Equality Gater gained her teammates respect, not because she was a girl participating in what is considered more of a boys sport, but for the hard work she put into improving at wrestling.
The Lawrence Middle School eighth-grader completed her first year of wrestling with the boys’ team finishing with a match record of 4-3. Middle School wrestling head coach John Sauerland said he was initially happy that she got on the mat, but was blown away by her final results. “It was a win for me just to get her on the mat,” he said. “But the fact that she won four matches is an added bonus.”
Gater said she was inspired to give wrestling a try by her friend John. Sauerland said, Gater first noted her interest in joining the team at a cross-country practice in the fall. “In the past, I’ve had kids express interest in wrestling before the season that eventually changed their minds,” Sauerland said. “But she stuck to her word and gave it a shot.”
The highlight of the season for Gater was her first match at Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School. She earned her first victory in that match when she put her male opponent in a headlock. “My teammates were yelling and jumping up and down for me,” she said. “That felt good to hear their support.”
“That was the moment when I knew that she gained her teammates respect,” Sauerland said. “She didn’t ask for respect, she gained it by working hard and never showing any fear while she was on the mat.”
This isn’t the first time that Sauerland had a girl wrestling on the team. He said there were two sisters that wrestled on the team roughly a decade ago. Sauerland has coached the middle school wrestling team since 2002.
Gater was also one of 19 female wrestlers to participate in the inaugural Nassau County girls-only wrestling event at Valley Stream Memorial High School on March 22, scoring a pin fall victory in her only match of the night. Despite always trying to be calm on the mat, she felt the nerves that night. “The girl I was going against was much bigger than me,” she said. “I luckily pulled through and won the match.”
Lawrence Athletic Director Michael Gordon attended the event. He hopes that the all-girls competition will inspire an uptick in girls competing in wrestling. “It was great to see her pin her opponent at the event,” he said. “With the turnout and excitement around this event, hopefully it will inspire the state to add girls wrestling teams to school sports.”
Wrestling isn’t the only boys team that Gater is on as she mixes it up on the boys’ lacrosse squad. It remains to be seen if Gater will stick with lacrosse in the future, but she definitely plans on wrestling in high school.
If she had any advice to give to other girls that want to try wrestling or any other male-dominated sport, Gater said to just give it try regardless of what anyone else says. “Don’t let anybody tell you what you can and can’t do,” she said. “This has been a wonderful experience that has also helped me gain more friends that I didn’t have before wrestling.”