HS WRESTLING: Western Wayne becomes 11th Pennsylvania school to add girls program

Jun. 17—LAKE ARIEL — Western Wayne assistant wrestling coach Kevin Roginski traveled to the MyHouse Pennsylvania Girls Wrestling State Championships in Manheim with freshman wrestler Lexi DeSiato in March.

He loved the atmosphere and hoped to bring girls wrestling home.

"What I saw was unbelievable," Roginski said. "The camaraderie, the technique was unbelievable. I had a lot of fun and I'm like, 'Why not us?' Actually going down to that tournament and seeing it live, I'm like, 'It's on, man. Let's do it.'"

Three months later, Western Wayne did it.

The school board approved a team in a unanimous

vote at Wednesday night's meeting.

"I am so excited," Western Wayne girls wrestler Tommi Vizcaino said. "I have been wrestling with so many guys. It's wonderful to be accepted. I feel way more comfortable now and the fact that they stood up and said something for us, it means a lot."

The Lady 'Cats join fellow Lackawanna League and District 2 program Delaware Valley among the 11 Pennsylvania schools to sponsor a team.

J.P. McCaskey, Easton, Executive Education Academy, North Allegheny, Central Mountain, Governor Mifflin, Annville-Cleona, Gettysburg and Brandywine Heights also added girls wrestling programs over the past

15 months after the Pennsylvania Girls High School Wrestling Task Force launched SanctionPA, a campaign that aims to get high school girls wrestling approved as a sanctioned sport in the state.

DeSiato couldn't attend, but wrote a letter that her mother and school board member, Dana DeSiato, read during the meeting.

"I have faced many obstacles being a female in a male-dominated sport," Lexi wrote in the letter. "The elementary coaches helped change the bylaws at that level to allow girls to wrestle for Western Wayne and I jumped to get out on the mat. I almost gave up last year after many bullying issues. A few kind words from an amazing woman gave me the push to persevere.

"I pushed my hardest I ever have this year in the wrestling room. Our coaches have really put their all into the program and all of our wrestlers. They both pushed me and I placed fourth in the state. If they can push me, I know they and myself can push other girls to do the same."

DeSiato capped her freshman season with a fourth-place finish in the 115-pound weight class at the March state championships.

"The performance Lexi put on this year was outstanding as we know and I think she more inspired a lot of people in the building to want to get involved and she piqued a lot of interest and brought a lot of talk around the sport," Western Wayne sophomore wrestler Niko Dubeau said. "And I think tonight with the passing of that vote she's creating opportunities for people to get involved and be part of the community and help grow the sport and our school."

Vizcaino missed last season, but will be part of Western Wayne's inaugural girls season.

"Lexi works hard. Tommi Vizcaino is in there grinding, too. So, I see a lot of these girls wrestling and they're just tough and you just see that they want something for themselves. It's pretty neat to watch."

DeSiato and Vizcaino will lead the charge for girls wrestling, and they expect many more Lady 'Cats this season.

"In the beginning, I put a feeler out there on social media to see who would be interested in it if we just had a girls team," Roginski said. "I talked to a lot of other athletes, girls who don't do winter sports who are athletic and would maybe consider doing something like that and I got a good response. I got a really good response."

Western Wayne head coach Scott Rush said four to six more girls at the school are interested in wrestling.

"I believe the interest will grow by leaps and bounds knowing that female athletes are competing against female athletes in a particular sport and the numbers prove that," Rush said. "The numbers jump drastically from the moment that you get a team to the second and third year of girls participating."

Adding a girls wrestling program can increase participation as high as 400% in the first year, according to SanctionPA. If six Western Wayne girls athletes join DeSiato and Vizcaino, it would hit that mark.

"It takes a couple girls and then a few of those girls at those schools to look at these girls to see what they're doing to go, 'I can do that,'" Rush said. "There's some great girls right now who are wrestling in the Lackawanna League. Elk Lake has a girl (Caylee Gregory). In the Wyoming Valley (Conference), they have a girls state champ (Lexi Schechterly) there, and she's the first girl to make the regional tournament. It's spectacular."

Rush's next step is to continue promoting the sport within the school to bolster the team.

"Then maybe we can get some exhibitions," Rush said. "We can get a couple of teams together to meet at one place so not everybody is traveling constantly. I know Delaware Valley has a team, a spectacular girls team. We can meet at their site, a neutral site, it doesn't matter."

The PIAA requires at least 100 schools to recognize girls wrestling before it considers sanctioning the sport.

Contact the writer: jbaress@timesshamrock.com