UHS wrestling becoming more popular among girls

Stephanie Castro|UHS Journalism
Members of the Uvalde High School wrestling team, sophomore Akira Saiz (left) and senior Nathalia Quiroz. This year’s team comprises 10 girls, an uptick from the usual two or three on the team.

Uvalde High School’s wrestling team is enjoying a year with a record number of girls on the team.

This year’s team has increased from the usual two or three girls to 10.

“This is the first year that I know of that we have more than four girl wrestlers,” coach Michael Liarakos said. 

 “I’m very excited about having so many girls to compete this year.”

 Heading up the Lobo wrestler lineup is senior Nathalia Quiroz, entering her fourth year in the program. Wrestling runs in the family. Quiroz developed her interest in wrestling from her older brother. 

“My brother has been doing it since he was 4 years old, so I just kind of went along with it,” Quiroz said. Her brother Dominique wrestled his way to a fourth place medal at state competition last year. 

Nathalia Quiroz also has state experience in her background. “I qualified for state my freshman year. Honestly, I did really bad. It was so different at state. The girls are bigger. They’re stronger and they’re really into technique.” Sophomore Akira Saiz is competing in her second year in the program. “I wasn’t really interested in it until I found out that there were only a couple of girls in the program, so I decided to join.”

 Both girls agree that the biggest challenge for them is staying “on weight” to qualify for their competition class. 

 “I just go on runs to stay on weight,” Quiroz said. “So if I eat a big meal, I’ll go for a run afterward.”

 Saiz said they sometimes work out in the gym. “But we do a lot of running because wrestling is a very physical sport.” Saiz is also a powerlifter and has had to recover from a pulled muscle, but otherwise hasn’t experienced any injury.

 Like Quiroz, she gets great support from her family. “Especially my mom. She does a lot for me, especially when I’m trying to make weight. She always finds ways to help me eat healthy.”

Saiz’s mom is Stephanie Castro, secretary to UHS principal Randy Harris. “

Being the mom of a female wrestler was all new to me last year when she came home one day and said, ‘Mom, I signed up for wrestling.’ 

That is the one sport I am not too familiar with, so I was a little unsure how it would go for her. She had never done anything like that.”

Stephanie Castro|UHS Journalism
UHS senior Nathalia Quiroz meets her competitor on the wrestling mat during the Rough Rider Invitational meet at San Antonio Roosevelt. Quiroz is among nine other female wrestlers on this year’s team.

Castro manages some of her daughter’s routines. “I try my best to make sure she is eating the right foods, staying hydrated and maintaining her weight for her class, which is sometimes not an easy task for wrestlers. It takes a lot of work, time and support to get them ready for their matches, including getting them to school at 4:30 a.m. on Saturdays to leave for tournaments.”

 Although Castro worries about Saiz getting hurt or injured, she just advises her daughter to be cautious and pay attention to her body to know when something is not right.

Saiz does have a “girly” side, too, according to mom. “She actually can draw and paint pretty well, and I enjoy seeing her in that ‘zone.’ I am all for her going out to try different hobbies, sports or challenges. I believe it helps mold them and gives them direction on who they are and what they like and don’t like.

“When I was in high school, I didn’t participate in wrestling, but I did powerlifting and fell in love with the sport immediately. Now both of my girls compete in that sport, and share the same love for it.” 

Both Quiroz and Saiz recommend that other girls try out wrestling. “You stay in shape really well,” Quiroz said. “And it helps, well, it helps me deal with my anger, so I think it’s really a good thing to do.” Saiz agreed. 

“If you’re looking for a way to get stronger, it’s good. And it’s a great outlet. You gain a lot of knowledge of your body and how it works.”

Liarakos doesn’t find it difficult at all dealing with female wrestlers. He said both girls and boys show emotion during or after their matches.

“Wrestlers put all of themselves into each match, and when the adrenaline wears off, there can be some emotions you might not see in other sports.”

He sees a promising year ahead for the girls team. 

“Last year, we had three girls go to regionals. This year, we could have all 10 possibly make it to regionals. The girls practice right along with the boys. They work very hard and it shows when we go to competition.”

He thinks wrestling brings several changes to the athletes.

“You can see the change in their bodies, in their mental state, and a bit of a swagger in their steps when they walk around the halls at school.”