NEW HAVEN — The CIAC held an All-Girls Wrestling State Open Invitational to accompany the boys State Open for the first time Saturday.
Girls Wrestling has grown in Connecticut to a point where there are now enough athletes to host a State Open. The number of states sanctioning girls wrestling has grown to 21 from four just five years ago. And states where it is not sanctioned as a team sport, such as Connecticut, are starting to hold all-girls tournaments. West Virginia held its first earlier in February.
Connecticut’s girls State Open drew 70 competitors in 10 weight classes where state champions were named Saturday at the Floyd Little Athletic Center.
“I was kind of shocked when I heard about it,” Southington’s Ashley Reed said. “I was like, there’s that many girls in the state? There is a girls’ states at New London towards the end of the season but it was never part of high school, so I thought it was cool that I’d get to dress with my team and it was something to look towards. As this got closer, I got super pumped up and excited to get out there.”
Reed was one the 10 athletes who have etched their names into the record books by being among the first girls wrestling state champions.
The finals began with the 126 pound division in which Ledyard freshman Linda Holeman became the first Girls Champion after a successful pin of Lily Schwartz.
“I came in and I was kind of scared because this is the first one ever,” Holeman said. “This will be my fifth year wrestling and just to have an event like this is really spectacular. It is great to have something for us and not just for the guys. We’ve been making a really big comeback. There are so many female wrestlers now that are coming in and taking part in everything. It was amazing for this to happen.”
Two teams boasted multiple winners in the tournament. Amity freshmen Camryn Brown and Ariyanna Orosco both took home state titles as did Norwich Free Academy’s Savannah Vanase and Destiny Mateo.
“This is really big for the sport,” Brown said. “Not a lot of girls used to do it. My trainer was the first girl to do it at Amity, she was the only girl on her team and now we have four girls on the team compared to the one and it’s going to keep growing.”
Among the coaches who have been pushing for a girls wrestling state tournament was Todd Patterson of Amity.
“I’m really appreciative of the opportunity these girls have to come out in front of these fans and full stands,” he said. “Everybody is watching them and it feels good for the girls to have their own championship at the end of the year.”
Patterson was in contact with his athletic director in regards to pushing for a state tournament. And, with his input and the input of other coaches around the state, it was put into action.
“We brought the girls with us all year,” Patterson said. “They wrestled the majority of the girls that they wrestled today so I knew that they would have a pretty good shot. Brown came into our room day one and it was like wow, she’s good. She made the finals of her first ever varsity meet and she’s just a freshmen.”
With many of the winners being underclassmen, the future looks bright for a sport that looks to gain momentum across the state.
“I feel proud, it’s crazy how fast the sport is growing,” Reed said. “It just feels great to have all these girls’, I mean, we are kind of like a big team trying to get the sport to explode.”
GIRLS STATE OPEN CHAMPIONS
99: Ariyanna Orosco (Amity)
106: Samantha Yap (Stamford)
113: Savannah Vanase (NFA)
120: Destiny Mateo (NFA)
126: Linda Holeman (Ledyard)
132: Camryn Brown (Amity)
145: Ella Nichols (Bristol Eastern)
160: Ashley Reed (Southington)
182: Jacklyn Smith (Trumbull)
235: Zayuri Castaneda (East Haven)