Beat The Streets - New York City Wrestling

Photo credit: Nikki Macaluso

On Saturday, February 17, 95 girls from across the state competed in the PSAL Girls State Championships, which was held at Harry S. Truman High School. This championship was held for all girls from 9th-12th grades who are weight certified and wrestled during the winter on a boys team. The tournament was sponsored by the Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL), one of the four High School Athletics governing bodies in the state of New York, making it the first sanctioned New York Girls State Wrestling Tournament.  

Both Nia Crosdale (senior at Truman High School, 198 lbs) and Hailey Cancelleri (senior at Curtis High School, 172 lbs) masterfully represented NYC by taking first in their respective brackets. "It’s amazing to watch women’s wrestling transform in front of my eyes these past four years and for me to be a part of something so much bigger than myself,” said Cancelleri. She is comforted to know that as she moves onto college, there will be a future with opportunities for younger girls “to express themselves and to continue breaking these barriers.”

Mia Macaluso, a sophomore from Minisink Valley who was the 128 lbs champ, was amazed to see as many girls as she did in the “same situation” as her: “Wrestling boys all season wishing we could wrestle girls.” Macaluso felt that the tournament was a great experience and was happy to be a part of the historic tournament. Esther Levendusky, a freshman from Avon, New York, felt a similar pride for being present. “It was a great experience, good competition, and a great way to raise awareness for women’s wrestling,” said Levendusky, who placed 4th at 105 lbs.

Derek Levendusky, father of the Levendusky sisters, said the following: “As a father and coach who has watched not only my own daughters, but girls from across the state work hard at this sport all year, being at this event was very satisfying. These girls deserve opportunity, recognition and dignity in this sport and this state tournament was a huge step forward. Bravo PSAL and the Sanction NY movement!”

Tim Walters, father of Mika Walters (139 lbs champion and sophomore at Southwestern High School), is another parent who sees this event as much needed. “So many girls around New York State wrestle on varsity teams but have no chance to go against their peers-- this tournament gave them that opportunity,” said Walters. In Tim Walters’ words, Mika experienced “a very rare occasion” of having 20 girls in her bracket. Walters was also very impressed with the quality of the tournament, from referees, to mat breakdown, to sportsmanship. “Thank you for a wonderful event,” concluded Walters.

This tournament wasn't simply an opportunity for the girls of New York to battle it out at a State Championship. As Jacque Davis, BTSNY Girls Development Director, put it: this event was an opportunity "to prove to New York State that female wrestlers exist, that they are legitimate, and that they aren’t going anywhere." As Davis herself said, it may be more appropriate to describe this tournament as a "peaceful protest."

New York girls who wrestle in the winter on “boys” teams currently have no way of being recognized on the state level.  Female wrestlers are rostered on their teams as boys and the records they accumulate are counted towards qualifying for the boys’ state championship. According to the NFHS, which tabulates participation data from state governing bodies as recently as last season per the NFHS 2016-17 Participation Report, New York reported zero females participating in sport of wrestling, even though weight certification data found several hundred participating last season. There are actually nearly 600 girls who were weight certified to wrestle on their boy’s winter team this season.

Luckily for girls this year, this was the first time ever that a state governing body chose to sponsor and sanction an event like this. The PSAL pulled through for the girls of New York.

"In 2012, about 6% of the student-athletes wrestling during the winter boys wrestling season were females,” said Ken Bigley, PSAL Wrestling Commissioner. Bigley has seen firsthand the effects of having girls specific wrestling opportunities over the years in NYC.  “As the PSAL added opportunities for females to compete against females, be it our Spring Girls Freestyle season or the Blended League Dual meets season, it became very clear that when females had the opportunity to wrestle other females, their participation increases.” Bigley also cited data from this year which shows that 275 of winter “boy’s” season wrestlers, or 15% of total winter season participants, were females.  Bigley and the PSAL understand something else crucial here: the "State Champion" title is the goal for pretty much any high school wrestler you talk to. Boys have a state tournament that gives them the opportunity to compete for a state title; girls didn't. “Over the past couple of years it became clear that there was little interest by the other governing bodies to offer such an opportunity, so we decided to host one on our own and invite girls from around the state to come to NYC to compete to become a State Champion," said Bigley. 

Girls, like every boy who wrestled the entire year, deserve a championship event. Davis feels that any girls who competed in this tournament made history regardless of how she performed. Davis said the following: “To simply have her name in the bracket, was a win. By having her name there, she made history. She will go down in the record books not just as a wrestler, but as one of the women who was part of the movement that forever changed New York State.”

Davis concluded with this sentiment that many across the state share: “We want to be recognized and Sanctioned in New York State!”

You can review the results of this tournament here:



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