Friday, April 14, 2017

Female wrestlers grapple with change

By Robert Cole

SPORTS NEWS- Those who espouse the benefits of high school sports - learn discipline, cooperation, teamwork, and self-control - would have been proud of the girls that gathered at The Bronx High School of Science gym last Saturday for the Wolverine Welcome Tournament, sponsored by the PSAL and Beat the Streets NYC Inc.

The event is one of a number of tournaments added to the PSAL Girl’s Wrestling Season, designed to provide opportunities for wrestlers to compete and implement the techniques they practiced all week.  Ted Cook, the head girl’s wrestling coach at Truman High School, mentioned how important these one-day events are to the long-term development of the wrestlers.

“Having these extra meets has a big impact, because normally in a dual meet season with five teams in your league, you will only get five meets,” Cook said. “The more you are on the mat, the more you are going to progress, and the more you are going to grow as a wrestler. The tournaments allow the girls to finish with up to 30 matches at the end of a season, which is a big help.”

A total of 19 high school teams from throughout the city gathered in the Bronx for this event. Schools from the Bronx included, Truman, Bronx Science, Bronx Studio, and Taft, with Truman capturing the top team spot with 160 points – 35 points ahead of second place Brooklyn Tech.  Bronx Studio finished in fifth place, accumulating 89.5 points. Bronx Science captured 27 points for an 11th place finish, and Taft completed action tied for 15th with 22 points.

With the PSAL adopting girls’ wrestling as a sanctioned sport only five year’s ago, many of the competitors have been in the sport for one to two years. However, you would never know how inexperienced they are on the by attending today’s tournament. The action was intense and the girls exhibited the skills of veteran wrestlers.

Credit for the rapid growth in the quality of the sport can be attributed to the partnership between the PSAL and Beat the Streets NYC Inc., a not-for-profit organization that services about 3,000 inner-city youth by providing free wrestling opportunities for youngsters in NYC.  The partnership insures that the athletes are provided the training and resources needed for growth and development in the sport.

Jackie Davis, head girl’s coach and head of girl’s programming at Beat the Streets NYC Inc., plays a big role in the partnership with the PSAL. Coach Davis, in addition to coaching many of the girls competing throughout the PSAL, provides much needed technical support to newly organized wrestling teams and wrestling beginners. PSAL coaches can also call on Coach Davis for coaching education, practice plans, and mentoring. 

When asked what the girls get from wrestling, Coach Davis’ immediate answer was “empowerment.”

“Wrestling allows them to realize what they are capable of and they do not need to be pressured by outside things,” Davis said.

One athlete who is an example of that empowerment is the tournament’s 112lb. winner and last season’s 107lb. PSAL Champion, Pearl Fletcher. The senior captain of Truman High School, Fletcher had a desire to play high school football, but quickly pushed that aside when she was introduced to wrestling. In addition to the efforts of her high school coach, Cook, her continued participation in the Beat the Street’s NYC program has lead to convince Cook - who has coached the boys team for 10 years to start a girls’ wrestling program at Truman. Fletcher stated that wrestling taught her two key lessons: “… to never give up in any situation, and that you don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”

The competition, cooperation, and camaraderie displayed today by teammates and opponents alike lets us know that something powerful is taking place with the PSAL girls’ wrestling program.  With girl’s wrestling growing at such a rapid rate, Coach Davis believes that the popularity that the sport has now is only the beginning.

“We’re not going anywhere.”

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