Whitney’s Fitzgerald pins down success on the wrestling mat

Wildcat freshman becomes the first female on school’s wrestling team
By: Robbie Enos Special to The Placer Herald
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While most of us follow the path of least resistance, there are some who find joy in being pioneers, trying new things. One of those unique individuals is 14-year-old Madison Fitzgerald, a freshman at Whitney High School. She is the first young lady in the relatively short history of the school to join the wrestling team. Fitzgerald began her quest to gain respect from wrestling foes and peers at Spring View Middle School in Rocklin. She actually stumbled upon her love for the sport by accident. “I was sitting at lunch when the intercom went off, saying something about a wrestling meeting,” Fitzgerald said. “My friend Alexis said ‘That would be funny if you wrestled?’ The next day I found myself at the practice and by the end of the week I ended up enjoying the sport and have loved it ever since.” Fitzgerald wrestled in the 89-pound weight class, and ended the year with an overall record of 12-6. She placed fourth in the California Middle School girls’ state wrestling championship. The early success introduced larger obstacles to overcome. Fitzgerald entered high school and became the first female to crack the Whitney wrestling team. Head coach Daniel Parker was impressed. “Maddy has come in and worked as hard as, if not harder than, any of the boys in the room,” Parker said. “She does not ask for special treatment, and none of her teammates give her special treatment just because she is a girl. I think a lot of the boys see how hard she works and they may be inspired by that, or even challenged by that.” Fitzgerald found the challenge of gaining the respect of the other male wrestlers much less difficult than someone might expect. “At first it is a little awkward, but you kind of get used to it after a while. When I beat a guy I feel that my hard work has paid off,” Fitzgerald said. Parker noticed the smooth transition as well. “They realized early on that she was there to wrestle, not to goof off,” Parker said. “The team immediately accepted her as part of the team, as a wrestler. Her gender never really got in the way. Anyone who thought she wasn’t tough enough or girls can’t wrestle quickly changed their mind after battling with her.” Fitzgerald placed fifth at the Foothill JV Tournament, won silver at the El Dorado King of the Mountain Tournament and won gold at the Del Oro JV tournament. She finished the season with a 23-14 record, wrestling in the 103-pound weight class. She was 12-5 at the junior varsity level, and managed an 11-9 record at the varsity level. “I’m having a great time,” Fitzgerald said. “I love the personal challenge and the physicality of the sport. I love being able to represent Whitney not only as a wrestler, but as their first female wrestler. While the attention is a little strange, I just hope it brings more attention to our sport, helping to grow our program.” The freshman took fourth place at the PVL finals, and qualified for the section Division IV finals. “She has talent, but she has even more heart,” Parker said. “She is so determined to win that she sometimes pulls out a victory from near certain defeat. That takes determination and guts.” Fitzgerald’s exciting first season came to an end after she lost to the No. 1 seed in the Division IV tournament. Parker feels she has a bright future ahead of her. “She can be one of the best,” Parker said. “I’ve coached girls in the past, at other schools, who have gone on to girls’ nationals, and even college wrestling, and Maddy has as much talent as any of those girls. I feel she can go as far as she wants to.” Fitzgerald has no intentions of slowing down her progress. “I’m hoping to be league champion before I’m done, maybe more,” she said. “My long term goal is to get a women’s wrestling scholarship and wrestle through college.” She is currently training for the Girl’s 2010 State Tournament that will be held in Fresno from March 12-14. “Wrestling is a sport of discipline and winning is the greatest feeling in the world,” Fitzgerald said. “Unfortunately there is someone that will always be better than you and losing makes you think of how much harder you have to work. It’s worth it in the end.” Fitzgerald has set herself up for success. “Women’s wrestling is a growing sport. I think it’s great,” Parker said. “Girls find that they are free to be aggressive and strong and even rough on the mat. They can break the stereotypes. I think the future is very good for women’s wrestling.”