I continue to be appalled at our society day in and day out. And it continues to hit closer and closer to home — especially when your residence is in the D.C./Metropolitan area. This time the story takes place at Arundel High School. The scene is a wrestling match, 103-pounders to be exact, going at it. Suddenly, you realize that one of the wrestlers doesn’t look quite like what you expected — in fact, he doesn’t look like a he at all! The simple reason? It’s a girl — a girl who is one of Maryland’s top 103-pound wrestlers.
[Nicole] Woody has broken barriers at the Maryland high school level and owns an expanding trophy case of national and international championships. Sheâ€™s also in a prime position to compete for a spot in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and/or the 2012 London Games.
â€œAll you have to do is watch one of her matches,â€ Arundel Athletic Director Bernie Walter said. â€œSheâ€™s a feminine young woman whoâ€™s an outstanding wrestler.â€
Woody started wrestling at age 9 at the suggestion of her mother â€” yes, her mother. Mary Woody, whose family has deep wrestling roots, was thrilled with the discipline the sport taught her older son William, a Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
â€œThey excel in whatever they do,â€ Mary said of wrestlers. â€œI just knew that if it was good for him, it was good for her.â€
Nicole was a natural. In her first dual match, she pinned her opponent in 10 seconds.
â€œAnd he quit,â€ Mary said, with a hint of pride. â€œSheâ€™s done that to a couple kids.â€
Before long, Woody started wrestling year-round and climbing up the ranks. In 2002, she won the U.S. Girlsâ€™ Wrestling Association National Belt Folkstyle championship, which preceded three more USGWA national titles.
Currently the USGWAâ€™s top-ranked 100-pounder, she is hoping to become the first girl to win four titles at the annual Junior National Championships in Fargo, N.D., this summer. Last August, she was the only American to win a title (97 pounds) at the Junior World Championships in Guatemala City. She has also competed in Austria, Canada and Russia. (Examiner.com)
But those wins were against girls, which isn’t any fun.
â€œBecause of wrestling [boys] and the intensity with the coaches,â€ she said, â€œthey make practice harder and work me harder.â€
With a career varsity record of 66-18 that has come almost exclusively against boys, Woody enters this weekendâ€™s state championships as a legitimate contender at the lowest weight class. And after arriving at Arundel three years ago as a previously home-schooled 16-year-old freshman, sheâ€™ll graduate with honors this spring.
â€œShe works harder than any boy weâ€™ve got in the room,â€ Arundel coach Bill Royer said. â€œShe travels more than any boy weâ€™ve got in the room. Itâ€™s not a male-female issue. Sheâ€™s a wrestler, she wants to be a champion, and sheâ€™s succeeding in that.â€
Woody is making a habit of making history. In 2005, she and former Western Tech wrestler Jade Hendricks became the first Maryland public school girls to qualify for the state tournament (Woody went 0-2). Last season, she joined Helen Maroulis of Montgomery Countyâ€™s Magruder as the first females to win a state match. On Feb. 17, she became the first girl to win an Anne Arundel County title after pinning South Riverâ€™s Curtis Taylor with 18 seconds left in the 103-pound final. And on Saturday, she became the stateâ€™s first female regional champion after beating Centennialâ€™s Jack Western, 2-0, in the 4A/3A East Region final.
â€œNicole has a lot of respect throughout the state. My impression of her is higher after that match,â€ South River coach John Klessinger said of the county final.
She has been featured in Sports Illustrated twice, Time Magazine, USA Today and Wrestling USA Magazine.
â€œNicole is a pioneer at this sport,â€ Royer said. â€œMy daughter wants to wrestle now. She follows Nicole around. Itâ€™s neat what sheâ€™s doing and the interest she draws to the sport.â€
But that’s not what I want to let you see. It’s this that puts me over the edge.
Woody, though, is not a crusader for womanhood. Sheâ€™s not out to prove anything. Sheâ€™s just a girl whose personality long ago embraced both femininity and physical competition.
â€œI just always liked working hard, and then when you come out [of competition], you just feel so much better about yourself,â€ she said.
Local reaction to her has been mixed. Every so often, she runs into teams that forfeit a match rather than send a boy out to face her. Is it a not-so-subtle statement from a sexist coach? Is he simply trying to shield his boy from the perceived shame of losing to a girl? Either way, Royer has had enough.
â€œThis embarrassment thing has got to end somewhere,â€ he said. â€œItâ€™s not just her. Some teams, it doesnâ€™t matter who the girl is, they wonâ€™t wrestle her. Itâ€™s just their principle. Those days should be over.â€ (Emphasis Mine).
Two years ago, the media attention surrounding Woody and the jealousy it spawned among some teammates and parents forced Royer to call a clear-the-air team meeting. One of boys eventually transferred schools. Since then, the situation within the team â€œhasnâ€™t been great, but itâ€™s been OK,â€ Royer said.
Having a female teammate â€œcan be good, and it can be bad,â€ Arundel 140-pound junior Jordan Hernandez said. â€œThe good thing is, you think itâ€™s going to be easy, but the bad thing could be if you get beat by her, you feel really horrible. Sheâ€™s cool and everything. â€¦ I give her mad props for going to states as a girl.â€
Some of Woodyâ€™s own relatives object to her wrestling, according to her mother. Still, Woody presses on, unflinchingly. She said she has never felt ostracized by her teammates. Disrespectful opponents are easier to deal with.
â€œI canâ€™t remember specifically, but I remember getting upset about something last year and then beating the crap out of somebody,â€ she said, laughing.
Those days should be over? I thought these days were over. Whatâ€™s wrong with the picture of a guy pinning down a girl on a mat?
â€œWhat if, for religious reasons, people said they were not going to wrestle African Americans, or wrestle people of different religions?â€ asked Nancy Hogshead-Makar, legal adviser for the Womenâ€™s Sports Foundation and a gold medalist in swimming at the 1984 Olympics. â€œWhen you put it in those terms, you can see how the person who is not able to compete is being harmed.â€
We are talking about gender, not race.
The final word comes from Albert Mohler: â€œPutting adolescent boys in the position of wrestling adolescent girls undermines and violates the natural and necessary responsibility of men and boys to protect girls and womenâ€“not to wrestle them to the ground.â€ Exactly. Did I just hear the words “different by design?”