FARGO, ND. – A record seven Pennsylvania girls are bringing home stop signs from the Cadet Freestyle National Tournament, including a pair of runners up.
Ava Bayless (94 pounds) and Lily Sherer (132) each placed second at Fargo, helping the team to a fifth-place finish in what is an encouraging sign for the women’s side of the sport in the Keystone State.
“It’s been fun,” Bayless said. “I don’t know if we were expecting that or not, but we did it, and it’s been so much fun. I couldn’t be more proud.”
Grace Gundrum (100), Tiffani Baublitz (144) and Madison Konopka (152) each placed third while
Montana Delawder (112) finished fifth and Madison Matta (132) took seventh.
“I’m very happy to see that we have this number,” said Sherer, who attends Delaware Valley High School. “Being that this is my first year (at Fargo), it’s definitely a good start. Hopefully it just keeps growing. My school is working on trying to start a girls program.”
Sherer said that having more schools sponsor the girls wrestling is key. Even more important might be to have the sport sanctioned by the PIAA.
“I think it would mean a lot,” she said. “I got a lot of recognition after winning PAWF, from my school, but it’s never going to be PIAA. PIAA means a lot in Pennsylvania – and pretty much all over because Pennsylvania is one of the best wrestling states. Anyone who’s a PIAA state champ is like the top dog. If we got that for the girls, it would mean so much.”
Sherer, who wrestled on Delaware Valley’s junior varsity boys team, is used to competing against boys in folkstyle, but she said there are others who refuse to do so.
“I know some girls are uncomfortable, or scared even, to wrestle the guys,” she said. “It’s intimidating, obviously. They’re stronger, they’re bigger, a lot of them are mean. If you open up the option of girls wrestling, it would make such an impact on some people’s lives, and it would change the whole view on it.”
For now, Pennsylvania will continue to compete in Fargo against teams that have state-sanctioned high school girls tournaments. Among those with such events, Team PA finished behind champion California and fourth-place Washington and immediately ahead of Texas and Hawaii. New York and Illinois were the only states without sanctioned girls tournaments to finish ahead of Pennsylvania.
Bayless lost 10-0 to Nevada’s Sterling Dias, who was named the outstanding wrestler. Bayless was in the match and came close to scoring on a couple of occasions, but Dias was too slick.
“I know she’s an amazing wrestler,” Bayless said. “I’m not satisfied, but I think I wrestled my heart out and came up a bit short.:
Bayless was happy with her performance in the tournament as a whole.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I’ve been planning on coming here, and I’ve been so excited to compete. I’m proud of what I did, but I know I’ve got a lot to work on.”
Unlike her older brothers, Gage, Beau and Cole, who have all wrestled for Reynolds, she’ll compete for Wyoming Seminary in the fall, where she’ll be a freshman.
“Reynolds is an amazing school, and I would have been fine there, but to go to Wyoming Seminary is a dream come true,” she said. “I’m going to be wrestling freestyle all year long with some of the best in the country. It’s exciting.”
Sherer also lost by technical fall in the finals, as Cheyenne Bowman of California won 10-0 in a quick match. That didn’t ruin Sherer’s perception of her first trip to Fargo.
“Being that it’s my first year of freestyle wrestling, I’m pretty impressed with myself,” said Sherer, who plans to wrestle 138 in Juniors beginning Tuesday. “There’s pictures – you can see – I was getting my hand raised and I just had my jaw dropped. Everyone kept telling me they didn’t know why I was surprised. Coming here, obviously, I knew I was here for a reason. I’m not bad, I just didn’t know I was at that level. Now, I really do know that I can compete at that level.”
So, it appears, can Team PA.