April 2, 2024

YCP's First Women's Wrestling Team Celebrates their Inaugural Season

5 Minutes

The York College Women’s Wrestling Team, headed by Assistant Wrestling Coach Brian Gross and Head Men’s and Women’s Wrestling Coach Duane Bastress ‘06, has achieved great success in its first year.

The York College Women’s Wrestling Team, headed by Assistant Wrestling Coach Brian Gross and Head Men’s and Women’s Wrestling Coach Duane Bastress ‘06, has achieved great success in its first year.

When asked how it felt to be a part of something for the first time—in this case, the York College’s Women’s Wrestling team—founding team members Maura White, Allison Brandt, and Faith Warner had a lot to say.

“I absolutely love it,” says Allison, a first-year Pre-Med major from Sussex, NJ.

“I was very excited,” said Maura, a first-year Mechanical Engineering major from Wharton, NJ. “I've never been on a women's team before.”

Getting the chance to help found and be a part of the first Women’s Wrestling program at York College presented a new opportunity for all three women—getting to be trailblazers not only at York College, but in the field of women’s sports at large.

“We are the first people to be doing this, but we're also making great history and setting the pathway for so many young girls to then step into,” says Faith.

An Opportunity For Change

When York College announced a year and a half ago that a Women’s Wrestling program was in the works, Maura was excited to have a chance to finally have a team of fellow women wrestlers to work with. She hadn’t had the opportunity to do so before.

“I've always just been by myself; I've just been with the guys. I was very excited to be able to come here and not only have a team but be able to help start one,” she says.

For Maura, wrestling runs in her family. Both her brother and father wrestled, and having done sports in high school, becoming a part of YCP Women’s Wrestling was an easy decision.

“Wrestling is a lot about family for me. My brother wrestled, my dad wrestled, and then I did sports in high school,” Maura says. “I was never really able to bond with the soccer girls or the track girls like I was able to with the wrestling guys.”

Faith had already been a part of women’s wrestling; the first-year Sport Management major had helped found the girls’ wrestling team at her high school in Big Spring, PA. She already knows what it’s like to be a trailblazer—for her, it’s all about the love of the sport. She’d seen the impact wrestling had on her older brother Greg ‘19, an accomplished YCP wrestler in his own right—and wanted that for herself.

“I was on the first girls’ team at my high school at Big Spring. I wanted to be on the boys’ team. And I didn't care if I was the only girl, I wanted to wrestle,” she says. “At the time my brother was the coach and he wasn’t sure about it, because he didn’t want me to get hurt. But I said, ‘I don't really care. I'm going to do it anyway.’ ”

Faith did end up getting hurt—she dislocated her elbow on a mat return senior year and was unable to compete in state competitions. It was “heartbreaking” for her. But seeing the impact she was having on younger wrestlers encouraged her to keep going.

“I remember sitting in my bed later that week and I hear a knock on my door and it's one of the sophomore girls on my team. I answer it, and she has a pile of cards from all the junior wrestler girls. And they had stick figures of me with the cast on and they said things like, ‘You’re always our superhero,’ ” she says. “Stuff like that showed me that no medal will ever give you that experience.”

Allison started out as a dancer ,but wrestling called to her during her first year of high school. She started wrestling because of her coach, and never looked back.

“When I was younger, I was a dancer. I absolutely would have never guessed I would have gone down that road of wrestling. But I think that little girl would be proud of me right now,” she adds.

Building Camaraderie

Despite the uncertainties that come naturally with forming a new sports program, such as the lack of a team culture, Head Coach Bastress is proud of the initiative undertaken by the wrestlers in the Women’s program to create camaraderie amongst the team members.

 “We don't have a tradition yet, so all last year recruiting for these ladies was, ‘Hey, here's our vision of what we want,’ ” Bastress explains. “And when they get here, a lot of building that vision falls on them. They did an amazing job this past fall of team bonding without us.”

“They say misery loves company. And it's not that it's misery, but it's a lot of hard work and every morning we're either running or we're doing an extra practice or we're working out. And then every afternoon we have an hour to two-hour long hard drill practices in the weight room or down in the wrestling room,” Maura says. “It’s very nice to have someone that understands what you're going through.”

