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First ASHSAA wrestling tournament of season held - with growing participation from girls

The American Samoa High School Athletic Association (ASHSAA) wrestling season got underway a week ago Saturday with its first tournament of the season that took place at Leone High School in front of fans and supporters of the sport of wrestling. In this third year of wrestling as an ASHSAA sport, there’s been a spike in females taking part in this mainly male dominated sport. One of the main reasons for the growth in female participation in the territory is thanks in part to coaches seeing the positive benefits for both male and females. Samoa News spoke with head coach Zena Iese of defending ASHSAA wrestling champions Leone Lions, about the growth of the female participation on the Lions wrestling team that has a total of five female wrestlers. “I believe that parents are starting to warm up to the idea of their daughters wrestling,” said Iese. “Respect for the sport and student athletes plays a big part in addition to keeping the parents informed,” he said. The Samoana Sharks had about six girls come out for the team last month, but due to other obligations, it is at an inconsistent rate. However, they are still showing a great interest in the sport. There is one female wrestler who does show up everyday to practice with the boys, showing no fear and not backing down while earning respect from her male teammates. Hillary Tavila, who is a Junior and even though this is her first year wrestling, is not afraid to get on the mat to practice and learn about this male dominated sport. “I love wrestling. I love competing. Each time I get on the mat, whether it’s during practice or a tournament, I try my very best to earn my opponent’s respect, by giving everything I have,” she said. Her first match came last Saturday against Fuatino Sefo also another first year wrestler from Leone High School who outweighed Tavila by almost 20lbs. Fortunately for Tavila, she was able to take Sefo down for a pin and the win, which came in the first period. Last season, Tafuna High School along with Leone, had the most female wrestlers and it appears that will continue this season, with a few more added. Samoana female interest has doubled since last season, which should help out in their overall victory standings. The Faga’itua Vikings wrestling team, led by Stephen Leasiolagi and Albert Taala, is suiting up the smallest team this year, but with the season just beginning, there is still time for female interest to grow there. In the United States, according to the sports website, in its 2010-20111 release, the NFHS High School Athletics Participation survey stats revealed there were 273,732 boys competing in wrestling, an increase of 842 wrestlers from the previous year (0.3 percent increase).Girl high school wrestlers grew to 7,351 athletes, an increase of 1,217 wrestlers from the previous year (a 19.8 percentage increase). According to the website, the National Federation of State High School Associations 2010-2011 participation survey, girl’s wrestling is the fastest growing sport for high school girls (in terms of percentage increase). The last ASHSAA wrestling tournament took place Saturday at Samoana High School. This tournament was an ‘underclassmen tournament’ with only the Sophomores and Freshmen wrestling. This will be followed by a tournament at Faga’itua High School on Saturday February 2. The rest of the schedule: Tafuna/February 9th (underclassmen only). Leone/February 16th. Tafuna/February 23. Samoana/March 2nd (ASHSAA Championships). All tournaments have a scheduled starting time of 8:00 a.m. and are only on Saturday.