Not Just a Man’s World: Female Wrestling at Van Buren
Weighing in at 92 pounds, seventh grader Aliza Stahl might be the epitome of the saying, “Big things come in small packages.” Stahl is the only female wrestler at Van Buren, and has been participating in this rough-and-tumble, predominantly male sport since she was in the first grade.
When asked about what it’s like to be the only female on the team, she said, “The guys treat me like I’m their teammate. They treat me like everybody else.”
Stahl’s goal for the season is to simply get better by the end of the year, and after the co-ed season at Van Buren, she will continue to wrestle in female tournaments outside of school.
According to Coach Scott Adomanis, who was a wrestler at VB himself when he was in high school, this goal is one that is indeed an achievable one.
“She’s very, very capable,” he expressed. “She has a lot of talent. The biggest thing right now is she’s learning to adapt to use that talent in a different type of arena. She’s been wrestling for quite some time now, so she understands the moves just fine, but using those in an upper level is taking some adjustment for her. But she’s adjusting just fine. She’ll do great things.”
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He continued to say that more and more female wrestlers are coming to the forefront of the sport, as more schools, and even boys, are adapting to the idea of girls wrestling.
“Now it’s more of an accepted role. There’s no more awkwardness, ‘hands-off, taboo’ type things...it’s just a competitiveness,” said Adomanis.
Stahl confirmed this by describing her experiences while stepping onto the mat when male wrestlers have to compete against her. “Some are different,” she said. “Some are like, ‘Oh, she’s a girl, where do I touch her?’ and stuff, but some are like, ‘I’m gonna kill her.’”
According to her coach, the latter seems to be quite prevalent. “They bring their best, and that’s the truth,” said Adomanis. “I told her that when boys see a girl come out onto the mat, it brings the best out in them because they want to make a point. They don’t want to ‘slack off’ because they know that Aliza will get them, no doubt about it.”
He recounted an instance at the Upper Sandusky tournament when she pinned a wrestler, describing it as a “game changer” and a major confidence boost for Stahl.
The idea that what mainly resides on a mat is competitiveness rather than gender barriers remains consistent throughout the coaching philosophy of Adomanis as well.
“The thing Aliza and I made clear is that when she touches the mat, she is a wrestler. There’s no gender. She’s going to get roughed up, she’s going to get sore, achy, just like all the rest of them. They’re all wrestlers, they’re not boys and girls and little and tall...they’re all treated the same,” said Adomanis.
His main goal is to take great strides to make his athletes leaders of their school, and to install within them a pride in the sport of wrestling, as he did in high school when he was an athlete.
Stahl, who expressed that she loves everything about the sport, also recommends it to other girls, but added that it takes a special kind of mentality to become one, saying, “You can’t be like a ‘girly-girl.’ You have to be a little tougher.”
And tough she is. “I’ll be willing to bet that when Aliza hits the eighth grade, you’ll see her blossom into one heck of a wrestler,” said Adomanis.