Ally Fitzgerald of Lynbrook became the first female to win a sanctioned high school wrestling tournament on Long Island.
She used a cradle to pin her Farmingdale opponent at 3 minutes, 11 seconds of the second period to capture the 99-pound weight class Saturday night at the South Side wrestling tournament.
“The gym erupted, went simply crazy, when she pinned her opponent,” said Lynbrook coach Rich Renz. “It was an unbelievable moment in high school sports. It was amazing. I knew she was good, but she’s only a freshman and not as strong as some of the boys — or so I thought.”
Fitzgerald, who won four bouts, including three by fall, was named the Most Outstanding Wrestler in the tournament. The 14-year-old said she’ll never forget the atmosphere and the reaction of the crowd.
“It was a close match, 2-2, in the second period,” she said. “And he was on top of me and tried to use a cradle. I reversed him to his back and he tried to roll through it so I switched my hips and jumped over him. I squeezed him and put pressure on his shoulder with everything I had.”
Renz said he wasn’t surprised by Fitzgerald’s composure considering the entire gym was watching her title bout.
“She came into our KID wrestling program when she was in the third grade and there was something special about the way she handled herself,” said Hilary Becker, who’s run the youth program for the past 40 years. “And now she’s been all over the country wrestling. She has a strong jiujitsu foundation and she’s super strong. She was totally aware of what was going on around her and responded so well to it.”
Fitzgerald said she could feel the intensity of the crowd and that everyone was watching.
“I thought, ‘This is a moment’,” she said. “This is a chance to pave the way for other girls to wrestle and to have confidence. I want to set the bar for other girls and show them that there is no limit.”
No other girl has qualified for a Nassau final in tournament competition.
Fitzgerald won her opening bout with a 40-second pin. She won her second bout, 7-0, and the semifinal by a fall in 1:51.
“I was really blown away by her winning,” said her mom, Rebecca Fitzgerald. “She was phenomenal today. She’s worked so hard to get to the varsity level. The KID wrestling really opened the door for her six years ago and here we were today . . . Wow!
“I was floored by the announcement that she was the first girl to ever win a tournament. It was the most amazing feeling for a parent, so proud.”
Fitzgerald is no stranger to winning. She was undefeated in the seventh and eighth grades at Lynbrook South Middle School. She impressed classmates and teachers in the eighth when she set the school record for consecutive pushups with 110.
“Ally broke the school record by two pushups.” Becker said. “She’s super strong.”
“It’s an incredible achievement,” said Ed Ramirez, the Nassau wrestling coordinator. “It’s historical in a sense that it’s never been done before. No girl has ever won a wrestling tournament on Long Island.”
Ramirez said the news of Fitzgerald’s victory spread quickly throughout the wrestling community.
“I’m not surprised that a girl won and its big news,” he said. “We’ve promoted the sport for girls and we’ve seen exponential growth this season in the number of girls participating. We are seeing a surge in girls interested in the sport especially since it was added to the Olympics. And the girls are starting at a younger age and the technique is improving.”
According to Becker, Fitzgerald has won state titles in folk style and freestyle wrestling in the youth programs. She is ranked nationally in her weight class and has already worked out with members of the women’s Olympic team.
So what’s she do after the historical win? Ally and her Mom bought some food for a celebratory dinner.