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Pair of girls hit the wrestling mat for FMS

Focus Correspondent When Lauren Morel and Jessica Lee say they wrestle with a situation, they mean it literally.

The two girls are full-fledged members of Fostoria Middle School’s wrestling team. Both are eighth graders. Both are wrestling for the first time.

Girl wrestlers may not be the norm, but Lauren and Jessica come by their chosen sport naturally enough — through their families.

Jessica’s parents are Terry and Lisa Lee.

“It’s something most people don’t do,” said Jessica. “I thought about it because my dad used to wrestle. I thought it would be kind of cool.”

Chris Morel and Linda Gutierrez are Lauren’s father and stepmother.

“My uncle Ricardo Escobar is a coach for St. Wendelin,” Lauren said. “My cousin Aaron Bomer coaches, too. And my dad used to wrestle. I was telling him about another girl who was thinking of joining the team. Mom and Dad said, ‘You should join. You’d be really good.’ That’s what got me into it.”
Female wrestlers aren’t so scarce as you’d think. The U.S. Girls Wrestling Association says 112 girls wrestled in 1990. Today, Jessica and Lauren are among 2,300 girls who wrestle nationwide.
Jessica wrestles in the 122 pound weight class; Lauren at 104.

Naturally, the first question is, whether it’s practice or a match, what’s it like to wrestle against boys?
“I do okay,” said Lauren. “The younger boys are easier because they’re lighter than me. I’m a lightweight so it’s easy for me.”

Jessica competes against larger opponents.

“It’s kind of weird for me because all the guys are big and have all these muscles,” she said. “They muscle you around out there and it’s like ‘Quit trying to push me down!’”

Competitive spirit like that pays dividends.

“I do pretty good, though,” says Jessica. “I already have my first win. I had a pin. I took about 30 seconds.”

And how did that accomplishment feel?

“I was so happy. When the referee raised my hand, I just wanted to jump up and start screaming, but you just shake the guy’s hand and walk away.”

Coach Maco Gonzalez likes Jessica’s determination.

“Jessica hates to lose. She has incredible drive,” he said.

Lauren hasn’t won a match yet, but she’s come close.

“Lauren has really good technique. At that tournament, she got a bad draw and ended up against an undefeated kid. But she took it right to him,” Maco said. “She didn’t hesitate. She took him down and put him on his back, but he was just bigger and stronger.”

Maco, Gabe Gonzalez, Ira Turner and Jesus Honguin coach the team. The girls are fine with them.
“They’re great, both of them. We like the way they practice,” Maco said. “I thought that maybe a couple weeks of practice might weed them out. But we went hard. They went hard and they stuck with it. I’m glad they’re on the team.”

And the girls like the coaches.

“They treat us just like the guys. We don’t get any special attention,” Jessica said.

“Yeah, it’s not like they say go easy on her she’s a girl. I think they like having us,” Lauren added.
Were they intimidated by the boys?

“A little bit,” Lauren admits.

“When I’m over weight I go from 122 all the way to 134,” Jessica said. “The guys are huge. You get out there and they’re 6 feet and I’m only 5-2.”

There’s also the uncertainty that goes with learning a new skill. Lauren said she not only didn’t know the moves and holds, she didn’t even know their names.

Jessica agreed it was confusing at first, but now she says, “I can learn the moves just as fast as most of the guys.”

“Sometimes they’re even more confused than we are,” Jessica added.

Jessica added that sometimes when the boys ask them to explain a move, a situation she says it “is kind of fun.”

Now that they’ve had a few matches, they’re more confident.

“I’m not as nervous as I was for the very first one,” Lauren said. “Once you get out there, there’s nobody around you. It’s just you and the other guy.”

“At our first tournament, I didn’t want to wrestle I was so nervous,” Jessica said. “But now I just get ready and see who I have to wrestle. Then you say, ‘Okay, let’s see what I can to do to take him down.’”

The male wrestlers don’t seem to mind having the girls on the squad.

“Sometimes, one of the younger ones will say, ‘Oh, you got beat by a girl.’ But the older boys know we can do this, that we can take them down,” Jessica said.

“They encourage us,” added Lauren.
Just what teammates are for.

The girls get lots of encouragement from home, too.

“My parents are really proud of me because to do this is hard,” Lauren said. “The practice is hard. Matches are hard. You have to have courage. You have to have strength. My parents, even though I don’t win, they’re proud of me. And it’s something my dad and I can talk about.”

“My dad used to wrestle. He just thinks it’s great,” Jessica said. “He loves taking the video camera and telling me what I did there, what I could have done there, what I had there, what the guy did, how I got out of it, how I could have gotten out of it.

“My mom, she says as long as nothing breaks, it’s okay. She says the day she hears my arm pop, if it doesn’t even hurt, but it looks like it does, then she’s coming down there and I’m done,” she laughed. “But she’s still happy that I’m doing it.”

Wrestling gives both girls an opportunity to face a challenge.

“The hardest thing is when you get put on the mat with someone who is 10 times stronger than you are and they throw you around,” Jessica said. “You think you’re going to lose and you just keep trying to go, that’s just so hard.”

But that only makes the successes sweeter.

“The best part is when you pin somebody even if it’s practice or get them down they just look at you like ‘Oohhh.’ When you get somebody down, that’s just the best thing,” Jessica said.

“I think the best part, being a girl, is just going out there and proving that we can do it,” added Lauren. “We have courage and we can do it.”

And that’s a word of encouragement they have for any girl who might want to try something girls don’t normally do.

“If there’s something you want to do that’s mostly just for guys and you want to try it, you should,” Jessica said.

“Don’t be scared to do it,” added Lauren. “Just go for it.”


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