By Bill Rudick
GETTYSBURG, PA — Over the course of this past weekend, the GIANT Center in Hershey packed in the crowds to take in all the drama and spectacle of the PIAA Wrestling tournament, where 28 boys earned the title of state champions in wrestling.
But as crazy as Pennsylvania is for wrestling, the state lags behind numerous other states, including neighboring NJ, in sharing that opportunity with the girls with an officially sanctioned state tournament.
So Sunday at Gettysburg High School, MyHouse Sports Gear, in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation (PAWF), put on the 2019 PA High School Girls State Championships, and the Middle Atlantic Girls K-8 Folkstyle Championships, where nearly 300 young, female wrestlers battled for mat supremacy.
All the same pageantry and spectacle of the boys tournament was on display—a flashy Parade of Champions, complete with music, lights, and smoke machines; along with great competition, beautiful medals and quarter-zip jackets for the champs. Not to mention a news crew from a local ABC affiliate, college recruiters, and stands packed full of spectators.
The high school finals kicked off with the 115-pound weight class, featuring a match-up of Gettysburg’s own Montana DeLawder against West York’s Carly Gross. DeLawder claimed the night’s first gold, with a pin in 1:20.
DeLawder, a sophomore, has had her share of success battling against the boys. On pace to become the first girl in the state to reach 100 career wins—she has 49 wins over those first two years—DeLawder lays claim to being the only girl ever to qualify for the District 3, Class AAA tourney, and has bigger goals in mind.
“It’s great to see how much girls wrestling is growing in the state,” said DeLawder. “I’m starting to see bigger brackets, and getting tougher competition against girls without having to leave the state. I would really love to see girls wrestling continue to grow, and I hope that my reaching my goal of becoming the first girl to qualify for the boys’ tournament helps that.”
At 122, Wyoming Seminary’s Vayle Baker, from Benton, PA, claimed gold with a second- period fall over Pottstown’s Juliana Figueroa. Baker, who has competed overseas as part of several USA Age Group World Teams, has been participating of the PAWF girls tournament since she started wrestling.
“That first year, there were only 30 some girls here,” said Baker. “There were only four girls in my bracket, and I don’t think any of us were actually the same weight. To see it grow to something like this in such a short time is amazing.”
Del Val’s Lily Sherer and Greensburg-Salem’s Riley Stoner wrestled for the 128-pound title. Stoner, up 4-2 headed to the third, got a reversal, then hooked up and bar arm to turn Sherer for the pin in 4:32.
Wyoming Seminary’s Amanda Walker, a senior from Hatboro, PA, squared off against Avia Bibeau from East Stroudsburg North in the 134-pound finals. Walker, while wrestling for Upper Moreland as a sophomore, was the first-ever girl to qualify for the District 1 boys tournament, a distinction she shares with Kennett’s Mary Nichols, who qualified the same season.
Walker put on a takedown clinic in the finals, scoring seven of the two pointers on the way to a 19-11 major decision.
Archbishop Ryan’s Bridgette Schoultz got off to a good start against Andrea Wilmoth of DuBois at 140, taking a 4-2 lead into the second period. Wilmoth stepped it up in the next stanza, taking Schoultz down to her back for three near fall. Though Schoultz fought of her back then, Wilmoth tossed in a half for another turn, and got the fall at the 3:30 mark.
Wyoming Seminary, currently the lone high school in the state with a dedicated girls wrestling team, grabbed another championship at 147, though it didn’t come easy. Tiffany Baublitz, from Stewartstown, PA was clinging to a 4-3 lead in the third, when Fort LeBouef’s Gabrielle Malinowski cut her loose for one, hoping to score the match-tying takedown. Baublitz, though, countered an attack with a chin whip, taking a Malinowksi down to her back for the 9-3 victory.”
“Folkstyle isn’t really my thing,” joked Baublitz, who has won All-Anerican honors in freestyle wrestling, about her struggles from the bottom position. “Back when I first started, we were at Susquehanna Twp, and the tournament just got too big for there. Now it is almost too big for this building. It is awesome to see it grow like this and how much better the competition has gotten.”
Wyoming Seminary, as a team, focuses on freestyle wrestling, with the main goal of moving girls into the ranks of college wrestling, which is all freestyle competition. The number of colleges offering women’s wrestling as a varsity sport is growing by leaps and bounds, too, with three schools adding program in PA just in the past year—Delaware Valley in southeastern PA, along with PSAC schools Gannon University and East Stroudsburg
“I would love to see wrestling move more into freestyle,” said Del Val head coach Caitlyn Baker, on hand to take advantage of the recruiting opportunity. “But if the only way we can get state sanctioning is with folkstyle, I’m all for it. The most important thing is to grow the sport of women’s wrestling. Most of the techniques transfer easily anyway.”
Grace Coleman, an Annville-Cleona student wrestling for the Lancaster Alliance Women’s Wrestling Club (LAWW), earned the 162-pound title with an 11-0 major decision over runner-up Tatyana Turner from the Academy at Palumbo.
LAWW is one of a number of girls’ only clubs sprouting up around the state. Another club gaining traction is the Lehigh Valley Wrestling Club’s Team Athena, run by Jon Trenge, a three-time All-American at Lehigh, and a two-time PIAA champion in high school.
