By Tessa Weinberg
Wrestling, a sport usually dominated by men, saw some changes here at Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). For the first time this year there was an official girls’ wrestling team. Practicing every day, these female wrestlers 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 as of 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 girls are getting the opportunity to try their hand at the sport. Whether it is to learn self-defense moves, find a way to stay fit, or relax with the unique mix of intimacy and aggressiveness that wrestling embodies, the girls have excelled in their first season on the mat.
Leading GHCHS’ girls is senior and captain, Emily Chapman. Wrestling for about five years, Chapman’s dedication to the sport is clear as she was undefeated in the West Valley League, earned the title of Los Angeles City Champion, and placed 8th out of 32 girls at the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) California State Championships. Chapman has used her experience to push the girls on the team to improve.
“A lot of girls who came in felt very insecure about things, such as being in a new uniform, being around guys, wrestling with them. So I taught them how to be tough,” Chapman said.
Confident in the team’s growth for the future, Chapman believes that with the team’s supportive coaches and the performances of athletes like junior Lola de Marcos and freshman Paea Lealiki, the team will go far in upcoming years.
De Marcos, who uses wrestling as a way to de-stress from the work she has in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme, took 4th at the LA City Championships, and Lealiki accomplished her goal of participating in the city meet, placing 4th in the heavyweight division. It was both of the girls’ first year wrestling, and their natural talent for the sport is evident based on their impressive wins.
As a newcomer, Lealiki’s advice for girls interested in wrestling is: “Don’t get intimidated at all, because honestly, it’s not that scary. Just love it. Once you start loving the sport, that’s when the sport starts to get easier. Then it’s just more stress-free.”
Coaches James Lee and Lorenzo Chapman are confident in the girls’ abilities, and as a young team comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores, they hope that if the girls stick with training, they will continue to get stronger and improve. Already the girls have proved they can be competitive in matches, helping GHCHS place in the top 10 teams for the first time ever at the LA City Championships.
As the female wrestlers on the team continue to train and become comfortable on the mat, they will become an essential part to building a stronger team.
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.”