Paynter girls compete in national wrestling championships
The future of girls wrestling appears bright in Baldwin.
Brooklyn Lucas, 7, and Maleah Pacella, 9, both hail from Baldwin and both recently captured state and regional wrestlings championships.
Both qualified to compete at the 2014 USA Wrestling Girls Folkstyle Championships held last month in Oklahoma City, Okla.
Brooklyn won the national championship in her age and weight class (45 pounds), while Maleah placed fifth in the 80-pound weight class.
Fund-raising efforts helped ensure both families could attend the championships, and help provide an inspirational trip for the two girls.
Brooklyn Lucas, a second-grader at Paynter Elementary School, packs a lot of energy and determination into her small frame. She just started wrestling in October.
“She’s always been petite and muscular. She brought the idea to us after talking on the bus to a little boy who wrestles,” Stephanie Lucas, Brooklyn’s mom, said. “At first, she wanted to play football, but I didn’t like the idea of that because of her small size.”
In the five months since Brooklyn began wrestling, she’s had a lot of success on the mats — including a state championship and a USAW Girls Folkstyle Division I national title.
She possibly has inherited some of her grappling talent from her father, Daryl Lucas, who wrestled at Carrick High School and graduated in 1995.
But according to Stephanie, Brooklyn isn’t the only one who has fallen in love with the sport of wrestling.
“I’m addicted to it,” Stephanie said. “I could never miss watching her wrestle. I like that she’s doing all the work for herself when she’s out there.”
Brooklyn also is a youth cheerleader, plays soccer, and still is hoping to convince her parents that football is an option for her.
Maleah Pacella, a fourth-grader at Paynter, halso as experienced her share of success on the mats. She has won state and regional championships.
Maleah has been wrestling for three years, but a broken arm sidelined her for much of last year.
She competed against many older girls in her age bracket at this year’s national finals.
Both the Lucas and Pacella families relied on social media to help finance their daughters’ trip to the national meet.
Family and friends donated money on GoFundMe.com, a crowd-funding platform used to raise money for various events and causes.
The families used the funds to cover air travel expenses to and from Oklahoma City for the girls and their parents.
“We could not have done it ourselves,” said Stephanie. “We had so much support from our friends and family … even from people we didn’t know.”
The national tournament was held at Oklahoma City University. Maleah’s father, Vince Pacella, and Daryl Lucas both studied and passed USA Wrestling coaching certification tests prior to the national meet.
The certifications ensured they were able to be with their daughters on the mats before and after each match.
Brooklyn wrestled three times, pinning her first two opponents and winning her final match, 8-7, to clinch the national championship.
“It was kind of like watching Brooklyn wrestle herself in that final match,” Stephanie said. “The other girl was really good, too. It came down to the end.”
Vince Pacella knew early in the season that he wanted to take Maleah to the national meet.
“She was getting better each week. After winning the War of the Roses (Northeast regional meet), I knew we should go to nationals,” he said. “Southwestern PA is a hotbed for a lot of sports, but girls’ wrestling is not one of them. It was a great experience for the girls to see over 700 girls wrestling.”
Vince is optimistic that both Maleah and Brooklyn will do well in wrestling in the future.
“Brooklyn loves wrestling so much; I hope she sticks with it,” Stephanie said.
Jennifer Goga is a freelance writer.