Alexandra Szkotnicki was two years old when Montgomery County freshman Helen Maroulis made an impact in March 2006, becoming the first girl to place at the Maryland wrestling championships with a sixth place finish at 112 pounds in the 4A-3A state tournament.

In 2007, Arundel High senior Nicole Woody (103) made more history by becoming Maryland’s first girl to win an Anne Arundel County and regional title and to finish as a Class 4A-3A state runner-up.

South River's 113-pound senior Alex Szkotnicki (front row, left) met Nicole Woody in March 2017. As an Arundel High senior in 2007, Woody became Maryland’s first girl to win an Anne Arundel County and regional title and finish as a Class 4A-3A state runner-up. Szkotnicki has similar goals. (Dana Szkotnicki)

As a Magruder junior in 2009, Maroulis became the first female to reach the finals of both the Montgomery County and Class 4A-3A East Region tournaments and repeated her sixth-place finish at states.

A 5-year-old Szkotnicki first approached her mother, Dana, about wrestling at the end of her youth football season.

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South River's 113-pound senior Alex Szkotnicki (left) was two years old in 2006 when Olympic champion Helen Maroulis (right) became the first girl to place at the Maryland wrestling championships with a sixth place finish at 112 pounds in the 4A-3A state tournament.
South River's 113-pound senior Alex Szkotnicki (left) was two years old in 2006 when Olympic champion Helen Maroulis (right) became the first girl to place at the Maryland wrestling championships with a sixth place finish at 112 pounds in the 4A-3A state tournament. (Dana Szkotnicki)

“Alex was playing youth football and it was the end of the season. The football coaches asked all of the boys if they wanted to wrestle,” said Dana Szkotnicki, a former high school and collegiate swimmer. “But they never asked Alex, so she came to me and said, ‘Mom, why did they not ask me. Did I do something wrong?’ And I said, ‘Honey, they’re talking about wrestling, honey, and you don’t want to do that.’ But she said, ‘I do now.’”

More than two decades later, Alex Szkotnicki is senior team captain for the South River High Seahawks. The 18-year-old is among the top 113-pounders in the state, ranked ninth overall with a record of 40-5 (27 pins) in Billy B’s Maryland State Wrestling Association rankings.

There has been a surge in girls’ participation in wrestling since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association held its inaugural all-girls state wrestling tournament at Northeast High in February 2018.

South River's 113-pound senior Alex Szkotnicki (right) joined fellow team captains (from left) Ismael Tamayo, Ben Travis and Sam Ditmars last Saturday after the Seahawks won their second straight Class 4A state dual meet crown, 42-28, over Urbana of Frederick County. (Crystal Shipley)

But Szkotnicki won’t be among the girls competing in the statewide Feb. 24-25 regional tournaments, instead remaining in competition with the males over the season’s final three weeks beginning with the Anne Arundel County Tournament at Broadneck on Feb. 17-18.

“I’ve competed against guys since I was little,” said Szkotnicki, who could join Woody as only the second female to win an Anne Arundel County title. “This is what I’ve always done. I just want to go out there and to make sure that I’m wrestling at my best and to my fullest potential.”

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Szkotnicki enters the county tournament as the No. 1 seed at 113 pounds, armed with a record of 12-0 against county rivals that includes six pins, a technical fall and two major decisions.

“Alex has been great. She’s an excellent wrestler who is very knowledgeable,” said 23rd-year coach John Klessinger, whose Seahawks have won five county tournaments and seven county dual meet titles. “She’s become a leader in our program with her daily commitment and work ethic. It’s been a great experience having someone with her experience and knowledge. Our team members respect her.”

Szkotnicki owns a 5-2 decision over Broadneck sophomore Cam Williams, a returning county tournament runner-up and regional champion who placed sixth at last year’s Class 4A-3A state tournament.

Considered a top contender for the Class 4A-3A state tournament, Szkotnicki is ranked third at 113 in the division behind top-ranked sophomore Drew Montgomery of Northern-Calvert County and second-ranked senior Conrad Randall of Walt Whitman of Montgomery County.

