By Cassandra Vega (‘20)
As the 75th anniversary of high school boys wrestling approaches, girls wrestling will finally get to share the stage. The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) approved the creation of girls wrestling with the only remaining obstacle being the second approval which is supposed to have been completed by October 8.
This comes as another victory for Title IX and those working for equality across the country, according to those in favor of the law. Though girls have participated in high school wrestling, many are discouraged by the fact they are forced to compete with people much bigger and stronger than they are.
Though South Brunswick High School does not have a female wrestler as of yet, NJSIAA predicts the interest in the sport will arise as exposure to this opportunity does.
Hopefully, this new area for females to compete against more fit opponents will allow for growth in the sport. Fyza Badran graduated in June 2018 but she was on the wrestling team with current junior Nadia Elieff who no longer participates in the sport.
“Fyza was a pioneer who put herself out there to compete and better herself every day,” said South Brunswick Athletic Director and past NJSIAA executive committee president, Ms. Elaine McGrath.
Ms. McGrath has been involved in athletics for 38 years, 2018 being her 22nd year here at SBHS. She explained how wrestling at South Brunswick has always been open to anyone who wants to participate.
“It provides an opportunity for people to be successful,” said McGrath. “This was very progressive [of NJSIAA] to be looking for kids to excel in what they love.”
Other female athletes in the school are in support of this development. Girls cross country captain Chantel Osley has been running since she was four years old with her older sisters as they all competed in high-level track and field.
Osley said, “It is so great that there are more opportunities for women to succeed in whatever they want to do.”
This kind of support from other athletes is what will allow women’s wrestling to truly work at all stages of the process.
At Crossroads North, eighth-grader Julia Favaloro has been wrestling for over a year, following in the footsteps of her older brother, SBHS junior, Giuseppe.
In seventh grade, she had told her mother, SBHS paraprofessional, Mrs. Francesca Favaloro, that she wanted to join the wrestling team as her brother did. Mrs. Favaloro was unsure of how to respond and presented more traditionally feminine athletic options like dance or gymnastics.
“Give me one good reason and I won’t [do wrestling],” was Julia’s response back to a concerned - yet impressed - mother.
She was worried that her daughter’s confidence would take a plunge due to the fact she would be competing against boys much bigger than she was. Against her original judgment, she chose to let Favaloro join the team, a decision that she has not regretted one bit.
“Just because you’re a girl shouldn’t stop you,” Mrs. Favaloro said confidently.
Badran and Elieff were this young girl’s inspiration to participate and Elieff in particular went as far as to give Julia her headgear and singlet. This connection of girls supporting girls is essential to build a community that is loving and accepting of all.
Favaloro has recruited eight more girls to the middle school team as of now and Mrs. Favaloro believes she will do the same when she becomes a freshman at the high school next year.
Giuseppe had a few thoughts on his sister joining.
It was important to him that she does wrestling so she could, “learn to defend herself and it would only be good for her self esteem and discipline,” he said. “I am so proud of her and I hope she continues [wrestling] in the high school, encouraging other girls to wrestle and hopefully build an all-girls team.”
Supporters say that what is most impressive about this whole process is truly the strength exhibited by everyone involved: the care of a mother to support her daughter, the support of a brother and his peers encouraging a fellow wrestler, and the dedication to equality being fulfilled by the NJSIAA.