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Area athletes succeed
at wrestling event

Story and Photo by Duane Good

Line Mountain’s Audriana Beattie is in control of her opponent in the Middle School-145 class, on her way to a second-consecutive state-level gold medal.

When these ladies got together earlier this month, it wasn’t for lunch.

It was to compete – and, if at all possible, to win.

And when it came to winning, three young women from the Sentinel’s coverage area were among the gold medalists at the 2015 Women’s Folkstyle State Championship for wrestlers in elementary, middle and high school.

As reported in the Sentinel’s March 17 issue, Halifax’s Amber Laudenslager, Line Mountain’s Audriana Beattie and Williams Valley’s Emily Yeagley all emerged as repeat champions, competing against female wrestlers in their same age and weight classes from throughout the state.

It was Laudenslager’s fourth state title, Yeagley’s third and Beattie’s fourth.

They were among a contingent of  more than a dozen young ladies from the Sentinel’s coverage area who competed in the event, held March 8 at Susquehanna Twp. High School and sponsored by the Pennsylvania Amateur Wrestling Federation.

Additional local medalsts were: Autumn Czaplicki, second; Barbara Ann Hartman, third; Maddin Grow, second; Reagan Wentzel, fourth; Kayla Wagner, third; Kara Rupp, second; McKenzie Tapper, second; Taylor Mace, third; Zoe Kennerly, third; and Tatum Schell, fourth.

The state tournament drew wrestlers from club and high school programs as far away as Philadelphia. Many Sentinel-area wrestlers competed under the banner of Team Dragonslayer, a group advised by Upper Dauphin Area High School wrestling Head Coach Todd Rupp. (Other participants wrestled representing their home school.)

‘‘We are glad that the girls in the area have an opportunity to participate in this event,’’ Rupp noted.  ‘‘We are hoping to grow each year and possibly have more practice time available for the girls in the future.’’

The state event has almost doubled its numbers since its inaugural year of 2012, according to Tournament Director Jennifer Chu.

‘‘The tournament has grown every year; (in 2012) we had approximately 70 girls. In Year 2, it was close to 80. In year three there were 101 girls and this year jumped to 124!’’ Chu noted.

The middle school divisions are typically the largest, while the numbers drop off in high school. According to Chu, the strength difference between high school male and female wrestlers is at its most significant. In addition, females receive less encouragement to continue wrestling at the high-school level.

‘‘This is why it is so important to move towards a PIAA-sanctioned tournament,’’ Chu added. ‘‘All states that have girls sanctioned tournaments – Hawaii, Texas and California for instance – see tre-mendous growth in numbers and depth of female wrestlers.’’

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for all state public-school sports, needs a minimum of 100 high schools with girls’ wrestling programs in order to sanction a state-level tournament similar to the one held each year at Hershey. (The PAWF event was held the Sunday after the three-day PIAA tournament.)

‘‘This is a significant hurdle, as typically you don't see an influx of girls until you offer a girls only practice or tournament,’’ Chu said.

‘‘Until we get a PIAA sanctioned tournament other states that do not have Pennsylvanias rich wrestling history will continue to outgrow and surpass us on the National level,’’ she added.

Wrestlers competed in three periods of varying length – 1.5. minutes for first- through fifth-grades; and 2 minutes for middle- and high-school divisions.

Female opponents a rarity. For many of the competitors, the PAWF event is the only time they wrestle another female.

Even at her young age, Emily Yeagley is used to competing only against boys and she enjoys it when she can win.

Practicing four days a week, Emily has tried to keep improving.

‘‘I had to work harder doing the moves,’’ she  said about her time wrestling this year.

Surprisingly, her parents weren’t enthusiastic about her taking up wrestling.

‘‘After about the fourth time of bringing the (registration form) home, her dad finally said yes,’’ her mother said with a laugh.

Amber Laudenslager was inspired by cousins who won state wrestling titles.

‘‘I always looked up to them,’’ she said. ‘‘When I found out they had been state champs, I said ‘I want to try that, too.’ ’’

A wrestler since elementary school, she also is used to facing males and said it had been beneficial.

‘‘It wasn’t until my freshman year that I wrestled my first girl,’’ she said, ‘‘It pushed me to work harder; If I hadn’t wrestled as many boys, I would not have been as strong, or pushed myself as much.

Competing in a national-level event, Laudenslager said she saw how competitive girls’ wrestling can be, particularly at the high school level. Still, she does not plan to continue in college, since a different style is employed.

She always enjoyed both the mental and physical challenges of the sport.

‘‘There’s no way to know what it’s like until you’ve done it,’’ she said. ‘‘You prepare as much as you can, but anything can happen on the map and you have to be ready for it.’’