This winter season, girls’ wrestling has been revived by a host of new female wrestlers. This year’s squad is more balanced between boys and girls than ever before. This year’s roster has five freshman girls who joined the team for a variety of reasons – for self-defense, to participate in a team sport, or meet new people. These girls aren’t afraid of tough competition and really want to improve as wrestlers and athletes. In past years Don Rizzi and his squad had the outstanding female leadership of Consuelo Barton ’14, Tatiana Capko ’16, and Aiko Fairchild ’17.
Barton joined the wrestling team for some of the same reasons this year’s freshman girls did – she wanted to try something new and push herself physically. Throughout her years wrestling she enjoyed the little victories that came with participating in such a demanding sport like wrestling. “First time you don’t get pinned, first time you beat a boy, first time you beat a girl, first time you nail a reversal or a take down. First time you beat your teammate during practice.. there are so many rewarding little steps embedded in the challenging and often defeating experience. I learned how to face my fears (wrestling at home matches or big tournaments is terrifying, but you have to strut on to the mat and give it all you got). I overcame stage fright/ performance anxiety. I was the strongest I’ve ever been.” However, as senior year rolled around Barton found herself wanting to pull away from wrestling due to other activities, college apps, and difficulty of being a female wrestler who has to wrestle inexperienced, yet strong boys. Although Barton didn’t participate in wrestling her senior year, she still hopes girls will join and encourage the female participation to grow.
When asked, what is it like to be a female wrestler at Lick, the girls on the team talked about the intensity and rewards of wrestling. Karina Arenas ’19 explained, “You have to have a strong personality and you have to learn to depend on yourself and teammates at the same time.” Wrestling is one of those difficult to navigate in-between sports that are both an individual and team sport. Competitions are held in tri-meets, when three teams participate in matches. These competitions can last up to eight hours – wrestlers must find focus and energy from both themselves and from their teammates.
Wrestlers on the coed team compete against all genders, while learning from and supporting all the wrestlers. When asked if she enjoyed wrestling on a coed team. Mari Kure ’19 said, “Yes!” – In middle school she did not spend a lot of time with male students – and wrestling provides a different experience with boys than she did in middle school. It is one of sports that offers a sampling of lick’s entire social scene – boys, girls, and all grades levels. The girls receive lots of support from other teams and parents. Mari, Karina and Maxine ’19 described their parents or other teams would say, “Oh you’re a wrestler? That’s so neat!” or “It’s great to see girl wrestlers.” These comments are positive, and under the surface they reveal how unexpected it is for girls to be wrestlers, and implies the freshman female wrestlers are a group of outliers. Let me be clear, these girls are committed, invested and eager to play these next few years.
In the upcoming years these girls hope to see the female presence and the overall participation grow and become more sustainable. In past years female wrestlers participated one year, but then not the next. As Maxine explains, “I hope that more people join the program. It can be an intimidating sport, and I know a lot of people are wary of injury, but there’s more to wrestling than that. I didn’t join the team expecting to have as much fun as I’m having, or to meet such amazing, supportive people. I hope that people can get over all the negative things they’ve heard about wrestling, and at least give it a try.” Karina even describes this year’s team as a family that she hopes will grow in upcoming years.
However, it is tough for wrestling to be a winter sport, stuck between two popular female sports. In addition, as Maxine explained, there are many stigmas surrounding girls in intense and physical sports, which discourages many girls from joining wrestling. Karina has explained even some concerns from her parents regarding her participation in wrestling, whereas Maxine’s biggest fan is her dad.
This season the Wrestling team has participated in six tournaments, and four league tri-meets, with one scrimmage against International High School and one against Stuart Hall. On February 6th, the JV team will compete in the BCL Playoffs at Dougherty Valley, followed by the Varsity Championships on February 19th at Athenian High School.