Pinning them down: Female wrestlers leave their mark at Granada

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Wrestling, a sport usually dominated by men, is seeing some changes here at Granada.  For the first time, there is now an official girls’ wrestling team that will compete in meets and earn a team score.  Practicing every day, these female wrestlers are here to put in the work for a sport few girls can claim as their own.

Starting with just a handful of girls, the team has grown to a dozen young women this year.  As more schools, such as Cleveland, Birmingham, and Monroe, begin to join the growing number of high schools with female wrestling teams, more and more females are getting the opportunity to try their hand at the sport.  Girls are trying wrestling for a variety of reasons, whether it’s to learn self-defense moves, find a way to stay fit, or relax with the unique mix of intimacy and aggressiveness that wrestling embodies.

Leading Granada’s girls is senior and captain Emily Chapman.  Wrestling for about five years, Chapman’s dedication to the sport is clear as she expects to push both the girls and boys on the team to improve this season.

“At first when I first started wrestling as a girl I thought they were going to give it to me the easy way just because I was a girl, but then I learned that they treated me just like the guys,” Chapman said.  “They pushed me as hard, and they didn’t give me any crutches because I was a girl.”

That work ethic is something Chapman draws on as she hopes to accomplish a city title for herself this season after placing second at the Los Angeles city championship last year.  With her experience, Chapman also does her best to help many of the new girls in the new environment.

“What I’ve taught to the girls was obviously a couple of moves and how to not make themselves seem lower just because a lot of girls that came in felt very insecure about things… being in a new uniform, being around guys, wrestling with them.  So I taught them how to be tough.  Not be that girly-girl type who’s only shy,” Chapman said.

Chapman has helped mentor new wrestlers such as freshman Paea Lealiki.  Interested in wrestling from watching her brothers watch the sport on television, Lealiki is a young wrestler that will carry the team in the future as she grows, according to the praise of her coach.

Lealiki hopes to progress to the city meet this season, and on a more personal note hopes that her bonds with her fellow teammates strengthen as well.  Despite the nerves from being new to wrestling, her favorite part about wrestling comes from taking her opponent down, especially by snapping.

Lealiki’s advice for girls interested in wrestling: “Don’t get afraid. Don’t get intimidated at all, because honestly, it’s not that scary… and just to love it.  Once you start loving the sport, that’s when the sport starts to get easier.  Especially like during practice, once you love it, then everything’s easier and it’s just more stress-free.”

Despite losing in their pre-season meet against Monroe High School and also in their first league meet against Birmingham High School, Coach Chapman is confident in the girls’ abilities and room for improvement.  He’s proud his wrestlers have held their own and been competitive in matches.  As a young team comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores he hopes that if they stick with training they will continue to get stronger and improve.

The female wrestlers on the team will be an essential part to building a stronger team here at Granada as they continue to train and become comfortable on the mat.  With this new opportunity to compete, girls should know they are supported in their decision to try a sport that may be unfamiliar to them.  As senior and boys’ captain Ramsey Khader put it, “When you’re on the team you see them as a teammate.  It’s not as if you see them as a girl, you see them as a teammate.”

—Tessa Weinberg

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