If you’re on the mat, you’ve got a shot
Stars and Stripes February 10, 2023
For a list of complete results, click here.
WIESBADEN, Germany – Stuttgart’s Karmyn Lopez sent the crowd into a frenzy at the end of her match against AFNORTH’s Jaydon Szymczak.
The freshman Panther was trailing 8-0 in the second period of the 106-pound, pool-play bout, only to flip the script and produce a pin at the 3 minute, 44-second mark. It marked the second straight pin for Lopez to start off the tournament, having accomplished that feat in 3:07 against Vicenza’s C’nia Ford in her opener. That gave her victories over the West and South sectional champions.
She finished the day 3-1 with a great shot at advancing to the semifinals of the DODEA European Championships at the Fitness Center on Clay Kaserne in Wiesbaden, Germany.
Not bad for someone who finished fifth in her sectional and qualified for the tournament via a wild-card position.
“I actually wasn’t expecting to go to Euros until I got the wild card,” Lopez said. “I just wanted to come here and have fun and do my best.
“As long as you have a good mentality and you keep trying, you can do something. I beat people that have beaten me before, and I’m really happy about that.”
That mentality was on display even after losing her last match to Ramstein’s Cole Santos, who finished runner-up in the Central sectional the prior weekend. Lopez smiled after getting pinned, and enthusiastically shook Santos’ hand in congratulations.
For Lopez, the focus is on learning, whether from winning or losing. Perhaps that mentality stems from her inexperience with the sport. She has been wrestling for only three months.
Heck, it was on the off chance that Lopez even joining the Stuttgart wrestling program.
“I did jiujitsu and martial arts before, and then COVID hit,” Lopez said. “I heard my coach (Stuttgart assistant coach Frederick King) talking to this one girl trying to get her on the team, and I was like, ‘I’m going to do that. I’m going to get on the team, and I’m going to kick some butt.’”
Lopez was just one of a number of girls who kicked some tail on the mat, as 17 took part in the championships on Friday. Those 17 were spread across nine weight classes.
Two weight classes – 106 and 120 – had five girls participating.
“I didn’t even know that many girls were here,” Ramstein senior September Snyder said. “When we lined up to take the girls photo, I looked around and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t know that (17) girls qualified.’ It’s nice seeing more girls joining this sport. I love it.”
For Snyder, this European championship is special not only because of the quantity and quality of the girl wrestlers, but also because of her sister.
Sophomore Liberty Snyder joined September as the first two girl wrestlers from Ramstein to qualify for the final tournament, according to Royal coach Thomas Wright. Liberty competes at 113 pounds, while September wrestles at 106.
“I cried a bit because … a teammate of mine actually told me this: It’s the last time I’m going to get to wrestle with her on the mat in high school sports,” said September Snyder, who missed last postseason with an injury. “So, it’s kind of heart-breaking.”
Snyder grappled in the other pool from Lopez at 106, but she experienced the same success - posting a 3-1 record on the day. She produced a pin of SHAPE’s Nicolene Anduaga-Arias at 1:43 in her first match, was pinned at the 5:27 mark in her second match against the Central sectional champion in Spangdahlem’s Andrew Molina and then bounced back with wins over Kaiserslautern’s Jaden Calixto and Naples’ Julian Parker - both pins at 3:18 and 0:36, respectively.
A win over Lakenheath’s Micah Rothas on Saturday in the final pool match would give Snyder a chance to advance to the semifinal, as she Molina and Calixto are tied at 3-1 in Pool B. Snyder isn’t getting ahead of herself, but she said the feat would be special.
“I’ve been trying not to think about it because I don’t want to get my hopes up, but if I did, it would make my life,” Snyder said. “Wrestling is my sport. So, it would make my entire life better to even go to semis, especially finals.”
Another girl who posted multiple wins on Friday was AFNORTH’s Richele Reyes.
The sophomore Lion went 2-2 at 120 pounds, opening up with a 15-0 win over Aviano’s Paige Rogers and winning her third match against Kaiserslautern’s Uno Tate, 9-2. Reyes dropped her second and fourth matches to Wiesbaden’s Munro Davis and Stuttgart’s Payton Kolesnikov, respectively.
Reyes grappled with more than just her competitors, as she slowed visible pain on the mats. For her, though, it’s just a part of the sport.
“As soon as that adrenaline rush hits, the pain sort of eases away,” Reyes said. “It’s not until after that you really feel it. It puts a heavy mental strain on you, but overall, I’ll heal. I’m not dead.”
Reyes, too, was excited by seeing the number of girls qualifying for the European championship. She expressed hope that the success she and others are having will lead to more tackling the challenge of the sport.
“I love seeing the girl power come out,” Reyes said. “A week ago, we had some female middle schoolers watch me, and I’m just encouraging them to come.
“It’s welcome to everyone – but it’s not for everyone, too. We just have to give it a try.”