North County freshman Olivia Devine isn't specifically interested in furthering wrestling as a sport for girls. Instead, she's totally focused on making the varsity lineup and making a future for herself in the sport.
To do that, the 5-foot-1, 138-pound Devine has her eyes set of getting her weight down to 132 or 126, where she will have a chance at earning a starting spot in a wrestle-off with her teammates.
Her coach, Wayne Liddick, describes her as a serious competitor who has been coming to his open-mat nights in the summer for two years with her brother, Dylan, a DeMatha senior who was a state runner-up last year.
"She doesn't ask for favors or privileges," Liddick said. "She only asks to be treated as a fair and equal competitor. She's a good learner, a good competitor and a good cooperator, which means she's coachable. She respects her teammates and the sport and I see her getting better every day."
When did you first think you were interested in wrestling?
My brother Dylan's football coach suggested he try wrestling his freshman year to work on his strength and quickness. After watching him for a season, I wanted to do it. I was in sixth grade.
How did you go about getting started?
That next summer, there were open-mat wrestling nights at Meade, and there was a girl I knew who would go there with her brother, and they said come along. So I did.
Wrestling is such a hard sport, what was it you liked about it?
Just seeing that it's not about just being strong. It's about technique. And if you put a lot of hard work in to it, you can do almost anything.
What is it you want to do?
I want to go all the way to the Olympics. I want a future in wrestling. My parents, coach Liddick and I are already looking into colleges that have women's wrestling teams.
Speaking of your parents, what do they think of their daughter wrestling?
Both of my parents are extremely accepting. I had been in martial arts, so they were used to seeing me in physical sports with boys, and they knew I was in wrestling for the sport, not the boys. I've never been a girlie girl, but my favorite color is pink.
Do you have interests other than wrestling?
I like art, and I like physics. My brother and I have always been into art, and there is a physics teacher here that makes that class really fun. It's a long way off, but I think I'd like to find a college with a good art program and women's wrestling team.
Are you familiar with other young women who have wrestled and what they've accomplished?
When you're in the wrestling community, the guys bring up the names of other women wrestlers to let you know you're not alone. I know about Nicole Woody from Arundel and Helen Maroulis (a Rockville native who is a member of the 2011 national team), who went to school in Maryland for a while (Magruder), and Ali Bernard (who won a bronze medal at the 2011 world championships).
Do you think you're going to be able to lose the weight to make the lower weight classes, and why is that important?
The strength differential between male and female wrestlers is quite different. But it's my responsibility to get down to the best weight for me. I like the responsibility. I was real heavy at 160 last summer. But I'm a defender on the varsity field hockey team, and I did a lot of running with field hockey this fall. My dad, brother and I lift weights at home, and, on Thursdays, here at school we all go into the weight room. Now I'm at 138. I have technique on the mat, but I need to get to 132, where I'd only be giving up a little strength. It would be better for me at 126. I think I can do it. I'm eating just tuna mostly and I am continuing to lose weight. It's a matter of getting my weight down and winning the wrestle-off that determines the starter.
Were you nervous the first time you practiced with your team?
The first time I was definitely nervous. But no one has ever said anything bad to me. No one should be embarrassed on the mat. On the mat, I'm not a girl, I'm just another wrestler. But the first time, I was really uncomfortable. But since then I've discovered that while in wrestling there may be some immaturity, the guys are almost all really nice. It's like having a lot of brothers.