HARRISBURG — “Wrestling ain’t for boys no more, it’s for both sexes, and I think we have proved it.”
Those are the words of McCaskey wrestler Ytzel Figueroa-Rivera.
On Sunday, a day removed from the PIAA state wrestling championships in Hershey, nearly 300 girls from across Pennsylvania got their chance to shine in the spotlight, not far up the road, at Central Dauphin High School in the My House Girls State Championships.
Although not yet sanctioned by the PIAA —100 schools with a team are needed to reach that status — girls wrestling recently got a shot in the arm when the PIAA gave it emerging sports status. Currently, 35 schools have teams, but more than 100 were represented by athletes at Sunday’s tournament.
Journie Rodriguez, wrestling at 112 pounds, capped a sizzling year for McCaskey as the top finisher from the unofficial Lancaster-Lebanon League contingent, taking home a second-place silver medal.
Her bracket arguably was one of the toughest of the tourney, and in her championship match, she was pitted against Sierra Chiesa of Northwestern. Neither are strangers to wrestling boys, and Chiesa, from outside Erie, had just missed a berth in the PIAA finals, having fallen in overtime in District 10 action.
Chiesa scored a pin in 2:55 to claim the gold.
“I feel great, and even the outcome, even though I got second, I can see the improvement,” Rodriguez said. “This shows me where I am at. I am still a freshman. I love the hard competition because it motivates me and pushes me. To get better, the only way you get there is by wrestling the toughest girls. It is a great feeling to know I am up there, and not just a freshman no one knows.”
Rodriguez started her day with a fall in 1:56 over Sylvyn Parnham of Parkland. Natalya Mercado of Academy Park was her next victim via fall, this time in 1:45. Her semifinal match against Madilyn Enterline of Greenville, who took third, came via a tough 6-1 decision.
Neither was Rodriguez alone on the podium Sunday. Teammate Mali Richardson also grabbed a spot, garnering a sixth-place medal at 155 after being pinned in the fifth-place consolation by Liberty’s Janeyda Ortiz in 4:57.
It was an impressive run for Richardson, considering this was her first year of wrestling. She registered the quickest fall of the tourney along the way, dropping Failyne Oswalt in just 12 seconds.
“I am so surprised. This feels amazing,” Richardson said. “Even though I didn’t win my final match, it was a good way to end my season. I don’t even know how to describe it, the adrenaline rush. Wrestling tested my limits. I am extremely proud of everyone. A lot of us are first-year wrestlers, so it shows how far we can go.”
Richardson also got a 48-second fall over Meadville’s Olivia Kinder during her second bout of the blood round before a loss to eventual bronze medalist Kylie Monroe sent her to meet Ortiz in the fifth-place final.
Clawson, Baccio take home fifths
Penn Manor’s Kaitlyn Clawson, who only returned to the mats in late February following an injury, had herself a day to remember Sunday. The junior, wrestling in her second state meet, took home fifth.
Meeting Ell Hessinger, Clawson went to snap her and had her head in her arm. She then reached for her leg and cradled her in for a fall in just 27 seconds.
“Last week was a pretty rough week, I was just coming back, so this week I felt a lot more confident,” Clawson said. “I placed sixth last year and wanted to improve on that. I wrestled her earlier and this time just wanted to get it done with.”
Clawson (100) seemed on a mission early and had a look of intensity in her eyes, but also seemed relaxed. After a first-round bye, her first bout was a fall in 1:45 over Bella Gable of Spring Grove. She then had a rough second match with Hessinger that went down to the wire as she eked out a 9-8 win. That put her in the semifinals, where she fell to Lexi Doerflinger of Slippery Rock, whose only loss on the girls side this year came in the final.
Manheim Township’s Isabella Baccio (124) lost her semifinal match, but after falling in 1:24, she went and snapped a photograph with her opponent, Halle Jaffe of Kennett.
