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Female wrestlers show their strength on the mat

Joy Cantu and Charisma Lawrence may not have been wrestlers if it wasn’t for the influence of their dads. From being little girls on the mat to number one wrestlers, Cantu and Lawrence are now among the best in the state.

“It definitely started with my dad,” Lawrence said. “When I was younger, I had always been around wrestling but never really considered it.”  

Cantu began wrestling at a young age.

“My dad just put me in it from the start, and I just started liking it more and more,” she said. “I think he wanted me to be the first girl in the area to be good.”

Cantu is a returning wrestler on varsity for the third time in her high school career and is wrestling with both the boys team and the girls team. Lawrence, a sophomore, joined varsity wrestling with girls this year.

Both Cantu and Lawrence knew they were progressing as competition and opportunities advanced. 

“It became a thing once I got good enough to travel around the country, and sometimes around the world to get opportunities,” Cantu said. 

It took a brief moment for Lawrence to develop in the sport after wrestling for the first time ever.

“My eighth grade year they had me wrestling boys, and I was getting whooped up a little bit,” Lawrence said. “It took until my first ever match up I had with a girl from another district. When I say I whooped her, I was like ‘Dang!’”

Lawrence either trains or wrestles on a daily basis.

“Once I start a sport, I’m extremely dedicated because you just can’t back out,” she said. “Once I started getting good at it that’s when I decided I wanted to stick with it.” 

While wrestling, girls face many stereotypes that can impact the way they compete. Lawrence tries to break those stereotypes.

“Girls in wrestling can have a mix,” Lawrence said. “You can still be a girl and go out on the mat and compete”. 

Cantu also dealt with stereotypes that females shouldn’t be on the mat due to feminism or physicality. 

“Oh, I’m not good because I am a girl, or girls shouldn’t be wrestling with boys,” Cantu said. “It’s a lot of stuff I had to overcome especially since it’s me being the only girl.

Both athletes spend a lot of time preparing their bodies for matches. 

“Training is really hard now since its high school season,” Cantu said. “I work out seven days a week. My diet is really good now, and I also do a lot of running.”

Similarly Lawrence works and trains for her upcoming matches. 

“Physically, I go over different drills in practice where that might be snap and go behind or my signature move,” she said. “I like to go over sweep scapes, or things similar to that, and even some sprints and jogs. 

Last year, Cantu hit a big milestone.

“When I won the Sectional championship, I didn’t get how big of a deal it was until after,” said Cantu, who became the first female wrestler to win a Sectional championship at MHS.

During the match, Cantu hurt her thumb, which led to her crying over the pain rather than the joyous win. However, she still revealed in her victory afterward. 

“I really didn’t care,” she said. “But, after it felt really cool to be the first girl to ever win. After that, I think my parents stopped to get a cake.”

Recently both girls were ranked #1 in their weight class.

“It actually felt pretty good being number one,” Cantu said. “I didn’t know I was number one when the ranking came out, because I didn’t check. I honestly thought I was ranked lower.” 

In addition Charisma has earned her spot at number one.

“I want to say it definitely feels good,” Lawrence said. “But I’m humber right now, I know that there is a big target on my back. It feels really rewarding to know that I got to this point.”

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About the Contributor
Aaliyah Parnell, Staff Writer
Hey, My name is Aaliyah Parnell. I am a junior here at Merrillville High School. I'm currently on the basketball team and is a freshman mentor while maintaining being on student government. This is my first time taking  newspaper and I plan to learn a lot. I can't wait for other people to read the articles I create. 

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