First Girls Wrestling League In NY To Start In March

December 3, 2012 / Wrestling
New York Daily News, Mitch Abramson

As a freshman wrestler, Curtis’ Rosemary Flores wasn’t enamored with the idea of going up against girls. If an opposing team had a girl in her weight class, Flores bumped up a division to wrestle a boy.

But this spring, Flores — now a three-time national champion in girls wrestling — won’t have that option. And she couldn’t be happier.

The PSAL, in keeping with the league’s recent appetite for providing opportunities for female athletes, is launching the first all-girls wrestling league in the state, starting in March.

Working closely with the Beat the Streets wrestling program, the PSAL plans to implement a 16-team dual-meet schedule, following the boys winter season, culminating with a PSAL individual city championship tournament.

Flores, the only wrestler from the Beat the Streets program — male or female — to win a national championship, is thrilled to see girls wrestling finally find its own niche. She can recall the days when she was the only girl on her Curtis team because others were apprehensive about joining.

Now, Curtis athletic director Eric Ritzer expects to field a team of between 15-20 girls next spring, as long as Curtis is selected to participate as one of the member schools.

Ritzer credits Flores, who wrestles at 120 and 126 pounds, with showing that girls can compete on equal footing with males if given the chance. New York will become just the sixth state to hold school-sanctioned championships for girls wrestling when it kicks off the season on March 4.

“I didn’t know they were going to have a wrestling league so soon,” said Flores, a two-time Mayor’s Cup champion who hopes to earn a college wrestling scholarship. “I’m really happy that for my senior year I get to see what I started, in terms of convincing girls to join the team and helping to grow the sport. So yes, I’m very proud that we’re going to have our own league. It shows that girls can do the same things as the guys if given the chance.”

Last year, the PSAL and Beat the Streets set up a borough-based girls program that consisted of five teams rooted throughout the city that drew girls to compete against each other in a sort of developmental league, according to Cheryl Wong, girls program manager at Beat the Streets.

“This is tremendous progress if you compare this to where we were,” said Wong, who was the only girl on her upstate wrestling team when she started 13 years ago.

Speaking at the Mayor’s Cup back in January, Wong spoke optimistically about a possible girls wrestling league that was perhaps “five to 10 years” in the making. But the PSAL, looking to provide more opportunities for female students, fast-tracked that process.

In recent years, the league has launched a number of innovative sports for girls, including girls rugby and flag football programs. Forming a girls wrestling league was in keeping with the league’s overall vision, according to PSAL executive director Donald Douglas.

“We realize there was a lot of latent demand for girls wrestling,” said Eric Goldstein, chief executive of the Office of School Support Services, which includes the PSAL. “Initially the girls were wrestling with the boys, and that was all well and good. But we’re coming to the point where we hit critical mass and we can start to develop, in a really unique and innovative way, a girls wrestling league in New York City.”

Ken Bigley, director of program development at Beat the Streets, said the league isn’t ready to announce what schools have been chosen to participate. He said that athletic directors have been notified and the league plans on finalizing the schools next week.

Ritzer hopes that Curtis, which won the girls team title at the Mayor’s Cup in January, is one of them.

“I truly hope that’s the case,” Ritzer said. “Having another sports league to compete in gives girls another chance for a scholarship, another activity to put on their resume. There are just so many positives in this.”

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