Female wrestler provides spirit, speed to Wilde Lake Romano loses bouts but wins respect

February 02, 1992|By Rick Belz

Wilde Lake freshman Maria Romano is making history.

She just wishes it would last longer.

Romano, 14, is the first girl in Howard County to wrestle at the varsity level. Thursday night, in a 103-pound match against Oakland Mills, it took Juri Freeman about 20 seconds to pin Romano.

She said she was nervous, but not afraid, when she walked out on the mat.

"I got a lot of support from my coaches and teammates," she said.

Freeman, however, was stunned. He didn't know in advance that Romano would be wrestling.

"I didn't do anything different. I tried not to think about it," said Freeman, a sophomore with a 7-12 record.

When the match started, Romano immediately took the initiative. Freeman, a sophomore, countered her move, put her in a cradle and pinned her. The scoreboard clock never started, so the exact time will never be known.

Despite the quick pin, Romano's aggressiveness psyched up the rest of the Wildecats.

"She set the pace for the rest of the team," Wilde Lake assistant coach Mike Anderson said. "If she can shoot first, then the rest of our team felt like they could, too."

Wilde Lake, though, lost the match, 38-27.

Romano is believed to be the only female to wrestle at the varsity level in the Baltimore area this year. And she is thought to be only the third ever to wrestle at the varsity level.

Tamara Dakis of Meade wrestled on the varsity in 1986-87 at 103 pounds. Lisa Larson of Joppatowne also wrestled varsity that same season.

Romano became interested in wrestling a year ago, after watching some college and high school matches on cable television.

Wilde Lake had no wrestler to fill the 103-pound class, so coach Rich Jackson decided to give Romano a shot.

"She's showing a lot of progress," Jackson said. "I'm trying to get her as much mat time as possible without throwing her to the wolves. In the future, she'll wrestle either junior varsity or varsity depending upon what we figure her chances are."

Romano was pinned in her four previous matches -- three on junior varsity and her first varsity match against Howard High School in mid-January. That match lasted about 35 seconds. She has won two junior-varsity and one varsity match by forfeits.

Despite the roughness, Romano said she'd like to wrestle all four years at Wilde Lake unless she gets injured. She has done some weightlifting to try to strengthen her upper body.

"All the boys are stronger than I am, and strength is important in this sport," she said.

Most of her teammates would like to see her stay.

"I like having her on the team," 152-pound wrestler Robert McGrain said. "She has guts and isn't afraid to tackle a challenge, and the team respects her for it."

Said teammate Antoine Harris: "I think next year she'll be good. She has the technique, but just doesn't have the strength."

Her mother, Carol Romano, said she thought Maria was participating in indoor track until she went to school to pick her up one day.

"I signed a form to let her participate but didn't notice it said wrestling," she said. "I didn't realize she was wrestling until after she had her first match. She said she wanted to wait until she had some success.

"I went to a practice asking if this was too physical for a girl, but the coaches said she was holding her own. I admired her spunk.

"The important thing is not whether she does well in wrestling, but that she's tackled something hard and worked hard at it."

Romano's father has mixed feelings as well.

"I'm concerned about her getting injured," he said. "But she has a good attitude and is positive about the whole thing. It does give her some structured time and is better than having her hanging out at the mall."

Romano is not the first female to wrestle for a Howard County team. That distinction belongs to Nicolle Scott, who graduated from Oakland Mills in 1981.

If nothing else, Romano has made the rest of her Wilde Lake team faster. She improved the team's overall time in the one-mile run on the first day of practice.

"Last year, our worst time was nine minutes," Anderson said. "This year it was 7:30, because no one wanted to let a girl beat them. Maria ran a 7:20."

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