Girls varsity wrestling debuts, makes NYC history

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In a school dominated by women, it was only a matter of time before THHS became one of the first schools in New York City to have a girls wrestling team.  The 2013 PSAL Girls Freestyle Wrestling season kicked off on Saturday, April 6. Townsend Harris is one of the sixteen teams in this year’s season.

PSAL has long held a co-ed wrestling season. However, these teams always had a male majority. This year, PSAL officials identified 15 schools with a core group of female wrestlers already competing on the boys’ squads, or where coaches and school officials believed there was enough interest from female students to give all-female wrestling a try. The 16th team is a citywide “catch all” team for girls at schools without programs.

Coach Raymond Adamkiewicz has been the coach of the boys wrestling team for the past six years, and he is now the coach of the girls team. He said, “I think [the idea of having this team] is great. This opportunity of having an all-female program allows them to excel within their own capabilities. It also allows for more recruitment and advertisement. The girls are very well-disciplined and they pick up the technique quickly. They re-assess their matches through video and they improve through that. They pick [wrestling] up quicker than boys. Their flexibility plays an advantage but defies some of the things we teach the boys.”

Sophomore Eleni Sardina played a huge role in the creation of this team. In her freshman year, she was one of only two girls on the co-ed team, and now she’s the captain of a fourteen-girl team.

“Because I’m the senior-most girl wrestler,” she explained,  “I had the responsibility of getting people interested and recruited.”

Since most of the wrestlers this season are rookies, a lot more responsibility is placed on Eleni’s shoulders. “What makes this season different from co-ed is that in every year there is a group of seniors who can help out the rookies, and make the transition easier. This season, however, I’m the most experienced. I’m trying to teach these girls about a sport I love.”

Regardless of a lack of veterans, she says that the girls are progressing nicely. “The only way wrestlers get any better is by having a partner that’s tough on them and I see that a lot in the room. They also take chances. When we show them a move one day they’ll attempt to use it the next, regardless of how comfortable they are with it. Overall the girls are aggressive, adaptable, and really willing to give this sport a chance and to me that’s all I really wanted from this team.”

Many girls express that they feel much more comfortable wrestling on a girls team than a co-ed team. Sophomore Rhea Ramsaywack said, “With a guy you feel like they’re stronger, you can’t do anything. With a girl, you feel even and like you can achieve more.”

Freshmen girls expressed similar sentiments. For Rebecca West, wrestling is “definitely more fun with your own gender.”

Freshman Andzelika Sroka added, “Both teammates get to learn when it’s two girls, because guys are naturally stronger.”

Sophomore Alyssa Watson said, “It’s so different from co-ed because we’re making history. It’s something special to be a part of. Girls wrestling hasn’t been acknowledged until now. Plus, it’s more of a family.”

There are small differences in the rules between girls wrestling and co-ed. Instead of using the collegiate rules of the boys league, the girls league will use the freestyle rules used in Olympic wrestling. The style is more about wrestling on one’s feet instead of grappling on the mat.

Senior Eileen Santiago said, “The hardest thing in life is wrestling because after you wrestle, everything else is easy.”

Eleni is very proud of her team and has high hopes. “So far it’s been going well. I honestly was just really concerned with girls joining at all. It’s really hard to support a sport that’s considered masculine to girls. Luckily we have 14 girls on the team. I like our team the way it is, we have a family-like atmosphere that I love. I feel like we have a solid team. Mr. A and Assistant Coach Owen are both extremely knowledgeable in wrestling and the girls are very receptive so they really have a good foundation for wrestling.”

“Going forward we’re hoping to make the playoffs as a team and that more than half of us qualify for city championships,” said Coach Adamkiewicz.