Lily Sherer and Danah Downer didn’t just want to win matches during their high school careers. They wanted to change wrestling.
The seniors work to expand opportunities to girls in the sport, and their peers at Delaware Valley bought into the movement.
Six Delaware Valley girls wrestlers, including Sherer, Downer, Kaelyn Balbirer, Patty Albro, Alia Narvaez and Sarah Seltzer, will compete as a team for the first time Saturday in a dual meet tournament at Gettysburg Middle School.
While the squad isn’t among the nine official girls high school teams (which include J.P. McCaskey, Easton, Executive Education Academy, North Allegheny, Central Mountain, Governor Mifflin, Annville-Cleona, Gettysburg and Brandywine Heights), it hopes to earn approval for next season.
“We’re pushing pretty hard,” Delaware Valley coach Lou DeLauro said. “In the spring we plan to run clinics one day a week, maybe two, and get Lily and Danah into the middle schools.”
Sherer and Downer wrestled and practiced with the boys team and competed in individual girls wrestling tournaments. Sherer claimed state titles in 2018 and 2020 at the MyHouse Pennsylvania High School Girls State Wrestling Championship at Gettysburg High School. Downer finished in the top six last year.
The duo also recruited girls and started a girls wrestling club at the school.
Their peers not only kept at it, they fell in love with the sport.
“It’s really cool to see that they’re really into it,” Sherer said. “I practice with the varsity (boys), so we’re separated but I know they all work really hard and enjoy it. They want to pursue this in college.
The girls will take another step toward becoming an official squad Saturday at its first team competition.
“I hope they get confidence,” Downer said. “Even if they mess up, we can fix it and break the barrier of them being scared. Experience with the girls will set the bar.”
The girls will lose Sherer and Downer to graduation for next year, which would dip their numbers to four. However, DeLauro and the seniors believe an approved team would motivate more girls to come out for the squad.
“I feel like if we do have a girls team our numbers will double,” Downer said. “A lot of girls I talk to were not comfortable with guys being in the room with them. Take that away and more people will come out.”
Delaware Valley would be the 10th girls team to earn approval since Pennsylvania Girls High School Wrestling Task Force launched SanctionPA, a campaign that aims to get high school girls wrestling approved as a sanctioned sport in the state, in March.
The PIAA requires at least 100 schools to recognize girls wrestling before it considers sanctioning the sport.
Sherer serves on the task force.
“I write articles and do publicity and come up with ideas that are unconventional, but I come up with more modern ideas to keep pushing for the movement,” Sherer said.
Sherer’s mission to grow the sport will continue in college at Division II Lock Haven.
“I went on a visit and fell in love with it.” Sherer said. “I’ll have the same amount of impact there as I am now. Girls wrestling in Central Pennsylvania isn‘t as strong as it should be.”
Downer will stay in touch with the girls after graduation, and return to the school when she can to see their progress.
“I think it’s honestly rewarding and satisfying,” Downer said. Even after I graduate, these girls have fallen in love with the sport. It will be amazing to see them again and see how far they’ve come.”