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Wrestling: Girls getting their chance to showcase skills across Carroll County

In what's claimed to be the first girls varsity wrestling bout in Carroll County, Manchester Valley's Summer Shackleford emerges victorious after she defeats Winters Mills' Alivia Esworthy Tuesday night in Westminster.
In what's claimed to be the first girls varsity wrestling bout in Carroll County, Manchester Valley's Summer Shackleford emerges victorious after she defeats Winters Mills' Alivia Esworthy Tuesday night in Westminster. (Doug Kapustin For Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

Summer Shackelford participated in gymnastics when she was in elementary school, but wanted to try something a little different in her first year as a high school freshman.

Classmate Katie Martin was into cheerleading, basketball, and lacrosse before choosing a new way to stay in shape over the winter.

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Mallorie Smith, now a sophomore, claimed cheer, volleyball, and lacrosse as her sports background prior to this season, when she joined Shackelford, Martin, and two other girls in coming out for the wrestling team at Manchester Valley.

The Mavericks were part of 19 girls around Carroll County that certified at the start of the winter season. Last week, when Man Valley visited Winters Mill in a county dual meet, the three MV girls got a chance to show what they’ve learned over the last several weeks.

Shackelford went first once the varsity was finished with its matchup with the Falcons, a 44-18 win. She took on WM’s Alivia Esworthy in a junior varsity bout, and posted a first-period pin in her wrestling debut.

“I was excited, and I was ready to go,” Shackelford said. “I was ready to go out there and do my best. I’d been waiting for that aggression and everything.”

Chad Schaffer started the match with a win at 138 pounds for the Mavericks, who raced to a 35-6 lead through 10 bouts. Man Valley got major decisions from senior Thomas Chenoweth (152) and Zach Brathuhn (285), and pins from junior Grant Warner (195) and freshmen Travis Green (106) and Jake Boog (113).

Smith and Martin watched from the sideline, then had their own chances to take the mat. Martin pinned WM’s Emily Baxley in the first period, and Esworthy came back out to face Smith (Smith won by pin, also in the first period).

Baxley and Esworthy were two of nine Winters Mill girls that were certified before the season. Century and Francis Scott Key had two each, and Westminster had one.

High school wrestling is traditionally dominated by boys, but this year around the state girls are getting their chance to take part in a much bigger way than ever before.

Back in April, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association approved an officially sanctioned girls high school state championship for this season after hosting an invitational the previous two years.

Girls can still compete alongside boys through the regular season, but they’ll have the option to enter into their own regional tournament or continue on to the combined regional tournament as long as they meet the qualification requirements.

The top two finishers of each weight class of the eight girls regional tournaments will qualify for a 16-girl bracket that will take place alongside the traditional individual state tournament at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro during the first weekend of March, 2020.

“I feel excited that they have these kind of things now,” Shackelford said. “I’m excited to push myself to the fullest to try and do all of that stuff.”

Manchester Valley's Katie Martin scores a pin against Winters Mill's Emily Baxley on Dec. 10, 2019 in Westminster.
Manchester Valley's Katie Martin scores a pin against Winters Mill's Emily Baxley on Dec. 10, 2019 in Westminster. (Doug Kapustin For Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

The girls tournament begins March 5, the day before the start of the combined state tourney, and finishes March 7. The semifinals for both the girls and combined tournament will be on six mats, while the finals for each (girls, Class 4A-3A, and Class 2A-1A) will be on three mats the night of March 7.

The girls’ weight classes will be 100, 106, 112, 117, 122, 127, 132, 138, 144, 152, 164, 180, 200, and 225.

Westminster’s Lockslea Mayers is back for her senior season, and second in wrestling, and Owls coach Mike Flemming said she missed placing at the girls invitational state tourney by one round a year ago. Mayers and former teammate Molly Brough had their share of girls matches last year, Flemming said.

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Brough competed against Manchester Valley during the 2018-19 season, Flemming said, but she left Westminster via transfer.

Century had Caitlyn Atkins and Ryley Brown certified this year, while FSK had Briana Shaffer and Ilana Rouse. KC Bonilla and Charlotte Schurman certified alongside Martin, Shackelford, and Smith for Man Valley, while WM’x Baxley and Esworthy were joined by Chelsey Acha, Grace Adkins, Deborah Flores, Tiara Lucarelli, Joyce Mbebon, Roan McCauley, and Jordan Salafia.

“I wanted to try something new in high school because I’m trying to be as involved as I can,” Martin said. “And I wanted to get in shape.”

Smith said she felt comfortable with MV wrestling coach Dave Dodson because he was her weightlifting coach in high school. Plus, she plans to join the U.S. Naval Academy in two years, so wrestling “is training to help me with boot camp.”

Smith said her Manchester Valley male counterparts have made the girls feel welcome, and they offer up tips and techniques when asked.

Manchester Valley's Summer Shackleford takes down Winters Mill's Alivia Esworthy on Dec. 10, 2019 in Westminster.
Manchester Valley's Summer Shackleford takes down Winters Mill's Alivia Esworthy on Dec. 10, 2019 in Westminster. (Doug Kapustin For Carroll County Times/Carroll County Times)

“Of course the coaches are there to teach you, but [the boys] can help you explain things because they’ve been there before,” Smith said.

Man Valley competed in the annual Bauerlein Duals over the weekend, and for now the girls are part of the JV squad. But they’ll have chances throughout the winter to be showcased — there’s a girls-only tournament scheduled for Jan. 21 at Winters Mill High prior to the various postseason events.

Martin said sparring with each other, and some of the boys, is good practice for what might lie ahead.

“In the [wrestling] room, we know how everyone is. Not necessarily knowing the opponent is different,” Martin said. “In my opinion, wrestling girls is easier for me. I just know that we can bend differently than the guys can.”

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