Q&A with Mt. Hebron Wrestler, Cassy Lopez
Cassy Lopez, who finished 29-19 this past winter for Mt. Hebron's wrestling team while competing in the 106-pound weight classification, made history last week when she signed a National Letter of Intent to compete collegiately for Presbyterian College in South Carolina. When Lopez put pen to paper she became the first female to sign a NLI and receive a scholarship to wrestle at the NCAA Division I level.
It's obviously a significant moment for female participation in wrestling that has put Lopez in the unique position of getting to become a trailblazer for other girls. CSZ spoke with her about why she likes wrestling, how it feels to make history, and her hopes for female participation in the sport she loves.
County Sports Zone:When did you first start wrestling? Did you immediately fall in love with it?
Cassy Lopez:I began wrestling four years ago as a freshman in high school. Yes, especially because I have a background in Brazilian jiu jitsu.
CSZ:Why do you like wrestling? What about the sport appeals to you?
CL:I like wrestling because I enjoy being part of a team. I also enjoy the adrenaline rush while on the mat. Also, I enjoy it because I get to sometimes use my jiu jitsu and judo skills while wrestling. I really enjoy competing and winning. Having your hand raised means so much to me. I always try my best to win for myself and for my team. It's an amazing sport in which I can push my abilities to the limit.
CSZ:What was your favorite wrestling moment in high school?
CL:My absolute favorite moment while wrestling in high school was winning during senior night. I was expected to lose against a very tough opponent. I was very nervous but as usual, I gave it my best. Luckily for me, after being down in points in the second period, I was able to pin my opponent.
CSZ:Talk a little about the college recruiting process. What convinced you that Presbyterian was the right spot for you?
CL:After meeting with Coach Mark Cody from Presbyterian, my family and I were very impressed with his past wrestling achievements. Most importantly, the fact that Presbyterian College offers a Pre-Dental program and female wrestling, we thought it was the best opportunity for me.
I was fortunate to have met and talked with several other colleges. Everyone treated me very well. It was a tough decision but I'm convinced that I've made the best choice for me based on my career plans which are to become a dentist, and ultimately, an oral surgeon.
CSZ:You are the first girl to ever sign a National Letter of Intent and receive a scholarship to wrestle at the Division I level. What emotions come to mind when you think about that?
CL:It is an amazing feeling! I would have never thought that I would get this opportunity. When I got to high school, my plans were not to wrestle. I didn't think that girls could participate in the sport.
I'm glad my Dad convinced me to try out. It was the best decision of my life. Fortunately for me, I had great coaches and teammates that were very supportive. Being the first female wrestler to be offered this opportunity makes me very happy because I hope that this will open opportunities for other females wrestlers out there.
CSZ:Talk a little about female participation in wrestling. In Maryland, the first all-girls tournament was held this past January. What was it like to compete in that event?
CL:I was very happy to see that women's wrestling is growing in Maryland. Although I have been participating in the Maryland State Wrestling Association women's tournaments for the past four years, I was happy to see that Maryland public schools finally offer an official state tournament for female wrestlers.
I won the female 106-pound state championship division three years in a row under MSWA. I also became one of two female state champions to earn the Maryland Triple Crown Wrestling Award (Freestyle, Folkstyle and Greco champion) for the first time.
Winning the MPSSAA state championship really meant a lot to me because it's the beginning of a great tradition for female wrestlers in Maryland. I loved seeing so many girls come out to participate in that event. There are many talented female wrestlers in this state, and I'm very proud of that.
CSZ:What're some keys to continuing to grow female participation in wrestling?
CL:I think the most important piece of growing female wrestling is to give female wrestlers an opportunity to compete. I know that in high school, they have to tryout and compete versus boys. We need more female wrestlers to promote the sport to the younger up and comers. Having Helen Maroulis win gold at the Olympics and giving her more publicity may inspire other girls join the sport. Helen wining definitely inspired me to become a better wrestler and dream big.
CSZ:What do you say to those who think wrestling should be just a sport for boys?
CL:I think that female wrestlers are constantly underestimated. Girls can do anything boys can. Helen Maroulis, Nicole Woody, and other female wrestlers have demonstrated this for a long time.
Me personally, I was fortunate to win many matches against boys. Keep in mind that in high school, I wrestled mostly boys, all four years. I became Howard County's JV County champion my sophomore year. I hope that other girls can see my accomplishments and believe they can do anything they set their minds to.
|May 9th, 2018||By: Wick Eisenberg|