The general culture at York College was something that particularly stood out to Faith when she was making a college decision. She believes hat sense of culture and community has bled into her experience as a YCP Women’s Wrestler, too.

“One thing that I really admired about York rather than any other schools that I visited was the culture that’s built here. We do a lot of community work and reaching out. I think the coaches care more about building us into better people in addition to trying to build us into better wrestlers,” she adds. “But whoever you are when you walk off that mat means a lot more than getting your hand raised or getting a medal. And I think that's a big part of being a wrestler here.”

Wrestling is a very physical sport, but is just as much mental as it is physical, according to Allison. Having her teammates beside her going through the same thing is an immense help.

“As much as we do physically, we do more mentally to fight through those tough positions, those tough practices to cut that weight. It's all a mental game. And for me, I want to come out stronger in the end,” she adds.

Charting The Path Ahead

Assistant Coach Gross sees the importance of having a Women’s Wrestling Team at York College as “another opportunity for women to grow,” vital in an era where the trajectory of women’s wrestling across the country is growing at an exponential rate. 

“It's an opportunity for women to have another chance to compete in sports. And I think wrestling in general develops individuals at a whole different level,” he says. “It's still an individual sport, but it's also a team sport at the end of the day.”

For Maura, Allison, and Faith, the dream is to be an All-American in college (completing all four collegiate years as a Women’s Wrestler), but they each have individual goals, too. Maura wants the team to continue to advance in competitions and increase the reputation of the YCP team nationally.

“I’d like to see how far our team can go—maybe we get first at this tournament, we get first at this tournament. And suddenly, there are people from around the rest of the United States that say, ‘I want to go to York, because I heard about their Wrestling program,’ ” she says.

“I remember at the beginning of the year that they didn't even have us ranked—they had a college above us that didn't even have a program yet,” explains Faith, who scored the first-ever victory for the Women’s Wrestling program. “And we went to our first tournament, and we were above some D2 schools. It's very different because with women's wrestling there's not yet Division Three. We're against D3, D2, D1 schools. But I think as we progress and as we get work in the off-season and keep working toward building ourselves closer as a team and individually, I think that we have a really good chance of just continuing to prove ourselves.”

In addition to her dream of becoming an All-American, Allison’s ideal goal is to get to Nationals.

“That's my goal as of right now and as a team. I think we're making history right now, just being a team and continuing as a team,” she says. 

She also wants to be a role model for younger girls who wish to follow in her footsteps, something she’s already actively trying to accomplish.

“I just want to be that person they can look up to because I didn't have that besides my coach in high school. And I want to see more women doing that for the younger generation especially,” she adds.

Bastress sees big growth for the team in the coming years, including growing beyond the collegiate level and becoming an independent program by 2025.

 “I think we are stunting ourselves at the college level. I think you're going to see over the next even three years women's wrestling from high school to college and internationally at the USA level expand,” he adds. “We're going to even be better, especially at the international level with what our women are currently doing and who they're wrestling.”

For Gross, the advantages of women’s wrestling go beyond the obvious ones of camaraderie and sportsmanship to discipline, especially for his three college-age daughters, all of whom are currently enrolled in college and wrestle.

 “For me, having them grow up and being around wrestling—it's awesome. It empowers them. It gives them a purpose, a work ethic that they probably never would have had,” he says.

Bastress is in a similar boat, with two young daughters, one of whom has already expressed interest in wrestling. For Bastress, having a Women’s Wrestling team at York College allows him an opportunity to expose his daughters to the sport early, and gives them role models to look up to.

“It's been always Daddy's guys. Now it's Daddy's girls and guys. They're role models for my girls already,” he adds.

Maura is happily taking on the mantle of role model. She’s already persevered through the doubts friends and family had regarding her staying with wrestling.

“When I started, my mom didn't think I was going to stick with it. When I first started and there were no other girls, she was confused. But then she would tell me stories about how there'd be people in the stands at tournaments or whatnot, and they'd say, who let that little girl wrestle? And then I'd win and they'd say, ‘Wow, why aren't they letting more little girls wrestle?’ ” she says, getting emotional. “My mom would definitely be proud of me that I stuck with it.”

“I started wrestling my first year of high school because of my coach, and honestly, I have never regretted it. I love this sport and I think it's changed me for the better,” Allison adds.