Fifteen of AT’s female athletes made school history by competing in the first ever all female dual wrestling meet in school history on Dec. 1 at Glenbard West.
The meet ended in Blazer victories at several weight classes, with AT’s namesake victory coming from Lluvia Sanchez. Sanchez, a junior, took down her opponent quickly and was able to pin her in just 12 seconds. She attributed her accomplishment to hard work and steady knowledge in the moment.
“When I was moving it wasn’t me, it was my body,” said Sanchez. “It knew what to do. When I stepped onto the mat, the whistle was blown and next thing I knew I had her on the mat. It felt really good to win and I was very happy that my hard work had paid off.”
AT’s success also included victories from wrestlers Stephany Mondragon, Veronica Cosio, JD Quijano Perez, and Nina Matthews.
This season not only marks AT’s first all female meet, but also marks the first ever year that AT has been able to boast having both boys and girls wrestling teams. Girls captain senior Nancy Perez has been on the once co-ed team for all four years of her high school career. Perez, who was the only girl on the team her freshman year, felt the change in the popularity of girls wrestling was so important.
“I think that for so long hearing about women’s wrestling was so dismissed that it discouraged girls from trying it out,” she said. “It’s important that girls are a part of wrestling because not only does it teach you discipline and how to work hard but it’s also empowering. When I wrestle I feel the strongest and happiest version of me there is.”
Sanchez also felt wrestling to be empowering.
“What I love about wrestling is the discipline, hard work, and bonding that it brings. It is so much fun pushing each other to work harder. Wrestling brings us together on another level. Having a girls team is really fun and it is encouraging that we can do what boys can too,” she said.
Although the girls all feel they can wrestle no differently than boys can, not everyone has shared their view. Many have faced insults and discouragement from family or male athletes.
I usually never had any challenges until I came into wrestling,” said Sanchez. My family said that ‘That is a boys sport’ and thought that it’s not good for a woman to be ‘rough.’”
She also added that when people see mistakes, they often point to her gender.
“It’s harder to learn techniques as a new learner. It takes time and some people don’t understand that and blame the fact that I’m a girl,” she said.
Sophomore Regina Garnica said that she has had opponents forfeit because she is female.
“I started wrestling in 7th grade and I have had a couple of matches who forfeited because I was a girl. I felt left out. I don’t understand why my gender was a problem when we had the same weight and were at the same level,” she said.
Garnica said that unlike the athletes who forfeited wrestling her, she did not mind wrestling the opposite sex.
“I have no problem with it [wrestling boys]. This is a sport after all,” she said.
Perez described the way she worked towards success despite facing sexism and discrimination from some of her male teammates.
“There have been a lot of times during practice, especially my freshmen and sophomore year, when guys didn’t want to even practice with me because I am a girl. It honestly made me really upset and doubted myself. My freshman year I was the only girl and I would always hear comments like ‘oh she’s going to quit in a week’ and it was just a motivation to work harder than them, and I did. In the end I just decided that I had to prove Myself to the whole team,” she said.
Many girls, Perez included, have had to take on athletes who were stronger or taller than them during matches. Perez described adapting her strategy and using her mind to take down her opponents.
“I don’t mind wrestling boys but when I started I was scared because they were way stronger than me. As I went on I realized skill is more important. When I do have to wrestle a guy I try my hardest to use my skill against their strength. They aren’t that flexible either so that helps too,” she said.
The girls hope to use their skill to achieve more and more success this season. They also hope to spread their message and show other young women that girls are an important part of the sport.
“It’s important to have women in wrestling because it’s become a gender neutral sport,” said Sanchez.
She highlighted the fact that women’s wrestling has been around since 1971, for 50 years, while boys wrestling has been around for about 5,000.
“Wrestling is more male dominated, and women are changing sports little by little. We are not changing them for the bad, but we are enhancing what is given to us and to prove that we can do what men can too,” Sanchez said.
Perez described her vision for the future of girls’ wrestling at AT.
“My goal is to just keep improving and allow the team to grow a love for wrestling. I really hope that in the following years this program will keep growing and that we will have girls going to state. I wish I could be here to see it all happen and I know that wrestling will always be a part of me,” she said.