Wrestling Down Stereotypes via the LA Times

The wrestlers on the Panorama High girls’ team have broken into a male-dominated sport that doesn’t fully welcome them. They’re breaking up old notions of femininity — in their school, and in their families.

BY STEPHEN CEASAR, LOS ANGELES TIMES

“Boys — move!” a woman’s voice commanded. The wrestling team lollygagged offstage at the lunchtime pep rally at Panorama High School, and the crowd wasn’t paying much attention.

Suddenly, the DJ cranked a bass-heavy beat, and a group of girls came strolling out.

Coach Abby Herrera told the students there had never been an all-girls high school wrestling squad in Los Angeles, but this season, a group of students from Panorama was changing that.

“And you’re looking at ’em,” she said.

Fourteen girls, lined up shoulder-to-shoulder, faced their classmates with cold stares.

“At 98 pounds,” the coach announced. “The Beast: Coellet Rangel.” The wrestler, who doubles as a cheerleader, flashed a quick smile and bowed playfully. Then the game face returned.

Herrera continued down the line: “Miss Bucket” at 109 pounds, “Hippo” at 126 pounds, and, at 230 pounds, Micah Nacpil, who forced a shy smile.

For most teenage girls, having their weight on display in front of their classmates is a nightmare scenario. But these young women have proven to be braver than your average teen.

They’ve broken into a male-dominated sport that doesn’t fully welcome them. And they’re trying to transcend old notions of femininity — within their school, their families and themselves.

Wrestling mats stretch from wall to wall in the converted classroom. Orange beams of sunlight enter through tiny windows that seal in the smell of sweat.

The girls pair off and grapple. Coellet grabs Kaylee Acuña’s neck and yanks downward, torpedoing herself into Kaylee’s abdomen, lifting her like a rag doll and slamming her sideways into the mat. They both rise, pause, then switch roles, Kaylee now the aggressor.

The room is mostly quiet except for the occasional grunt of pain, the thump of backs hitting the mat and the rapid-fire advice of assistant coach Richard Ramos.

“If she stands up, what do you do?” he shouts. “Blast her! Knock the air out of her.”

The physicality of the sport has whittled away at the team’s numbers. They began with 30 girls, and ended up with less than half. Some couldn’t hack it, Herrera said. But others never got a chance to try. Their mothers wouldn’t let them.

Moms have marched into the wrestling room and removed their daughters. Girls, they believe, shouldn’t play sports — let alone one like wrestling. It is barbaric, not ladylike, Herrera said they tell her.

It’s a reflection of the school’s community: Latino and Asian families, some of whom have steadfast traditional views of gender roles, Herrera said.

“It’s moms not realizing that their daughters have the ability, the strength, the endurance to do this,” she said. “They’re keeping them in that bubble that we’re trying to break out…. She can have children, clean the house — but she can’t wrestle?”

Seconds after being thrown to the ground and tweaking her back…[Read the rest of the article HERE]

[Source: LA Times]

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