Arundel High junior Jada Chaves baby sits the five and eight-year-old sons of assistant wrestling coach Jeff Blachly, a former heavyweight state champion for the Wildcats in 1999 who alternately coaches Chaves to achieve success on the mat against teenage boys.
Chaves did just that during the Anne Arundel County Tournament on Feb. 18, earning fifth place at 106 pounds with a 9-0 decision over Annapolis sophomore Carmine Zimmerelli.
Chaves followed up with a fall in 1:48 to win her second straight Class 4A-3A South Regional title before a home crowd at Arundel last weekend, this time pinning a girl at 105 pounds.
Armed with a record of 31-6, Chaves will pursue her second straight Class 4A-3A state title at this weekend’s all girls tournament on Thursday at Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.
“I’m really happy I was able to win a regional championship for Arundel again this year,” said Chaves, 16. “This year I got to wrestle for it and last year I was the only girl in our region competing at 105.”
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.
Chaves is positioned on the opposite side of the brackets from sophomore defending champion Ally Conley of Queen Anne’s, meaning the duo could clash in the finals in a battle of defending state champions.
“It’s more exciting this year now that there are more girls coming out, which allows me a bigger bracket,” said Chaves, whose career record is 55-21 against coed competition. “I’m looking forward to this Thursday where I can work on the skills I have been training to display this season.”
Perry Hall has a pair of excellent wrestlers heading into the girls state tournament in sophomore Alaina Kopalchick (115) and senior Rachel Wheatley (125).
Kopalchick has an overall record of 25-16 and is a defending two-time regional champion in pursuit of her second girls state title.
Wheatley is a two-time regional champion who placed fourth at states last year and has a record of 22-14 that includes being 9-0 against girls.
“Alaina was our 120-pound coed starter this year,” said Gators’ coach Doug Yoakum, who has a 145-pound boys’ wrestler in Victor Marks-Jenkins who is 46-0. “Alaina currently has over 50 career wins on varsity, and Rachel started most matches versus coed competition at 126.”
Girls wrestling is booming in Carroll County, where Francis Scott Key earned this year’s county tournament title and qualified eight wrestlers for this weekend’s state tournament. County rivals Manchester Valley and Winters Mill qualified seven wrestlers apiece.
“As a team, Winters Mill went 12-0 on the season in dual meets, including a dual meet county title and head to head wins over the other teams bringing large numbers to states,” Falcons’ coach John Lowe said.
“Winters Mill had the largest recorded girls’ roster in the state this year, with 30 girls. Queen Anne’s has the second largest recorded roster of girls with 14. Other large squads statewide were Oakland Mills with 10, Montgomery Blair with seven, and Crofton with eight.”
Winters Mill sophomore state runner-up Gabbie McLeod (145) is a two-time regional champion, and the Falcons also advanced senior three-time county and two-time regional champion Roan McCauley (285).
Other Falcons’ wrestlers headed for states are senior two-time county and regional champion Deb Flores (190), senior county and regional champ Joyce Mbeboh (170), sophomore county champion Kimora Harrid (155), freshman regional runner-up Nijae Tate (100) and freshman third-place regional finisher Hailee Smill (125).
McCleod is 11-0, including a third-period pin over Francis Scott Key’s junior county runner-up and regional champion Adeline Kraics. Tate was third at counties. Harrid was third at regions, and Flores is a three-time county tournament finalist.
Francis Scott Key coach Davey Blake knows what success looks like, having won three Class 2A-1A state titles in four championship berths before graduating in 1988 from Kent County High School.
“The goal is to be the best girls team in the state,” said Blake, whose career record was 141-2. “We want to build a program that provides these young ladies with opportunities that extend beyond the mat.”
Blake’s Eagles qualified freshman Emily Arboleda (190), sophomore McKenzie Koon (140), junior Keira Cooper (135) and senior Caroline Cruikshank (110), all four of whom were county champions. Arboleda (12-2 record), Koon and Cooper (14-3) were also regional champions, with Cruikshank being a runner-up.
Also going to states for the Eagles are freshman Ellie Kinloch (100) and junior Adeline Kraics (145), each of whom is a county runner-up and regional champion. Kinloch has a record of 10-3.
