TRUMBULL — Trumbull’s Jacklyn Smith was one the 10 athletes who etched their names into the record books by being among the first girls wrestling state champions.
Smith posted victories against Emily Berrios out of Windsor and Caroline Gonzalez-Garcia from Windham to capture the All-Girls Wrestling State Open Invitational 182-pound title at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Feb. 28.
“I was very excited and thankful for the opportunity to compete at the Open,” said Smith, a junior. “It was great having the championships go on mats that were side by side with the boys that were competing.
“I was nervous (waiting for her final bout). We (girls) aren’t used to being the center of attention and having our names announced like that. But once I stepped on the mat I said, “Wow, let’s go.’ When the whistle blows you focus on the match in front of you.”
Smith pinned Berrios in 1:03 of her first match and won by 3:30 fall over Gonzalez-Garcia in the final.
“I came out for wrestling the second half of freshman year,” Smith said. “Coach (Charlie) Anderson told me I should try out. My mom (Maria Mora) was worried because of how aggressive wrestling can be. Now she is there all the time to support me.”
Smith wasn’t alone in taking on the gender gap.
“Freshman year there were two other female wrestlers and one on the team as a sophomore,” she said. “This year, it was different. But the guys on the team just want a teammate they can trust. Once they saw me go hard in practice and work on improving my skill set, they were all there to support me. In practice Mitch Russo and Ben Cousins really help me.”
The girls State Open drew 70 competitors in 10 weight classes.
“To be honest, I was proud to be part of it,” Smith said. “It is a great sport for girls. To see how talented these wrestlers were, and how skilled they were, was inspiring. I work on all aspects but feel I wrestle best from the bottom, where I like to counter moves.”
Wrestling is multi-dimensional.
“I tell my friends that wrestling has it all,” said Smith, who played soccer as a youth and boxed from 7th grade through freshman year. “You are out there competing, but it is as a team. I love the competition and the family atmosphere. It is all about commitment and going about it with the right mindset.”
Smith isn’t going to rest on her laurels.
“I’m planning to wrestle with the South Side Wrestling Club,” she said. “I’d like to compete in some off-season tournaments.
The number of states sanctioning girls wrestling has grown to 21 from four just five years ago. States where it is not sanctioned as a team sport are starting to hold all-girls tournaments. West Virginia held its first earlier in February.
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