Union City junior Brooke Dylon wasn’t naive when she joined the Bears men’s wrestling program last season.
She knew there would be some skepticism among her male teammates despite her previous experience on a mat.
“I think at first they thought I was just doing this to be popular,” Dylon said. “But once I showed them I was there to work, they were okay. But I still feel like I have to prove myself to them every day.”
Dylon’s conviction is understandable. While his career record in a Bears jersey is 3-0, every win was by forfeit.
Such a result is unlikely to happen on Tuesday, when the 145-pounder will be on hand for a historic event at Saegertown High School.
Crawford Wrestling Club will host Canon-McMillan in Northwestern Pennsylvania’s first girls’ wrestling duel. The action starts at 6 p.m.
The Penncrest School District in central Crawford County approved the establishment of its girls’ wrestling club last May. It allowed students from outside the district to compete for the team.
Dylon is the only Erie County wrestler on Crawford’s roster. However, she is not the club’s only local connection.
The team is coached by Kane Patron, a 2016 Strong Vincent graduate who wrestled for the Colonels and then Mercyhurst North East. He also participated as an amateur in recent mixed martial arts cards at the Bayfront Convention Center.
Patron was an assistant for Erie High’s wrestling program until he joined the Saegertown team at the end of last season.
Panthers coach Jim Mulligan, who has turned this program into a traditional District 10 contender for the past 15 years, suggested to Patron that coaching Crawford’s women’s team would be a great opportunity.
Mulligan also vowed not to interfere with the way Patron ran him.
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“It was amazing,” Patron said. “I was a bit on the fence at first just because I’m used to (coaching) boys, but it’s been so enlightening. Girls tend to listen more and work harder.”
Patron said Daylee Watson, an eighth grader from Conneaut, and Dylon are the only two wrestlers on Crawford’s roster with formal wrestling experience prior to this winter.
Northwestern freshman Sierra Chiesa competed for the team in weekend tournaments but is not considered a full-time member of the team.
Chiesa, a lightweight, represented Crawford when she won her division in the girls’ game of the Mid-Winter Mayhem Jan. 8 in Indiana, Pennsylvania.
Dylon, whose father Andy is a volunteer assistant for Patron, called it “inspiring” to see how quickly many of the team’s newcomers have improved since last November.
“It took me three years to get to where I am, but they got there in just a few months,” she said. “It’s nice to see this progress.”
Dylon experienced a bigger jolt of self-confidence when Patron approached her for suggestions on training female wrestlers.
His advice worked better than he imagined.
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“I think a lot of wrestling coaches hold back when they coach (women),” Patron said. “Every time I first met Brooke, she said to me as a first-time girls coach, ‘Don’t treat us any different than the boys.’ That’s my mentality this season.”
If Patron and Dylon are successful, Tuesday’s duel will be a PIAA event for the near future.
The first MyHouse PA Girls State Wrestling Championships were held in 2020 in Gettysburg. Last season’s tournament was held in Mannheim.
The success of the tournament prompted an organization called SanctionPA to petition the PIAA to recognize women’s wrestling. PIAA officials said 25 of its schools are expected to enroll it under its “emerging sport” status.
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Last Friday, 32 schools confirmed their intention to offer wrestling to girls. Seneca, the only District 10 on the list, confirmed its desire to launch such a program on December 18.
At least 100 schools must now sponsor wrestling girls before the PIAA officially sanctions it. Patron, despite the current lack of interest in northwestern Pennsylvania, predicted the total will be exceeded based on the number of schools (23) that have signed up since last April.
“The next (season) will be the last, it’s not a sport (PIAA), if I’m being honest,” Patron said. “We’re not going to settle for less.”
Tuesday’s duel is the last regular-season event on Crawford’s schedule. Postseason tournaments are scheduled for Indiana on Feb. 12-13 and Erie Insurance Arena on Feb. 26.
The 2022 MyHouse tournament will take place March 12-14 at Central Dauphin High School in Harrisburg.
Contact Mike Copper at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ETNcopper.
Crawford Wrestling Club roster 2021-22
Coach: Patron of Kane
Assistants: Melissa Barthelemy, Andy Dylon
Eigth year: Jenna Kophazy, Warren; Emma Spencer, Saegertown; Daylee Watson, Conneaut
First-year student: Kasey KophazyWarren
Second year students: Kacie Mook, Kylie Stafford and Elora Dillinger, Saegertown; Chelsea Wilson, Cambridge Springs
Junior: Brooke Dylon, Union City
Seniors: Olivia Kinder, Meadville; Brooklyn Southwick, Maple