SHELTON — Some feel it is a virtue to be able to believe in something without evidence, while others feel it is foolishness.
Anala Smith found her reasoning for joining up with the Shelton wrestling team this season being questioned.
“It was a leap of faith,” said Smith, who finished sixth in the 126-pound weight class at the CIAC’s All-Girls Wrestling State Open Invitational in New Haven on Saturday. “My parents looked at each other, then looked at me and said: ‘No, you are not.’ Then they agreed, and to be honest it shocked me too when I went to the first practice.”
Wrestling is difficult. There are winners and losers on the mat during competitions. There are those that fight, and those the quit, when faced with grueling practices.
“The workouts are so hard,” said Smith, who ran cross country last fall and is thinking of running track as a junior. “Those 20-minute runs are killers. It is difficult being the only girl on the team. The physical stuff is one thing, the biggest thing is staying mentally tough.
“There were times I thought of not going to practice. But I asked myself, ‘Then why have you gone this far and are now going to give up?’ The guys on the team have been so supportive. I thank God for sticking with it. We are now like a family. We tell each other during every workout to keep going.”
By her count, Smith took the mat upwards of 20 times against boys from other schools and has yet to have her hand raised in victory.
“That is why this weekend was so important,” she said. “It was fun to wrestle girls. More importantly, it was a learning experience seeing the different moves and the examples set by others. It inspired me to continue.”
How about working on friends to take on wrestling?
“My friends are scared of doing it, and part of me doesn’t blame them,” Smith said. “They know about how tough it is. What they don’t know, and no one does, is how great it is to be part of it. It’s bigger than yourself.”
Smith feet aren’t completely on the ground just yet.
“I’m going to try rugby (the Aspetuck Valley Rugby Club) this spring,” she said. “They are creating a girls’ team and I’ve been asked to tryout. It looks interesting.”
Smith was one of 70 competitors in 10 weight classes that competed mat-next-to-mat with the boys at their State Open at the Floyd Little Athletic Center on Saturday.
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.
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @blox354