About two weeks ago at Palisades High School, Panther senior Sophia Riehl grabbed the spotlight as the first female in Saucon Valley’s rich wrestling history to get a win in formal competition on the wrestling mat. And….Wow!, she certainly did it with style. Riehl circled and stood her ground, fought off a shot, locked up a Cement-Job and packed her Pirate opponent in the first minute of her bout. Riehl’s contribution that night sparked her Panther brothers to defeat Palisades 46-15.
All due credit to Sophia and her efforts, but did you know that Riehl is one of three females currently on Coach Shirk’s squad? Joining Riehl is classmate Aaliyanna Mateo and sophomore Zoie Coronado. Mateo (106) saw some action last year for the Panthers and, like Riehl (113), has been a fixture in this season’s lineup. Coronado has missed most of the season rehabilitating a broken wrist but figures to be in the mix for next year.
With female participation in wrestling gaining popularity, it is no longer uncommon in the world of wrestling to see women competing on the mat. Although not officially recognized by the PIAA until 100 girls’ teams are locked, loaded and and ready to go, the trend continues to gain momentum. Mateo, Riehl and Coronado are a Saucon Valley triad of trailblazers helping to push the movement forward. These three Panther-ettes are keeping the ball of progress rolling along. All three of these student-athletes were also super-generous enough to put their busy schedules aside and answer a few questions for Saucon Source.
Q: What do you like best about wrestling?
Aaliyanna – The community and the bond. The togetherness of everyone on the team.
Sophia – Wrestling is a very unique sport and I like learning new things. Some of my favorite memories include bus rides and matches with my teammates. I like making new friends and learning from Coach Don and Coach Shirk.
Zoie – The best thing about Saucon wrestling is how the team is like one big family who all support each other.
Q: What do you like least about wrestling?
Aaliyanna – All of the sprints!
Sophia – The one thing I didn’t like about this past season was that there was a lack of girls that came out to compete, leaving us to wrestle boys who were much more experienced.
Zoie – The thing I like least is when the coaches surprise us in the middle of practice with conditioning.
Q: What is the most difficult part of practice?
Aaliyanna – The conditioning
Sophia – Wrestling takes years to master, and having only done it for one year, I had to limit the amount of moves I needed to learn to be successful on the mat.
Zoie – Aside from the conditioning, the hardest part was learning the new moves when I first joined.
Q: What would you say is your “go-to” wrestling move?
Aaliyanna – I like the head-inside or head-outside single leg shot.
Sophia – I wrestled very defensively in an attempt to score points on my opponents mistakes. When the opportunity presented I would try to turn them, preferably with a Cement-Job.
Zoie – Unfortunately, I was out this season due to a fractured wrist. so I didn’t really have a go-to move. But, I definitely will next year!
Q: What food do you miss most or have to be careful with during the season?
Aaliyanna – I was always good with my weight so, I never really had to worry.
Sophia – Fortunately, for me I didn’t have to cut any weight this season.
Zoie – PBJ’s
Q: What was your biggest concern or fear about wrestling prior to joining the team?
Aaliyanna – I was most concerned about not being accepted or being judged by others.
Sophia – This sport takes years to master and my opponents would have more knowledge and could execute better than me. I was concerned about competing against boys who had years of experience and who were physically stronger than me.
Zoie – I honestly didn’t have any.
Q: What was the biggest surprise of your wrestling experience?
Aaliyanna – How loving and accepting everybody was.
Sophia – My biggest surprise was ending my season with a pin.
Zoie – The biggest surprise definitely was Sophia getting a pin against Palisades.
Q: Who are your biggest influences when it comes to wrestling?
Aaliyanna – My younger brother (Hector, experienced SV youth and junior high wrestler). Because without him, I probably wouldn’t have been interested in the sport.
Sophia – Some of my biggest influences are my grandfather (Gary Weaver, former Saucon Valley District XI and Regional Champ), my Dad (Tim Riehl, wrestled for Easton and Kutztown University) and my little brother (Liam, 9 yr. old SV youth wrestler).
Zoie – My biggest influences are the other wrestlers on the team and my coaches.
Q: You all have brothers who have wrestling experience. What did they have to say about you joining the team?
Aaliyanna – Hector didn’t really have a reaction, but he really likes that I can wrestle with him now because I know what I am doing.
Sophia – Liam was very excited that his big sister was going to wrestle. He’s 9-years old and every free minute he had, he’d want me to take him down into our basement so we could wrestle.
Zoie – I don’t remember exactly, but he (Kyle, former SV wrestler) was supportive.
Q: What did your other family members say when you informed them you were going to join wrestling?
Aaliyanna – They were very excited and fully supported my decision.
Sophia – They were very supportive and proud of my decision. My Dad would take me aside and show me some things behind the scenes.
Zoie – The said I should go for it. They said to be strong, train hard and have fun.
Q: How would you describe the support or reaction from the school and community toward you participating in wrestling?
Aaliyanna – The whole Saucon community has my back which is absolutely amazing.
Sophia – They were really accepting and happy to see girls come out for the team.
Zoie – Overall the entire community was very supportive of us. They cheered and supported us all the way.
Q: Have other Saucon girls expressed interest in joining the team?
Aaliyanna – Some girls are saying that if there were a girls’ team, they would most likely join.
Sophia – Yes, a few other girls that I know have shown interest.
Zoie – They may have, but I am not sure.
Q: What advice would you give to other girls who are considering joining the sport of wrestling?
Aaliyanna – It’s the best time you’ll ever have and even though it is a male-dominated sport it doesn’t mean anything. Girls are starting to wrestle more and more every year. You shouldn’t be scared to do something you want to do!
Sophia – I would tell them to go for it! It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but it is worth it. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain so go out, have fun and enjoy it.
Zoie – You’re going to need to condition and train hard.
Q: What would you warn the girls who are thinking about joining?
Aaliyanna – It takes a lot of determination and effort.
Sophia – Going out for your first year is going to be hard. There is a lot of work required. Don’t take anything lightly. You have to show-up and put the work in.
Zoie – You’re going to have wins and losses, but always do your best and stay strong!
Good Luck Panthers. The Source is with you!