One Step Closer (by Cameron Nunez)
Introduction from Chris Michael: Last month we welcomed Cameron Nunez as the newest member of the ATVN Sports family.
She brings several unique experiences to the table. A member of the National Honor Society and field hockey program, Cameron gained attention as a student-athlete with the first-ever Easton girls wrestling program (one of the first sanctioned programs in Pennsylvania). She is currently an athletic training major while wrestling collegiately at East Stroudsburg University.
This week, she continues her story as the sport continues towards scholastic sanctioning in Pennsylvania.
Growing up, I was always told that “growth takes time” which has shown to be a deception in recent years for the sanctioning of girls/women’s wrestling. “Women’s wrestling is one of the fastest-growing sports at the scholastic and collegiate levels,” according to the NWCA, which is one of the most astonishing things to hear and see. As much as this is a new developing sport, it is necessary for me to first discuss who came before and broke the stigma of wrestling being a “male” sport.
I had spent most of my life watching male against male wrestling contests until one cold day in 2011 when I saw Kasey Kruczek. My father and I went to watch Easton Wrestling on a frigid winter day when I was nine years old. I was sitting in the bleachers when I noticed this blonde-haired girl from Easton wrestling some boy. Of course, I was taken aback by this and asked my father who she was. His response was, “Oh, that’s Kasey Kruczek, she used to wrestle for the Forks program when Nick was a novice and now she wrestles for Easton.”
This, I believe, was the turning point in my realization that wrestling is not simply a male sport. She will always be my inspiration and one of the people who helped me fall in love with the sport. I’m grateful to her for paving the road for female wrestling in the Lehigh Valley.
When my parents decided to let me wrestle when I was a junior in high school, I was ecstatic and eager to take on the challenge. Of course, you’d assume I beat every boy every time I stepped on the mat. Unfortunately, such was never the case. They’d fling me around even if I weighed twenty pounds more than some of the guys at practice. It made me apprehensive when I had to wrestle boys my own weight.
So, when it came to JV districts, I was mostly worried about what would happen. I believe I put up a good fight but was always pinned in the end. During this time, I hoped I could have wrestled a girl for some friendly competition. We then learned about the MyHouse PA Girls State Championship, which was to be held in Gettysburg, PA. Unfortunately, there were no girls in the room to wrestle at the time, and the boys were preparing for their states. My father chose to contact Kasey Kruczek because she was one of the girls’ coaches at Parkland High School, which had a large number of female wrestlers.
I had no idea those few practices would be the entire reason I wanted to seriously tackle wrestling!
The Parkland High School practices remain some of my favorite wrestling experiences to this day. It was one of the first times I felt like I was a part of something bigger than myself. I also met Brooke Zumas, the head coach of Parkland Girls Wrestling and a key figure in the “#Sanction PA” movement. She would later pave the way for me to speak about women’s wrestling in Pennsylvania. It was my first-ever girls “states” (March 2020), the day following boys states, and I was ready to wrestle. When I stepped in the gym, there were about a hundred females in this small gym, ranging from novice to high school, all vying for the same gold medal.
Unfortunately, I did not place, but it was an experience that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
A few weeks later, I received a text from Brooke Zumas asking if I was interested in doing a Zoom interview with a reporter, which of course I said yes to and was thrilled that she thought of me. This led to other interviews with numerous local and state news organizations. I even got to meet 2004 Olympic wrestler Tela O’Donnell via Zoom. It was a fantastic start to something wonderful.
May 26th, 2020 was a significant day – not just for the Easton wrestling community, but also for the state of Pennsylvania. My alma mater, Easton Area High School, officially established girls wrestling as a sport on this day. I was overjoyed to learn that I would be able to practice and compete on my school’s official girls team during my senior year.
In the weeks leading up to the start of the season, Pennsylvania would sanction seven more female wrestling teams. In my final season as an Easton Red Rover, I had numerous wins but also several losses.
Then came March, and it was time for my second MyHouse PA State Championships appearance. There were roughly a hundred more girls this year than last. It was a breathtaking sight to behold!
Again, I did not place, but I was able to see the development of my teammates and other girls I met the previous year, which was far more rewarding than any gold medal.
For those who are unaware of what is going on with Sanction PA, there are currently ninety teams sanctioned out of the required one hundred. Girls wrestling is on the verge of becoming an official sport in Pennsylvania. Bethlehem Catholic, Easton, Freedom, Leighton, Liberty, Palisades, Parkland, Pocono Mountain East, and Pocono Mountain West are among the district eleven teams that have already been sanctioned. We can have formal state finals like the boys state tournaments in Hershey, Pennsylvania, once we get 100 teams sanctioned. .
Meanwhile, some collegiate women’s wrestling teams include Alvernia, Cedar Crest, Delaware Valley, East Stroudsburg, Gannon, Lock Haven, and York. Every day, I am grateful for all of the people I have met via this sport, as well as those who have inspired me to continue doing so. As Sally Roberts, one of my inspirations, had written “be a Trailblazer” and “Wrestle Like a Girl!”
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.