Why a photo after a loss? In another of the toughest brackets, one that featured 33 girls, Jaffe is one of the best girls wrestlers in Pennsylvania — perhaps a future Olympian. A member of the United States U-15 World team, her skills are where most want to be, including Baccio.
“She is the one who got me into wrestling,” Baccio said. “She has only been wrestling for four years, but when she started, I was first starting off with coach (Kevin) Franklin, and he was like, ‘This is what you can do in a short time,’ so I have looked up to her ever since.”
The rest of the tourney, Baccio was all smiles, especially after her final match against LeiLania Ramos of Canon McMillan, in which she earned fifth place with an 8-3 decision.
“Having all of our girls here today, and being able to represent Township, and say this is our girls team and this is what we can do, was the boost of confidence I needed to win that match,” Baccio added. “Oh my goodness! It is still surreal that I did this.”
In her first match, Baccio said her nerves got to her, and it wasn’t as clean as she would have liked it to be, but she was able to get a late pin in 4:43. Then in her second match, she went against another Canon Mac girl in Nadia McGee. No nerves that time, but it was a match that flip-flopped and wasn’t determined until overtime, 20-18.
No team trophy was handed out, but Gettysburg scored 113 points to lead all schools. Penn Manor was 10th (42), McCaskey 11th (40), and Manheim Township 17th (26).
All of the Comets who entered scored at least one win Sunday.
Jaunita Blake, who was 0-14 a month ago, had two falls for the Comets at 124 pounds, 1:51 over Fort Cherry’s Hannah Matherson, and 58 seconds over Central Cambria’s Madison Rigsby.
Trinity Mowery (142), who had some teeth loosened during the action, fell short of a medal, but had a fall over Parkland’s Zehra Saymaz in 3:20. She scored another fall, in 2:56 over Bedford’s Camryn Steinbuch, before falling to Susquehanna Township’s Jazmine Guiterrez in the blood rounds.
Ana Orr (170) had a fall over Sofia Cordon of Southwestern in 3:18 in her opening round, and Samantha Shaw (136) registered an 8-7 decision over McCaskey’s Liana Samuel.
“We’ve come a long way, the growth that we have seen from the beginning of the year and even the last month is amazing. The future is bright, and we are encouraged.” Penn Manor coach Jason Sellenbaum said.
Four Blue Streaks hit the mats, and three, including Baccio, earned at least one win. Sara Ragar (112) got a fall over Abrielle Benbow of South Western in a minute and Yenyia Terry (106) scored two falls in the consolations, 1:42 over Aubree Donahue of Dubois and 42 seconds over Bernadette Sholtzhaur of Penncrest.
Zoe Caloviras (118) did not earn a win, but she did have one of the longest bouts of the day against in a 7-6, four-overtime loss to Kyleigh Price of Shikellamy.
“Not a bad week for girls wrestling. We are two first-year wrestlers, one second year, and Bella has been wrestling for three years now. I am very proud of these girls, and I’ll tell you the talent here at the state level was amazing.” Manheim Township coach Greg Meglic said.
A-C sent a pair of wrestlers to the tournament, and Anna Kreider just missed a shot at the medal round.
Kreider (118) scored a 10-2 major decision over Catasauqua‘s Caroline Rodriquez, while Noryan Mitchell (118) pinned Woodland Hills McKenzie O’Neil in 2:26 and the blood round over Canon McMillan’s Sienna Van Balen in 2:51 and Parkland’s Chloe Hills in 1:52.
Manheim Central’s Taylor Bloom (112) got a fall in her only win of the tourney, over Parkland’s Slyvan Parham with a nice cradle in 2:23.
McCaskey also got a decision from Figueroa-Rivera (170). Nilaya Thomas had a fall in the blood rounds over Parkland’s Emmerson Slaughenhoupt in 1:47. Jasmine Foster (190) also registered a pin, over Dominque Lawrence of William Allen in 2:05.