NORWALK – Several local high school student athletes and parents alike are finding themselves increasingly frustrated over what they find to be unfair and biased attitudes towards the girls’ wrestling teams.
Sophomore Amaris Pedroza and Junior Desiree Estrada both compete as a part of Cerritos High School’s girls wrestling team. Apart from a few different rules and regulations when competing, they train just as hard and wrestle just as well (and sometimes even better) than the boys.
Pedroza, Estrada, and their teammates compete in the Suburban Wrestling League, which is comprised of teams from Norwalk, Artesia, Mayfair, Bellflower, John Glenn and Cerritos high schools.
However after spending countless hours in the gym and successfully pinning several shoulders to the mat, they find themselves not sharing in the same glory and pomp and circumstance that is bestowed upon their male counterparts.
“We got Suburban League Champ, which means that everyone in our league – we had to win in order to get it. So we thought we were going to get a medal out of it,” said Pedroza. “We already – usually - we don’t get as much [recognition] as the guys. But we were accepting that at least we’re gonna get a medal this time.”
The lack of recognition and official sanctioning isn’t necessarily a new thing according to parent Dalila De Fiesta. While she doesn’t have a daughter on the wrestling team, she has observed their struggles through her son’s participation on the boy’s squad. Despite the girls’ performance being CIF worthy, they are still left high and dry by their own league.
“Because they are champs and are undefeated, they still participate in CIF,” said De Fiesta. “That’s where the discrepancy is, because they won’t get the medal, they won’t get to step on the podium…”
Unfortunately for these athletes, they were recently informed that – once again – they will not be receiving medals or a podium spot.
“We don’t feel as accomplished as the guys,” said Estrada. “The guys are getting all these medals even though we worked just as hard as them. We (Estrada and Predroza) were undefeated – we wrestled each and every one of our girls in our league – and I don’t know, we just expected a patch or something…”
This isn’t a feeling confined to just the Cerritos team however.
Jessica Hernandez, a junior at Artesia High School, falls into the same boat that Pedroza and Estrada find themselves in; a surprising fact when considered that she is one of the head captains for boys and girls at her school.
“I worked hard for it,” said Hernandez. “I feel like all my work was worth nothing.”
In what might be considered worse than not being recognized at all, all three girls voiced opinions that they may be presented medals “just to shut us up.”
“They’re so annoyed with us at this point,” said Pedroza.
“A medal means something deeper than that,” said Hernandez. “It’s something we worked for our whole season; our blood sweat and tears we leave on the mat.”
Pedroza’s mother, Jackie Villegas, has been understandably frustrated with the way her daughter has been snubbed. In response, she has tried to extract answers from the team’s coach, the principal, the league, and even the school district, all while rallying other frustrated parents behind her.
Villegas has been told several different stories and explanations by several different people. She was offered the opportunity for a medal to be purchased by the school district, however Villegas feels they were missing the point.
“I can buy my kid a medal. The cost I think for the medals for the entire league is $80. I said ‘I’ll buy all the kids a medal, but you’re missing the point,’” said Villegas.
Even with a medal however, the girls and parents alike will not be satisfied until the recognition and official sanction comes along with it.
“They want it to be sanctioned like the boys. They want what they earned; they don’t want a medal,” said Villegas.
While the girls compete in their finals this Friday, their parents will head to John Glenn High School to protest, where the boys finals will be taking place.
“…We will make sure that everyone knows what this league did to these girls,” said Villegas. “It’s wrong. You totally dismissed them. You totally shunned them out…”
“…It goes beyond the five dollars they’re going to spend on this piece of alloy…,” said De Fiesta “It’s giving them the recognition – officializing what they’ve done and recognizing them for their hard work. That’s all we want.”