By Lem Satterfield @satterfield_lem
DERWOOD — As Constance Nwaigwe grappled with and was eventually pinned by Walter Johnson’s senior Ibriham Woodward in last Saturday’s 106-pound third-place match at Magruder Mad Mats Tournament, the Wheaton senior was supported from mat-side by Richard Montgomery senior Laura Chang and Northwest junior Maggie Palmore.
Chang had lost three times to Woodward before winning Saturday’s semifinal, 8-5, en route to finishing second at Magruder at 106, and Nwaigwe and Palmore are two of six Montgomery County females who earned titles in February’s inaugural Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association girls’ invitational folkstyle wrestling tournament.
“The first time I wrestled [Woodward] he either pinned or teched me, but I started bridging the gap. [Woodward] is pretty good, so it was very exciting to watch Constance wrestle, and she was having success in a pretty close match,” said Chang, whose school-oriented commitment forced her to miss February’s MPSSAA tournament, where senior Richard Montgomery teammate Jasmine De La Vega (107) was a champion but has since graduated.
“Sometimes it’s intimidating to step on the line, and the guy’s in a singlet with bulging arm muscles. You can sometimes doubt yourself. The beginning can be really rough, but girls are very strong and powerful, so this is an exciting time for us. So it’s important for girls to know that they can not only succeed, but win in a male-dominated sport.”
Last year’s MPSSAA girls wrestling tournament was a break for females whose season often involves wrestling varsity or junior varsity males.
Palmore, for example, decked all four of her MPSSAA tournament rivals in the first period in February, later, earning high school All-American honors with her third-place finish at 122 pounds in the July 12 through July 20 Cadet Nationals Tournament at The Fargodome on the campus of North Dakota State University in Fargo, North Dakota.
Northwest was not in the Magruder Tournament, but Palmore showed up, nevertheless.
“It’s important for all girls to support each other in every way, being there and encouraging each other to be great. The state championships were a big boost for us girls, but I honestly believe girls can do anything guys can do, as long as you’re a hard worker,” said Palmore.
“I have people that I look up to, myself, but just the other day, a little girl who was like nine years old told me she had watched my matches at Fargo and that she was a really big fan. So to know that I’m being watched is awesome.”
Nwaigwe was rooting for Chang during Saturday’s 4-0 title-bout loss to Bullis freshman Tallion Elliott, even though she might have to face Chang at some point this season.
“I’m going to be rooting for [Chang,] and some people may look at it like I’m taking a side,” said Nwaigwe, a third-year wrestler, Nwaigwe registered pins in 25, 65, and 77 seconds to go with a 10-3 major decision in winning her 102-pound class in February.
“Well, yeah, I am pretty much always rooting for the girls, because in the past, women were looked down on. So when you see one of us wrestle with so much energy and passion and using great moves, you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s so exciting.’”