Anybody who thought wrestling was just for boys wasn’t at the Justin-Siena gymnasium last Saturday for Wrestle4Hope.
The event featured 82 girls from kindergarten through eighth grade vying for medals and raising over $2,000 for the fight to find a cure for breast cancer.
Holding events to promote girls wrestling and raise money for charity is the brainchild of Jason Guiducci, wrestling head coach at Justin-Siena and wrestling director at the Springstowne Wrestling Academy in Vallejo.
“These meets came about as part of our program at Springstowne Wildcat Wrestling Academy to travel the country and expose our girls to different cultures and all that our great nation has to offer,” said Guiducci.
The wrestling trips are also a way to promote girls wrestling in other parts of the country.
“Girls wrestling is huge in California but not so much in other parts of the country,” Guiducci said.
After struggling to find wrestling events for girls in other states, and even finding resistance to the idea of girls wrestling, Guiducci decided to hold girls wrestling events around the country.
“The idea was to hold the kind of event that would not only inspire girls to wrestle, but also make it about a worthy cause,” explained Guiducci, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor. “Wrestle4Hope was born out of wanting to do something more lasting through wrestling than just winning medals. We’ve done it around the country and we decided to bring it to Napa to give our local girls a chance to compete here before we go on the road again next year to another part of the country.”
Guiducci said this is the first time the Wrestle4Hope event has been held in Napa, or in California for that matter. The majority of the girls wrestling came from the Springstowne Wrestling Academy and the Napa Sheriff’s Activities League, but competitors also came from Elk Grove, Windsor, Ukiah, Willits, Fairfield, Fort Bragg, Davis and Sacramento.
Deputy Jesse Ward, wrestling coach for the Napa Sheriff’s Activity League and assistant wrestling coach at Justin-Siena, helped Guiducci host the event.
“We’ve accompanied the Springstowne club several times,” Ward said, “we just came back from Philadelphia and we’ve also been to Oklahoma City, Chicago and South Carolina.”
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Ward, a former wrestling teammate of Guiducci’s at Napa High, was honored with the Coach of the Year award for running the Napa Sheriff’s Activities League program.
“I enjoy being an ambassador for girls wrestling,” Ward said. “Girls wrestling didn’t used to be very popular, but now there’s a ton of girls out there doing it. I’ve had the opportunity to have girls wrestle for me in elementary school, middle school, high school and college, including former Napa High wrestler Maggie Douma and former Vintage High wrestler Alyvia Fiske.”
Both girls earned wrestling scholarships, Douma to Oklahoma City University and Fiske to Simon Fraser University in British Columbia.
“Alyvia also wrestled on the U.S. Junior World Team in Slovakia a earlier this year,” Ward noted proudly.
Both Guiducci and Ward feel wrestling is an outstanding sport for girls.
“Wrestling is amazing because, regardless what size you are, you can be a giant in this sport,” Ward said. “Wrestling is the last truly inclusive sport. It not only doesn’t discriminate against size, it doesn’t discriminate against socio-economic status — and now it doesn’t discriminate against girls.
“Wrestling is good for girls because it teaches them self-defense, and the competition builds confidence, character and teamwork, and those skills translate into life. That’s why I love it.”
Ward said the SAL absorbs all expenses for its female wrestlers, including equipment if their families can’t afford it.
“Plus, the girls really have a good time,” he added.
Napa’s Nia Hagler, a fifth-grader at Northwood Elementary and member of the Napa SAL team, agreed wrestling is a lot of fun.
“A lot of girls don’t wrestle because they think it’s too serious,” the 10-year-old said, “but I have a lot of fun. This is my second year wrestling and I really appreciate the competition and how much effort and focus it takes. You really have to concentrate on what you want to do.”