“I started the LVWC a couple years ago, and then last spring, I had a girl come in to work out, Grace Cundrum” said Trenge. “I began to notice that the boys were hesitant to work with her, so I figured I would. I started drilling with he and even though I outweighed her by like 80 pounds, I thought, ‘hey, she’s pretty good.’ I asked her how long she’d been wrestling. She told me it was about a month. I was floored.”
Seeing a need, Trenge kicked off Athena, and it has grown to close to 40 girls coming in.
“I love coaching the girls,” said Trenge. “They work hard, and are always appreciative of everything. I tell all the other coaches I run into that they need to coach girls.”
The 184-pound title bout was a doozy. Gettysburg’s Alexis Reinert jumped out to an 8-0 lead over Souderton’s Trinity Monaghan after two periods. But Monaghan was not quite ready to pack it in. After picking up a reversal to open the third, Monaghan ran a half, coming oh so close to the fall before the action was whistled out of bounds. The lead was cut to 8-5 with the nearfall points, but Reinert held on for the victory.
Kiski Area’s Alayna Darley took home gold at 222, getting a reversal and applying a headlock to pin Lynque Holt from Westinghouse, just before the end of the first period, at 1:51.
From there, the action turned back over to the lightweights. At 101, Wyoming Seminary’s Ava Bayless, from Greenville, PA, gave up the opening takedown to Fox Chapel’s Jordana Matamoras, but picked up a reversal and locked up a cross face cradle for the fall in 1:06, one upping her brother Beau, who finished as a runner-up in Hershey for Reynolds a day earlier.
The featured match of the event was saved for last, a clash between Wyoming Seminary’s Caitlyn Walker, a junior from Hatboro, PA, and Tatyana Ortiz, a senior from Marianna Bracetti. The two are becoming a bit of a rivalry, having wrestled half a dozen times over the past year or so. Though the matches are usually tight, this time around, Walker was in full control. Ortiz picked up the opening takedown, and scored another takedown late, but Walker wound up the 12-5 winner, with the difference coming when Walker fended off a throw attempt by Ortiz.
“One thing I’ve learned wrestling Tatyana is to always be wary of the big throw,” said Walker. “You’ve got to keep your hips in good position. It’s great to see the growth of this tournament. Hopefully one day we’ll get to take our place alongside the boys in Hershey. That’s the dream, I guess.”
101–Ava Bayless (Wyoming Sem) won by fall over Jordana Matamoros (Fox Chapel) (Fall 1:06)
108–Caitlyn Walker (Wyoming Sem) won by decision over Tatyana Ortiz (Marianna Bracetti) (Dec 12-5)
115–Montana DeLawder (Gettysburg) won by fall over Carly Gross (West York Area) (Fall 1:20)
122–Vayle Baker (Wyoming Sem) won by fall over Julianna Figueroa (Pottstown) (Fall 3:52)
128–Riley Stoner (Greensburg Salem) won by fall over Lily Sherer (Del Val) (Fall 4:32)
134–Amanda Walker (Wyoming Sem) won by major decision over Avia Bibeau (East Stroudsburg North) (Maj 19-11)
140–Andrea Wilmoth (Dubois) won by fall over Bridgette Schoultz (Archbishop Ryan) (Fall 3:30)
147–Tiffani Baublitz (Wyoming Sem) won by decision over Gabrielle Malinowski (Fort LeBoeuf) (Dec 9-3)
162–Grace Coleman (LAWW) won by major decision over Tatyana Turner (Academy at Palumbo) (Maj 11-0)
184–Alexis Reinert (Gettysburg) won by decision over Trinity Monaghan (Souderton Area) (Dec 9-5)
222–Alayna Darley (Kiski Area) won by fall over Lynque Holt (Westinghouse) (Fall 1:52)
Third Place Matches:
101–Justine Zuchowski (Slippery Rock Area) won by fall over Karleigh Steiner (Seagertown) (Fall 3:41)
108–Grace Gundrum (LVWC – Team Athena) won in sudden victory – 1 over Andie Przybycien (Fort LeBoeuf) (SV-1 3-1)
115–Julia Jones (Friends Central) won by fall over Carolyn Wilson (Great Valley) (Fall 2:43)
122–Janyssa Berrios (LAWW) won by fall over Bella Bradbury (Westinghouse) (Fall 3:43)
128–Gabrielle Bradigan (Shikellamy Braves) won by fall over Dominica Daugherty (Montoursville) (Fall 0:43)
134–Grace Stem (Bald Eagle) won by decision over Marena Warta (Downingtown East) (Dec 6-2)
140–Desiree Bouch (Burgettstown Area) won by fall over Hannah Spielman (Strath Haven) (Fall 1:34)
147–Aurelia Santoyo (Gettysburg) won by fall over Paige Lenhardt (Quaker Valley) (Fall 0:48)
162–Abigail Erdely (Bentworth) won by fall over Mekenzi Kuhn (Newport) (Fall 4:22)
184–Rogue Crowe (Academy Park) won by decision over Porsha Linhard (Overbrook) (Dec 7-1)
222–Kadelia George (Overbrook) won by fall over Kendra Krepps (Newport) (Fall 0:31)