Junior Maria Arboleda (155) has a record of 8-3 and was a county runner-up who placed third at regions, and sophomore Maddie Dehoff (170) was a runner-up at both counties and regions.
“We want to use wrestling as a vehicle to teach the physical, mental, and intrinsic skills needed to be successful in life,” Blake said. “I know a lot of other programs want the same thing. That makes it exciting. We are in a historic moment for girls wrestling in the state. We want to be a big part in helping write the first few chapters.”
Manchester Valley junior Faith Day (105) has an 11-0 record, is the daughter of former state champion Greg Day, and the granddaughter of National Hall of Fame coach Jack Day.
South Carroll sophomore Isabella Garrity (110) became her program’s first-ever regional champion. Garrity’s overall record is 21-8 against boys. She is 2-0 against girls, pinning her regional finals opponent in 55 seconds after finishing her rival in just 17 seconds at counties.
“I’m so honored to wrestle on such an amazing team at South Carroll. I definitely wouldn’t be placing at regionals and going for a state title without them,” said Garrity, a regional runner-up last season. “My teammates have pushed me past my limits all year and have made me a stronger and better wrestler. It’s definitely exciting to be the first girl at South Carroll to be a regional and potentially a state champion.”
Conley has the distinction of being the first female state champion in the history of Queen Anne’s County High School on the first-ever all-girls’ wrestling team in the Bayside Conference.
A two-time regional champion armed with a 14-3 record, Conley will be joined at states by Lions’ teammates in junior regional champion Julia Reburn (135) and freshman Kally Stubbs (110), sophomore Ava Price (120) and junior Delaney Gray (130), all of whom were regional runners-up.
Also qualifying for the Lions were sophomore Keira Corcoran (140), freshman Linda Vail (145) and senior Kei Rickard (190) who were all third and regions, and sophomore fourth-place regional finisher Kaylynn Bryant (170).
The Lions alternates are senior Erin Reynolds (115 ), sophomore Bree Conard (125) and freshman Addie Dickens (155), all of whom were third at regions.
Kopalchick won 30 matches and placed fifth at 113 pounds in last season’s coed county tournament, yet decided to exclusively wrestle against girls during the postseason after experiencing a growth spurt.
“I didn’t wrestle boys counties this year because I went up in weight, and I knew it would be tougher, muscle-wise,” said Kopalchick, who pinned this year’s two regional opponents in 60 and 42 seconds. “I didn’t want to risk being injured against the boys, so I figured I would wrestle only against the girls. Doing that, I figured I’d definitely take the title.”
Yet the same weekend that Chaves placed fifth at counties, South River senior Alexandra Szkotnicki earned a 1-0 decision over Broadneck sophomore Cam Williams in their 113-pound bout to become only the second female to win an Anne Arundel County title.
Szkotnicki joined Arundel High’s Nicole Woody (103), who made more history as a senior in 2007 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.
Szkotnicki placed third at last weekend’s Class 4A-3A East Regionals, and will compete in the co-ed states the same weekend as the girls at Show Place Arena.
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.
“When we moved here in 2014, and when we first started wrestling in Maryland at a girls tournament, Jada met Nicole,” said Arundel assistant Joe Chaves of his daughter. “We have a photo of us with her somewhere on Facebook. “Jada’s always been a big fan of Nicole’s. Nicole has been a great source of motivation the entire time.”
In March 2006, Montgomery County freshman Helen Maroulis 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.
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.
Western Tech’s Jade Hendricks became the first girl to reach the Class 2A-1A state tournament, the same year that Woody did so on the 4A-3A side. But Hendricks went 0-2.
In 2010, Smithsburg senior Monica Hovermale (103) became the first female to place in the Class 2A-1A states and the third female to do so overall, finishing sixth.
A four-time Washington County champ, Hovermale totaled 104 career victories, becoming Maryland’s first female wrestler to surpass 100 wins. Hovermale went 2-2 as a sophomore at states, becoming the first female to win at least a match on the Class 2A-1A side.
Kopalchick will continue to measure her talents against boys in order to sharpen her skills against girls.
“It definitely takes a lot of focus to be there mentally and physically against the boys,” Kopalchick said. “But I know against the girls, I definitely have the potential to be a state champion again. In the long run, it’s definitely my goal to reach 100 career wins and to become a four-time state champion.”