Montgomery is a returning regional champion and Class 4A-3A state runner-up who went 44-1 last season, and Randall edged Williams, 6-3, for fifth at states a year ago.

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Szkotnicki has lost twice to Montgomery and once to 120-pound sophomore Mitchell Nguyen of C. Milton Wright, who ranked sixth in the Class 2A-1A. She also lost to Loyola’s seventh-ranked sophomore Cayden Farver, a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association champion.

A year-round wrestler who is nationally-ranked, Szkotnicki was home-schooled between eighth and 12th grade to accommodate her busy athletic schedule. Szkotnicki has competed in Japan in other countries, becoming the first Marylander since Maroulis to earn a title in last summer’s junior nationals in Fargo, N.D.

“We pulled her out of school after she was invited to go to compete and train in Japan and to focus on freestyle,” Dana Szkotnicki said. “We decided that it would be better if we home-schooled her for a while to give her the opportunity to travel, attend wrestling camps and not have to worry about missing school.”

But Szkotnicki is a welcome addition since returning to school, where she is a B-plus student.

“Alex brings a lot into our room besides winning wrestling matches. She’s very solid and very technical, having been in the sport since she was five or six years old,” said Klessinger of Szkotnicki, who will major in sports psychology at McKendree University in Illinois. “She’s going to McKendree University, which is one of the premier girls programs in the country. She was a Fargo champ last summer, a Super 32 champ this past fall, and she’s one of the highest ranked girls in the country.”

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Szkotnicki played an integral role on Saturday at North Point High School in Waldorf, as the Seahawks won their second straight Class 4A state dual meet crown, 42-28, over Urbana of Frederick County.

"She's become a leader in our program with her daily commitment and work ethic," South River coach John Klessinger said of 113-pound senior Alex Szkotnicki (top), who could become the second female to win an Anne Arundel County at Broadneck on Feb. 17-18. (Crystal Shipley)

The Seahawks vanquished Sherwood of Montgomery County, 51-23, in Saturday’s semifinal, improving to 16-2 in regular season duals and 37-6 overall including dual meet tournaments. Szkotnicki decked her Sherwood rival in 75 seconds and her Urbana opponent in 3 minutes and 19 seconds.

“Alex Szkotnicki showed out for our team,” said senior state runner-up Sam Ditmars, a returning county and regional champion with a 42-1 record. “She wrestled with great intensity while keeping her composure.”

A former wrestler in the South River youth leagues, Szkotnicki is motivated by trailblazers like Woody and Maroulis, whom she has met during her travels. She was with Woody in March 2017, and Maroulis in June 2018.

“Alex has been fortunate enough to meet both of them,” Dana Szkotnicki said. “Nicole has actually coached Alex a couple of times, and Alex has been up to the Olympic training center with Helen.”

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Woody pinned South River’s Curtis Taylor in five minutes, 42 seconds for the county title and blanked Centennial’s Jack Western 2-0 in the finals of the Class 4A-3A regionals on a reversal with 61 seconds left in the third period.

Woody lost her state title bout 6-2 to River Hill’s Scott Mantua, who had finished third behind her at regions after losing to Western in the regional semifinals.

Woody won her state semifinal 5-4 in overtime against Tuscarora’s C.J. Savage, having already become the first girl to qualify for the 4A-3A meet as a sophomore, and the first to pin a boy at a state meet as a junior.

Maroulis later became the first-ever American female to win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August 2016, and world championship titles in 2015 and 2017.

Maroulis also won a gold medal in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, and, most recently, a bronze medal in the Tokyo Summer Olympics and a gold medal in the January, 2022 Ivan Yariguin Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

“It was awesome getting to know Helen and Nicole, considering their struggles,” Szkotnicki said. “They’ve helped to pave the way not just for me and other girls in Maryland, but for women’s wrestling in general. It’s nice to know that I have role models like them to look up to.”

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