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By Brian Fees
Southern Tier Sports Report
It took just one year for the Elmira College women’s hockey team to land on the national map.

One season, one All-American, one top 15 national ranking.

While the team had plenty of success this season, it was freshman Skylah Chakouian who took center stage in the postseason, finishing eighth at 155 pounds at nationals to become an All-American.

“It was a lot of fun, it was a great opportunity,” Chakouian said. “I’m glad I got to go there with my coaches and teammates.

“It was a great opportunity, one of the best ones I had this year.”

For Elmira College coach Cody Griswold this year was everything he could have wanted in year one.

“Definitely everything I could ask for,” he said. “I’m not super shocked, as soon as we got everyone in the room and got them working hard I knew the sky was the limit. They really bought into it, we believed in it.

“We had a couple injuries, a couple things not go our way, which cost us some of those forfeits (as a team), but I think once we get everyone back in the lineup next year, plus we have a really good group of recruits coming in here, I’m excited to share with everybody, but I think the sky is the limit and we are just getting started.”

The wrestlers know that they can compete with anyone.

“I think once we get every weight filled we are going to dominate,” Chakouian said. “I think we are going to do really well. The goal is to keep getting better next year and the goal is to bring more girls to nationals.”

The team finished the year 15th in the national rankings, and they took 18th as a team at nationals.

All of that for a program that was short-handed at times during the season and had to forfeit some weights.

The Soaring Eagles know that when they have a full lineup they will be tough to beat.

“I think we did amazing,” Chakouian said. “Especially our first year here, being a brand new team and some of the girls don’t know free style, so getting as far as we did was better than we could have expected.

For Chakouian what she accomplished was everything she hoped for this year.

“That was my goal since the beginning,” Chakouian said. “I wanted to become an All-American and I want to go to World Team Trials and place up there to.”

For the Elmira College freshman it was fun seeing and competing with the best in the country.

“Just getting to watch their matches,” she said. “Because I see them on Instagram, on Flo Wrestling all the time so just to see them in person and to be like wow, that’s what she does and to see them in person and learn from them.”

For Griswold the success this year just helps the program going forward.

“It’s super exciting, a lot of hard work over almost two years now,” Griswold said. “To watch it all come together this season was incredible, very rewarding.

“Having an All-American makes it easier on the recruiting side of things. On top of that, I think the team busting into the national ranking at the end of the year, being ranked 15th in the nation as a team overall helped a lot as well.”

No matter how many women the team had in each match the Soaring Eagles always were fighting hard in matches.

“It’s something the girls have bought into with the program,” Griswold said. “They have bought into what we talked about. They gave it their all every single day in the room. They competed, they didn’t care what school you were from, how many girls you had, they were going to go out and compete every single day.”

Griswold knows that the program has a lot going for them and it will lead to even bigger things in the future.

“I think a lot of people are buying in,” Griswold said. “I think the school is a good fit, a good culture for women’s wrestling. I think as soon as our team got nationally ranked I got a bunch of recruit forms coming in. We got even more recruit forms coming in, it’s definitely opening things up, making people aware of Elmira College and I think it’s been great.

“Just the history of Elmira College. Being the first school in the country to offer a degree to women equal to men and that just consenting a high level of academics. We have great class size, we have a beautiful campus. We have an incredible wrestling facility, so we have a lot of great things lining up and we have passionate, passionate wrestlers and a great support staff, administration coaching staff, student body, we had 600 people at our first match, so tons of tons of support all around.”

Chakouian came to Elmira from Rhode Island, and the Soaring Eagles have wrestlers from all around the country.

“It’s amazing, we have girls from Alaska, California, Texas, places I’ve never been, so learning about their different cultures and how they practice,” Chakouian said.

Coming from Rhode Island it was the school at first that drew the freshman in, and then the wrestling program was the right fit.

“It was definitely the school, they have a very good pre vet program and a good biology program, so I came for that and coach really sold it,” Chakouian said. “I wanted to come here and start a team and for girls before me I wanted to come here and start something.”

And the Elmira freshman is already talking to people from back home about Elmira College.

“I know a lot of girls back home are like Skye, I saw you All Americaned, great job, and I was like yeah, you know it’s great,” Chakouian said. “I’m already talking to them about coming for tours, overnights. From Providence there are some girls and a girl from my high school and I want to get them here.”

The coaches know they can look all over the country for top talent for the team.

“It’s exciting, and we will go after them, we talk to every single person we can,” Griswold said. “We spend a lot of time making phone calls, emailing them, going to clubs, talking to coaches. If you love wrestling and want a good education Elmira College is a great fit for you.”

With Section 4 starting a girls sectional bracket this year, and New York thinking about a state tournament for girls in the future, the sport is growing in New York which just means more opportunities for even more local athletes to come to Elmira.

“It’s incredible,” Griswold said. “There is a lot of talent in New York and the girls are even younger now (getting into the sport) and there are more of them and they are even just as good, if not better, it’s really, really exciting. New York has a rich history here and they are coming along on the women’s side of things and it’s super exciting.

“If you are a girl wrestler in New York and you don’t want to leave the state we are a perfect spot for you. It’s super exciting, obviously the girls deserve it, all across the country, but I think some of that mindset is starting to change and move in the right direction and it’s a really exciting time.”

The wrestlers on the team are excited to see even more talent join in next year.

“Next year some of these girls are going to be looking at us, they will look at us as a school, see we had a girl that All Americaned and say let me look into that school,” Chakouian said.

It’s not just the women’s team, as the men also debuted last year and the success of the women can only help both teams next year.

“I think they play off each other really well,” Griswold said. “We kind of call each other one team, one family, we work off each other well, we both kind of match each others pace and intensity and it works really well,” Griswold said.

And, the future looks bright for both teams next year.

“We are working hard on both sides of things,” Griswold said. “The recruit forms are coming in, the phone calls are happening, things are looking good. Campus tours are happening almost every weekend, we have a couple recruits on the men’s and women’s side so we are putting the work in and things are really exciting.”

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