FORT WHITE -- Zach Cormier hesitated as his sister yelled, "Let's go!" and grabbed him in a headlock.
With his head in one of her arms and her cousin's head in her other, Katlynn Cormier smiled up at the camera.
They were playing around -- but only somewhat. Wrestling is something they do often and with much seriousness.
All three of them are on the same team at Fort White High School -- the varsity boys wrestling team.
Since Katlynn,14, is the only female wrestler in Columbia County, she participates on the boys' team.
"I like wrestling boys because it's more fun," she said.
She competes against boys from sixth grade to twelfth grade
We have to tell the wrestling coach to tell her teachers we don't beat her because of all the bruises," said Jeff Cormier, Katlynn's father.Katlynn wrestled against a boy for the first time at Clay Middle School last year. She was nervous, she said, but ended up winning."The stands went crazy when she won," Jeff said.
Photo By Zak BennettKatlynn Cormier (in red), 14, wrestles Caleb Sanders, a senior at Suwannee High School. She recently placed fourth in the boys' district competition, and is the only girl wrestler in Columbia County.
This year, she won first place for the 119-pound weight class at the Clay Middle School tournament."When they lock up with her, they don't just throw her around, they've got to fight for it," Jeff said.After placing fourth in the boys' district competition last week, Katlynn will go on to compete in the regional competition on Friday."She's pretty tough for a seventh-grader," said Caleb Sanders, a senior at Suwannee High School who wrestled Katlynn in the district competition.If she places at the regional competition, then she will compete in the boys' state wrestling championship.In January, Katlynn went to the girls' state championship and placed fourth.She is the only seventh-grader in state history to wrestle against varsity girls at the state championship, Jeff said."The girls at state did not have the technique that wrestling boys gives Katlynn," he said.Katlynn's signature move is the "crab ride" in which she sits on her opponent's back and intertwines her legs in theirs, forcing them to fall over, Jeff said."It's all about technique; it's not about strength all the time," said Dawn Cormier, Katlynn's mother.
Photo By Zak BennettKatlynn Cormier, 14 stands in front of her many awards that she has won in a variety of areas, from wrestling to cheerleading. Katlynn Cormier (in red), 14, wrestles Caleb Sanders, a senior at Suwannee High School. She recently placed fourth in the boys' district competition, and is the only girl wrestler in Columbia County.
If Katlynn places at the state girls' wrestling championship all throughout high school, then she will be the first in history to ever place five times in a row, according to Jeff."The wrestling coach said that if she keeps her grades up, he could have her signed to a college for wrestling by the time she's in tenth grade," Jeff said.The high school has tried to get more girls to participate in wrestling, according to Dawn.This year, there were four girls in the beginning, but all of them dropped out except Katlynn, she said.While the coaches and students are supportive of Katlynn, her parents get more negative comments than positive ones, Dawn said."People ask us how we can let our daughter wrestle and aren't we afraid of her getting touched inappropriately," she said. "Once the boys lock up on her, touching her is the last thing they're thinking about."This summer, Katlynn will be participating on a national girls wrestling league for the Florida team, Jeff said.The team will travel to Osceola, Fla., Atlanta, Ga., and Fargo, N.D., and get a chance to train with women Olympic wrestlers, he said.Katlynn joined the high school team last year after hearing an announcement at school."It didn't shock us at all that she joined," Dawn said. "She'll do anything a boy does; she's not a girly-girl."Katlynn's brother, Zach,15, got involved with the team after watching one of his sister's tournaments."She's the reason he got into it," Jeff said.Jeff and Dawn have never missed a competition that their children have been in, they said. If their kids have competitions on the same night in two different places, one parent will go to each.After Katlynn joined the wrestling team, her cousin, Rey Ozuna, 14, also joined.Including wrestling, Katlynn holds 35 awards in bowling, T-ball, cheerleading, softball, football, Future Farmers of America, gymnastics, a beauty contest, and ice cream eating."She competes in everything," Dawn said.Katlynn's first wrestling trophy is the biggest one in her collection.Wrestling is her favorite sport and her favorite part is competing, Katlynn said.Earlier in the year, Katlynn was on both the wrestling and cheerleading teams. She has been cheerleading since she was 6 years old, Dawn said.She quit cheerleading when there was a conflict between events for the two sports earlier in the year.The cheerleading coach told Katlynn to choose between wrestling and cheerleading, Katlynn said.She chose wrestling.Next year, Katlynn plans to participate in cheerleading again, along with wrestling and weightlifting.She can currently bench press 110 pounds, almost her body weight, Jeff said.Katlynn, Zach and Rey all plan to participate in freestyle wrestling later this spring.Katlynn will wrestle against the boys as long as she can, but soon she may not be able to wrestle in the boys' state competition, according to Dawn."Girls' wrestling isn't sanctioned by the state yet; once they are, she won't be able to wrestle in the boys' competition," Dawn said. "You have to do one or the other."