High school female wrestling expands

Ragan Retell has been a regular on the wrestling mat most of her life.

“My older brothers, they all wrestled,” said Retell, a sophomore at Tamarac. “I started wrestling because he needed a partner one day, and I was like 5 or 6, and my dad told me to go with him.”

It all started from there for her. Now, several days a week, she practices at Curby Training Center.

“If I never did it, I wouldn’t be here right now,” Retell said.

She is one of many girls who regularly trains at the Troy facility. Her Tamarac teammate Emily Frost is another of her.

“There was a kid in my class who said girls couldn’t wrestle, so I wanted to prove him wrong,” Frost said.

The pair are among the growing number of girls picking up the sport. For years, girls would participate on the boys wrestling teams. But that is starting to change.

When Joe Uccellini opened this gym in 2014, he had just three female wrestlers. Today, about three dozen train here routinely.

“It’s all on them,” said Uccellini, Curby Training Center owner. “We’re just building a place for them to do some of the things they love.”

Come this winter, several Section II schools have committed to having a girls wrestling team, as long as participation numbers support it. That includes Niskayuna, Shaker, Tamarac, Coxsackie-Athens, New Lebanon and Berlin.

“In like, I’d say the last year, I’ve seen like 30 more girls here and on school teams like everywhere,” Frost said. “I’ve seen a great influence in the amount of girls.”

To gain emerging sport status, New York State Public High School Athletic Association says female wrestling will need at least six sections with at least four girls-only teams.

Section II will create an official Girls Wrestling Sport Committee once there are 10 teams from at least two different leagues.

“We are in full support of the growth of girls wrestling, and we believe that the number of teams will grow rapidly,” said Ed Dopp, Section II executive director. “These are just the girls that have the courage to walk on to their boys team. There are so many girls that if it was offer to them themselves as a standalone sport for girls, we don’t know how many girls would come out for it,” Uccellini said.

For Retell and Frost, the sport has helped them travel across the county, while making new friends along the way. Both are hoping to continue their careers at the collegiate level, and maybe one day, wrestle at the Olympics.

“If you’re a girl and you want to wrestle, just try it,” Retell said. “It’s not bad. It’s awesome.”

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