The inaugural Varsity Girls Wrestling season will officially open on Friday, Dec. 8 with Minisink Valley competing in a Port Jervis High School multi-meet.
“This is another historical moment for our Athletic Program,” said Athletic Director Tim Bult. “Minisink Valley is joining six other Section IX schools who are launching a girls varsity wrestling program. For years, Minisink Valley girls have been members of our powerhouse Varsity Wrestling Team and have made fantastic contributions to the team’s success. We did look to create a team last year, but this year we have 26 girls and we have every expectation that this inaugural team will be as much of a powerhouse as the now all-boys team is.”
Minisink Valley will compete against Section IX teams representing the Chester, Fallsburg, Hyde Park, Middletown, Port Jervis and Saugerties school districts. Team size will vary by district.
Varsity Head Coach Dan Gallo leads the team in the current schedule, with these inaugural team members: Anastasia Albornoz, Victoria Barbarini, Brooke Besson, Alyssa Burns, Hannah Cohen, Leighla Colon, Patricia Deslandes, Kiera Filip, Sophia Franco-Coelho, Gabriella Gonzalez, Ryleigh Jennings, Arianna Juncaj, Leah Lofstedt, Jaida Macaluso, Aria Marrero, Peyton Matone, Makenna Matone, Autumn O’Connor, Amelia Patzeit, Sara Pauls, Arianna Rivera, Ava Semco, Vanessa Tepper, Madyson Thorpe, Kenzie Welch and Avery Wingen.
‘We aspire to be the premier program in New York State.’
“Introducing a girls wrestling team at Minisink Valley now gives girls an opportunity to participate in a sport that teaches life lessons like no other,” Coach Gallo said. “Before this season, any interested girl wrestled with the boys team. Mia Macaluso, Sofia Macaluso and Grace Pauls have been trailblazers for our girls wrestling program. We thank them and everyone else, including Athletic Director Tim Bult and Superintendent Brian Monahan, for making this team a reality.”
Coach Gallo felt girls wrestling has grown in popularity because girls are willing and capable competitors and have supportive families and coaches.
“I hope the girls will learn several things as a result of being on the first-ever girls team here at Minisink,” added Coach Gallo. “I hope they learn to have faith and buy into Minisink Valley wrestling’s philosophy. I hope they learn accountability and how their actions impact the team and coaches. I also hope they learn selflessness and realize it’s not entirely about them, but being the best teammate they can be. We have talented and experienced wrestlers on our team. We also have first-time wrestlers, with tremendous potential, who are a great fit for the sport and our program. We aspire to be the premier program in New York State. Just watch us.”
Girls wrestling has seen booming growth and will have a 2025 state championship
NYSPHSAA notes wrestling is a sport that has seen booming growth among girls.
“Two years ago, there was approximately 300 female wrestlers in the track wrestling system for NYSPHSAA, which shows the participation of a gender in that sport,” said Todd Nelson, NYSPHSAA assistant director said in the NYSPHSAA article, “Girls and their Opportunities to Participate in Athletics.”
He added that in 2023, there were over 1,100 girls in the system.
“It shows the great interest and desire out there for female athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics, especially wrestling,” he stressed.
As this interest grew, NYSPHSAA designated girls wrestling as an “emerging sport.” That “emerging sport” status means NYSPHSAA sponsored a committee in girls wrestling because four sections had at least four or more teams as determined by the section. Working toward the development of a state championship, NYSPHSAA hosted its first-ever Girls Wrestling Invitational Tournament in Syracuse this past January. This tournament will be held again in January 2024.
This past October during NYSPHSAA’s Executive Committee meeting, the association announced six sections with four or more teams in each had been established. It then approved the first-ever girls wrestling state championship to take place in February 2025.
The National Wrestling Hall of Fame notes opportunities for girls and women to wrestle began in the late 1980s, when United World Wrestling, the international wrestling federation, began hosting competitions.
USA Wrestling sent its first women’s world team to the world championships in 1989, after it started its own women’s wrestling program. The development of women’s and girls wrestling in the United States began at that point.
‘Just watch them.’
The history of girls high school wrestling has unclear roots, as girls often would join boys teams as early as the 1970s. The first official all-girls wrestling team in a public school was formed in 1993 at Brookline High School in Brookline, Mass., with 15 members. It became an official public high school team in that state three years later.
However, there have always been various and highly successful private girls wrestling clubs and programs locally, regionally and nationally.
Since those earlier days, girls and women’s wrestling has consistently grown, and is currently one of the fastest growing sports nationally and worldwide.
“We’re thrilled to have 26 additional students wearing Minisink Valley wrestling singlets and representing us in a historical, new high school sports journey,” Athletic Director Bult added. “Wrestling is a great sport that teaches leadership, sportsmanship, and self-confidence. I fully believe that Coach Gallo is right: This team will be a force to be reckoned with and will equal or exceed the successes of our now all-boys team. He’s spot-on: Just watch them.”