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Unafraid to break through wrestling’s glass ceiling

Whitney’s Maddy Fitzgerald makes it to State
By: Amanda Calzada Placer Herald Correspondent
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Whitney High School has produced yet another outstanding athlete in a sport where few girls compete – wrestling – making the road to success all that more challenging. However, challenge is not a concept 16-year-old Maddy Fitzgerald wrestles with, but rather it is one she defeats. “I will continue to do what makes me happy and challenges me,” said Fitzgerald, who ranked sixth at the California Interscholastic Federation Girls State wrestling tournament last month. Fitzgerald, the first female wrestler in Whitney High history, is inspired by the mental strength and “amount of heart” wrestlers exemplify. “She was always wanting to find a way to get better,” said former teammate Jordan Achanzar, who worked with Fitzgerald during the off season. The athlete’s wrestling pursuits began in seventh grade when she decided to submit to a friend’s dare. Although she broke her wrist within the first month of that season, she returned to the mat because she relished the challenge of the sport. The difficulty is only one aspect that intrigues this youth. Fitzgerald also likes the opportunity wrestling presents working as a team while succeeding as an individual. She thinks the general population dismisses the notion that commitment is a prime ingredient in attaining goals. Likewise, Fitzgerald thinks most people are not informed about girls wrestling as a sport. She thinks there is a minority who frown upon a sport where females overcome the gender barrier. As for females interested in wrestling, Fitzgerald says “Never give up when it gets hard. Stay mentally strong and remember you’re in a sport that wasn’t just intended for guys; don’t listen to the haters.” But she said girls should not be afraid or intimidated to wrestle because doing it presents an opportunity to overcome obstacles, mentally and physically. “It isn’t really that scary,” said the 118-pound Masters Champion, who was the first of the Wildcats to break the barrier at Whitney. Last year, Fitzgerald finished her season by placing fifth at Masters. This year, the junior took gold, which advanced her to the State Meet held in Fresno, Feb. 24-25. She remembers the “horrendous” amount of pressure she placed on herself and the positive mentality she championed during five “grueling” rounds. Likewise, she says she will never forget the experience in her life. At State, the athlete took three wins and three losses. Fitzgerald began training for the meet in September. She credits her accomplishments to her dedication at practice. Outside of practice, Fitzgerald has been reading a book to gain insight on mental strength for athletic performances. The structure and format of competition at the state level is the same for girls as it is for boys. The only difference is the boys have an additional qualifying round. Outside of wrestling, Fitzgerald competes in cross country, track, and softball. For the remaining year of high school wrestling, Fitzgerald says she will employ her same routine of working hard. She adds she will never have any expectations nor give up, as she strives to think positively at all times. “Anyone can do it, no matter what,” she said.