Ponte Vedra High School is no stranger to successful wrestling teams, but their all girls wrestling team is relatively new in creation, forming just last year before the pandemic began.
Coach Josean Gonzalez, also Coach of the boys wrestling team, began the team with a group of high school hopefuls. He said that they had a healthy turnout for the new team, although most of the participants were inexperienced to the world of wrestling.
“We were starting from scratch,” said Gonzalez. “It was a brand new thing to them.”
After spending the beginning of 2020 training the girls, gearing them up for tournaments and preparing them with techniques, everything came to a halt when the pandemic struck. Schools closed for in-person classes, and sports practices shut down along with it.
The 2020-2021 school year brought students back to campus, but Gonzalez said that the pandemic had altered the way students felt about being on the wrestling teams.
“In wrestling, there is no social distancing. There are no CDC guidelines that can be followed beyond wearing a mask,” he said, referring to how high-contact the sport is. “It was difficult to convince these girls, and their parents, to come back.”
Gonzalez said that they lost more than a few members, almost having to begin the team from scratch, but beginning from scratch also meant that they had the opportunity to introduce girls wrestling to a whole new group of hopefuls. They ended up gaining sophomore and junior girls who were excited to learn more about the sport.
The girls wrestling season ended in the middle of February this year, and after a short break, Gonzalez said that the team will begin practice soon, with a focus on freestyle wrestling, which is common for girls’ teams.
PVHS’s girls wrestling team was officially sanctioned this year, thus allowing them to compete in bigger tournaments.
“The sport is growing, it is exploding,” said Gonzalez. “You can see the participation gaining momentum.”
The team won their inaugural home tournament, hosted earlier this year at the school, with a tiebreaker against Kissimmee/Osceola. Team captain Josie Sagasser placed 3rd in the tournament.
State finalist Olivia Richie also had a season of accomplishments, pinning the returning state champion in the semi-finalist round.
The upcoming girls wrestling team, which begins soon, will be the one to qualify girls for the state team, which competes at nationals.
“We have quite a few girls that could make Team Florida,” said Gonzalez. “We are aiming for that state championship.”