brooklyn Pryll (Falconer), senior
114 pounds: Maleah McKinney-Updegraph (Lockport), senior; Marissa Tara (Orchard Park), sophomore
120 pounds: Emma Schindler (Gowanda), senior; Madison Szymanowski (Chautauqua Lake), junior
126 pounds: Gabriella Testa (Chautauqua Lake), sophomore; Alexa Doxey (Newfane), seventh-grade
132 pounds: Ke’ya Stevens (Gowanda), senior; Mia Smith (Chautauqua Lake), sophomore; Alexiya Thuman (Lake Shore), sophomore
138 pounds: Gwyneth Edwards (Lew-Port), senior; Avery White (Frontier), sophomore; Nevaeh Senik (Niagara Wheatfield), eighth grade; Sophia Gervasio (Chautauqua Lake), junior
145 pounds: Christina Evans (West Seneca), junior; Meghan Edwards (Lew-Port), senior; Caroline Apthorpe (Chautauqua Lake), junior; Lillian Hyde (Chautauqua Lake), seventh grade
152 pounds: Michaela Thomas (Iroquois), freshman; Bella Andes (Lockport), freshman; Eva Colon-DeJesus (Dunkirk), freshman; Lyn Cuthbert (Fredonia), junior
165 pounds: Gianna Scirri (Niagara Wheatfield), senior; Ava Bragg (Lockport), freshman
185 pounds: Doris Baker (North Tonawanda), junior; Marea Palka (Springville Griffith), junior; Khamya J’Maxwell (Lockport), sophomore
235 pounds: Gabi Freeburg (Chautauqua Lake), sophomore
Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.