Junior wrestler finds she can compete with boys and win

December 6, 2015 — by Aditya Chaudhry

Going into high school, junior Gina Drapal knew she wanted to join the wrestling team. Even if it meant being the only female on a small team, she wanted to participate.

 

Going into high school, junior Gina Drapal knew she wanted to join the wrestling team. Even if it meant being the only female on a small team, she wanted to participate.

Drapal’s journey into wrestling began before she even knew of the sport.

Before she lived in California, Drapal was raised in Oklahoma. There she was introduced to martial arts.

Upon moving to California in sixth grade, however, her love for martial arts slowly dissolved.

“It was stressful moving to California,” Drapal said. “Getting used to the new people was challenging and took me away from my favorite pastime.”

But during her second month of P.E. in seventh grade at Hyde Middle School in Cupertino, the void in her life  was filled. She was introduced to wrestling during a unit, enjoyed it and decided to join the actual team.

Drapal said her martial arts background became useful when she tried wrestling. It was also during this first season that she had her favorite wrestling moment.

Competing at the  JV level, Drapal was facing some of the best seventh-grade boys in the league.

In one match, she was down in the third and final round. But Drapal refused to give up.

“The guy was pinning me, and I had a couple seconds left in the match,” Drapal said. “I managed to flip him over and get a pin right before the buzzer for time went off, so I won the match.”

When Drapal entered high school, she joined the wrestling team, hoping to share this same joy that she felt throughout middle school. That happiness was short-lived, however, when the practices started to take a toll and become more intense.

With more time commitment needed to do wrestling in high school compared to middle school, Drapal’s parents were against her continuing the sport.

This led her to stop wrestling early in her freshman season, but with pleading and convincing, she has managed to wrestle  for both her sophomore and junior year.

Last year, Drapal was put in a situation of becoming familiar with those around her.

“At first it was weird for the team to see a girl, but over time they came to make me feel like one of the guys,” Drapal said.

As a member of the team, Drapal has placed a large amount of time and emphasis on her physical training for the sport.

During the season, the team meets every day of the week except for Sunday, and weekday practices are from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. During  this time, team members  typically run at least a mile and then do a couple of sets of 100-meter dashes.

They then go to the wrestling room and complete  their warm-ups, which include push-ups, sit-ups and other exercises such as carrying their wrestling partners around.  After that, team members are split into groups of three and they wrestle live, switching out every time someone gets a pin.

Despite the strenuous practices, Drapal enjoys being on her team and the experiences the wrestlers create together.

“I love going to Saturday tournaments with my team and spending the whole day out there with them,” Drapal said. “It turns into a little road trip where we bond together.”

Last season, Drapal faced a strange predicament when it came to finding her weight class.

“It was a funny story really,” Drapal said. “I started the year wrestling in the 120 pound weight class, but I managed to drop 7 pounds in the middle of the season and made it into the 115 pound category for the second half.”

Drapal is currently debating whether to enter the season in 120 pound weight class or drop 5 pounds and join the 115 pounds weight class.

Regardless of her weight class, all her opponents have one similarity. They are all male. Having competed in only one female wrestling tournament, Drapal has prefered to wrestle with the guys and try to push herself.

“It is really funny to see their reaction sometimes,” Drapal said. “They see their competitors beforehand by last name and are expecting a guy, but when I walk onto the mat they are confused.”

Although she likes to choose wrestling with the guys, she has to compete against other girls in the league. Upon making it into CCS the girls and guys are split into their respective categories and compete for titles in that fashion.

Over the past few years, Drapal has learned a lot from wrestling and now hopes to improve over the next two seasons.

“I really want to place in the top three in CCS for girls in CCS, because it proves that all my hard work has been worthwhile,” Drapal said.

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