Senior wrestlers step off the mat

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The COVID-19 pandemic has put the world on pause and led to the cancellation of numerous events and activities. On March 12, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that PSAL activities were to be suspended indefinitely. PSAL spring sports are effectively over. This was to be the last season for graduating seniors, who are not able to participate in their final year. As now is the time when the school would normally celebrate its athletic achievements, The Classic asked players from various THHS spring teams to share thoughts about outgoing senior athletes. This is the reflection for the wrestling team. 

A few years ago, the wrestling team was destroyed. We lost almost every single game possible.  Today, the girls wrestling team is first in the state. 

The seniors were the ones who picked themselves up. We have a mantra that I hear in my head today, even when I’m not wrestling: ‘hard work beats talent, whenever talent doesn’t work hard.’ We know that whenever our coach was pushing us harder and to do better, we actually could. Everyone joins for different reasons, but I genuinely believe that you need to be a little insane to do wrestling. The fact that I could be a girl that fights back— I liked that a lot. 

On the first practice, I forward-rolled off the mat. The first person I met was senior Vivian Chen, who holds two state championships and competed at the national level. “Vivian can come off as intimidating, but it’s really funny watching her eat,” said senior Maria Leyba, which was true. When she was angry, she always took it out on us, but that only made it a better workout. Vivian will always be there to laugh at her jokes, whether we’re working out or not. 

“I absolutely despise ice skating, but even that I loved going with the team. Vivian made the experience better because she’s so entertaining, and funny, but badass at the same time,” said junior Rachel Chai. 

You can’t go to a tournament without screaming everywhere. I hadn’t joined until sophomore year, and from an outsider’s perspective, tournaments seemed bizarre to me. There are mats spread out on the floor and you see a completely different version of your classmates. They’re focused. They’re concentrating. They’re about to win. 

Senior Katrina Dydzuhn is someone who would smack you for thinking less of yourself than you really are. Though every single team member is there to cheer you on, Kat’s voice is always so compassionate and can be heard through the cheers. Kat makes everyone feel connected and giddy just by being around her, and she’s the only mom on the team. “Katrina is the social connection we all want and need and admire so very much. She makes everyone feel included and she’s a major reason why the team is so tight-knit,” Rachel said. 

“Katrina’s one of the people that made me comfortable with the team and the people there. I was intimidated just by the idea of talking to upperclassmen but she really made it enjoyable. She’s definitely my favorite wrestling partner (sorry other wrestling partners),” junior Joyce Zheng said.  

If you ever text Maria Leyba, you’re going to be scared that she’s mad at you. She uses proper grammar and periods. But, if you ask her about it in person, you’ll realize that she has a really big heart and is kind to every single person no matter what. When you see her in person, she’s likely running around in circles while flapping her arms because she’s excited about something. “Maria Leyba was such an amazing captain … she’s the glue that holds the team together,” said Rachel. 

“Even though the seniors are older and upperclassmen, and they’re great masters who made wrestling a better learning experience, after a while, you only see them for what they are: amazing teammates. We learn to be tough, but we also love to fool around, and that’s only made us closer,” said freshman Justin Linzan. 

Senior Maria Arsenie is a dancer. Even when it’s not her season, she’ll show up to practice and help manage. “She’s a natural-born leader,” Rachel said. 

Chances are, senior Emily Chan is late to practice, but the fact is that she can run past a lot of us. She’s always fun to hang out with, during, or outside of practice. 

Senior Annie Lin is always full of energy and welcoming to the rest of the team. Rachel said, “Annie is bigger than me, but she’s such a sarcastic little human and the best to be around. She talks when we’re wrestling, and her sense of humor is so funny.” 

Senior Raymond Zhuo is also someone who would kick you for underestimating your own potential. He doesn’t just think, but knows, that if we put our mind to it, we will win. He always pushes the rest of us to keep going; he’s the type to run with you just to encourage you. He loves to mess around and often fakes a move to distract an opponent. 

Senior Xander Izower, captain of boys wrestling, may be known as the “meanest” of the captains. But, underneath all that, he is a manager who’s not afraid to be honest and to tell us that we need to do better. He shows us how to have a tougher mentality. Rachel puts it best, “Xander was an amazing captain who kept this team going and intact. He’s so witty and sarcastic, and the meanest and nicest person all at the same time.” 

One of my favorite memories would be when we went to Nan Xiang Xiao Long Bao after a tournament. Everyone was delirious and talking over each other. Every five seconds we would be told by the staff to be quiet, and every five seconds we would forget that we were at a restaurant. Before we went home, we made sure to put our arms together and shout a parody of our team chant into the dark.

We have so many seniors on the team, but, as Vivian would say, our vibes are all on the same level and create a synergy. Even though we all have distinct favorite memories with each other, it’s more about the little things. It’s the fact that we hide from our coach together when we have FON practice, the fact that we send flowers to each other during our lunch bands, the fact that we watch We Bare Bears at each other’s houses, the fact that we have to squish into one seat at an AMC to watch a horror movie in broad daylight, and the fact that we go to Target after practice to help a guy shop for Maria’s Valentine’s Day gift.

To our seniors, Rachel said, “You’re the only people that would make me tear up at 3 a.m. Y’all have changed my life. You guys are my second family. Y’all make me feel important and special and everything I thought I wasn’t. These are my true feelings and everything I’m thinking of comes back to this.”

Thank you for showing me what I’m worth, for giving me a reason to believe in me. Thank you for showing me what hard work actually means. Thank you for crying with me. Thank you for not giving up on me, when I almost gave up on you. Thank you for being what everything my experience at Townsend comes back to, for being my second family. I’m sorry for the times I fake wrestled or the times I jogged when we were supposed to be doing suicide runs. I’m sorry that no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t reach the top.

But, I promise we’re going to make you proud, so come home soon. 

Photo courtesy of Jessie Ye.

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