HIGH SCHOOL GIRLS' WRESTLING: BIG TURNOUT AS BLUE RAIDERS MAKE HISTORY WITH THEIR FIRST GIRLS' WRESTLING TEAM
(2022-12-02)By Brian FeesSouthern Tier Sports Report
For Horseheads coach Theresa Gill seeing 18 girls out for wrestling in the first year of girls wrestling for the Blue Raiders is something special.
“It’s inspiring and it’s amazing to know they are making history,” Gill said. “This is going to be a moment to help define them for the rest of their lives and they will never forget it. And, the way they have been received by the entire wrestling community is incredible.”
The Blue Raiders hoped they would have a strong turnout for year one of the program, but having the biggest girls wrestling roster in Section 4 is special.
“Brett Owen (the boys coach) beat the bushes, he went to every lunch period and he talked to girls,” Gill said. “Troy Monks and I had a try it on night and we had 19 girls come that night and we thought, ‘oh my goodness, this really could be that big’ and then to have the largest girls team in Section 4 right now it speaks volumes to the courage these girls have.”
The roster has three modified wrestlers and 15 on the varsity, five of them 7th or eighth graders and 11 of them sophomores or younger.
The roster includes seniors Hailey Berry, Haylei Walker and Kaitlin Wheeler, junior Anna Sheahan and sophomores Marayani Wiehe, MayAnna Sindlinger, Gianna Jefferson, Corinne DeFilippo and Victoria Cortwright.
Freshman Makennah Evans is on the team, with eighth grader Kalyani Wiehe and seventh graders Ellisa Bly, Chloe Owen, Amelia Reed and Lillian Vesek.
The modified wrestlers are seventh graders Olivia Sumner, Sonya Dordoni and Julianna McAllister.
A year ago the team had one girl, Narayani Wiehe, who wrestled on the boys team and competed in the girls’ sectional tournament.
“Narayani started wrestling last year as a member of the boys’ JV team, she has worked throughout the spring, summer and fall on her wrestling,” Gill said. “She is sharing her experience with her teammates.”
For Wiehe it is special to see so many people out for the team this year.
“It’s so great, especially to see the turnout since I was the only girl on the team last year,” she said. “It’s really amazing to see the passion and the growth they’ve done.
“I really didn’t get to wrestle that many girls last year so it’s so fun.”
Last year the sport did have a girls’ sectional tournament, and that was something that helped draw some of this year’s wrestlers out for the sport.
“Just seeing how big the sport is growing and how rapidly it is really sparked my interest in being one of those girls who made a difference,” Sindlinger said. “It (sectionals) definitely sparked my interest on wanting to be one of those girls who really changed the normal and being one of the outstanding people who tried new things.”
For Wheeler, the sport was something she always wanted to try, and having an opportunity now is special.
“I have always wanted to wrestle since I was younger and I’m finally glad we have an opportunity for all the girls to do it as well who wanted to do it,” Wheeler said. “Seeing the tournament and realizing it was an. Option for all the girls who wanted to do it and it was a choice.”
Gill is excited to be coaching a generation of girls who have opportunities that didn’t exist in the past.
“I know when I was young and wanted to wrestle I was sent back to the other side and told, ‘no you can’t,’ so to see them have the opportunity and to see myself embraced the way I was last year and this year by the coaching staffs in the area, it’s been phenomenal,” Gill said. “We have over 70 kids wrestling in Horseheads (between boys and girls), I think that speaks volumes.”
Gill knows that it’s special that the Blue Raiders were able to really provided resources for the girls team.
“I think that’s why we got the numbers we got,” Gill said. “Our school was fortunate enough to be able to dedicate a space and a coach so it could be just the girls and I think that really showed up in the numbers.”
For the girls being able to say they are the start of something new is special for them.
“It’s crazy saying I am the first girl to ever wrestle for Horseheads, and it’s crazy just seeing the outcome and all these girls who are so passionate, it’s so cool to see,” Wiehe said.
And, seeing how many kids are out for the sport is amazing for the wrestlers.
“It’s crazy, I’ve seen other teams and they have had very little outcome for their first year,” Wiehe said. “Because, I go and wrestle in Pennsylvania and it’s crazy to see the vast majority (don’t have a lot of girls). Because 15 is so big for a first year, it’s crazy.”
Seeing so many girls signed up and show up to practice and putting their all into this sport, that definitely takes a lot of guts to do so it’s a very exciting experience,” Sindlinger said. “Just seeing how many people came out to support what we are doing here, it’s crazy to me seeing how many supporters we really have in this sport.”
The girls know how exciting it is to have such a strong group in year one.
“It’s great to see everyone that is already so into it only a few days into practice and how they love the sport already” Wheeler said. “It’s great to see how many other people you might not necessarily talk to in school and this brings us together in this wonderful sport.”
There are some different weight classes for girls’ wrestling, they are: 94, 100, 107, 114, 120. 126, 132, 138, 145, 152, 165, 185 and 235.
The girls got a chance to compete in their first tournament a week ago.
“It was crazy honestly, it’s cool to see all the different levels and how passionate everyone was, it was very cool,” Wiehe said.
While Wiehe had wrestled in a girls tournament before, it was a first for most of the girls on the team.
“My first tournament was definitely very unexpected,” Sindlinger said. “I had lots of fun and I did surprise myself, which I was hoping to do.”
“My first tournament was wonderful,” Wheeler said. “It was great to see everyone come together,” Wheeler said. “Not just between schools, but every girl wrestler cheering for each other no matter what team.”
While many of Horseheads wrestlers are just starting out in the sport, they already are thinking about doing the sport more in the future.
“I know I have two seniors who have done other sports and after wrestling competitively for 10 days they are looking to go and do this in college,” Gill said.
With wrestling growing as a collegiate sport, and starting up at a lot of schools right now, there is a chance for girls who are new at the sport to improve quickly and maybe even wrestle at the next level.
“Hailey Berry was a cheerleader and Kaitlin is a swimmer and they have just lit the mat on fire and both are expressing the interest (in wrestling in college),” Gill said. “It is the best opportunity for young ladies to step into a collegiate sport and I think because it is still so developing if you have some athleticism and coachability it makes you more valuable.”
All the women in the sport are so supportive of wrestlers starting out as well. Elmira College wrestlers came to Horseheads during football season to help promote the sport to perspective wrestlers.
“Some of them (the Horseheads girls) have gone to Elmira matches too,” Gill said. “It’s a give and take.”
While the sport is taking off at Horseheads already with such a big roster, the girls are really excited to see what the future holds in the sport.
“I hope next year more people look at how much we accomplished our first year and hope to join next year,” Wheeler said.
And, being on this first team is something special for the girls. They love being part of building the sport, and watching it grow as the years go on.
“I’m super pumped to be in this sport and be on this team and I really hope more girls participate in this sport for years to come,” Sindlinger said. “It’s a really great mental, physical and emotional sport to be involved in.”
And, it’s fun for the girls to see more and more schools adding the sport.
“I’m so excited, specially just seeing how we are a rising sport as it is now with New York, we are becoming a sanctioned sport,” Wiehe said. “It’s so cool to see all these schools popping up beginning girls teams.”
For Gill, with so many younger girls on the team it is exciting to see how much better they all may get in the future as well.
“We have eight seventh and eighth graders, in another three or four years what they will learn is amazing,” Gill said.
The Blue Raiders will be in action on Saturday at the Mark Stephens Tournament, with the girls expected to get two matches on the day.
IN TOP PHOTO: The Horseheads wrestling captains. . . PHOTOS BY BRIAN FEES
Print Friendly Version