Girls wrestle with old stereotype

Janel Gonzalez (middle row, fifth from left) and Jacquie Rivera (middle row, third from left) are two of the women who did their part to change the perception of women by competing on the predominantly male wrestling team at Lehman High School.

Throughout history women have been perceived as the weaker sex, but Lehman High School students Janel Gonzalez and Jacquie Rivera are looking to change those perceptions one match at a time.

Gonzalez, a sophomore from Pelham Bay, and Rivera, a junior from Allerton Avenue, both wrestle on the school’s boys’ team. 

It was the first time Lehman has accepted girls on one of New York City’s premier teams (Lehman ended the season 9-1, losing 48-20 to Petrides in the PSAL finals), and both girls plan on making the most of it, looking to compete right up until they graduate.  

 “It’s a challenge, but we want to prove people wrong,” said Rivera. “Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we are weak.”

Gonzalez, who is just 4’6” tall, is a former cheerleader and gymnast but says that those sports weren’t enough for her. “I have a lot of energy and those sports were fun, but after a while I got bored,” she said. 

The sophomore is currently the manager for the boys’ lacrosse team in the off-season and plans to try out, along with Rivera, for football this fall. While an average student, Gonzalez states that her favorite subjects include art and physical education, and that she plans on going to college. She says that while she is undecided as to what major to take up, she thinks a career in law enforcement, more specifically as part of a police SWAT team, would be an exciting career move.

Rivera, who stands just a few inches taller than Gonzalez, plays softball for Lehman on the varsity team. “I wrestle because I love the challenge and I love the coach,” she said, of Coach Scott DeBellis. “He’s the best coach ever.”

Rivera then noted that  DeBellis gives the girls the confidence to do their best and to work hard at what they want to accomplish. The junior also says she loves math and hopes to be an accountant one day.

Neither girl thinks that wrestling in college will be a possibility unless the weight class is lowered. Still they feel they have a point to prove, as far as equality amongst the sexes goes.

They both proved their point with Gonzalez showing impressive abilities with the following stat line: 10 matches, 4 wins, 6 losses, 2 pins, 4 takedowns, 2 reversals, 2 escapes, and 2 near falls.  Gonzalez even picked up a playoff victory, giving her and Rivera hope for their roles on the team when the 2008/09 season begins in November. 

“I may be tiny,” Gonzalez said,  “but I can gain just as much as the boys can from the experience.”

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