Pirates Wrestlers Represent at All-Female Competition

Samantha Nadler, Sports Editor

As head wrestling coach Mr. Richards watched his two star students compete and consistently rack up wins at the “Queen of the Mat” competition at Copiague High School in December, he praised them heavily: “[They] have been trailblazers in the sport of wrestling.” Yianna Foufas finished the day 4-0 by pinning all her opponents, and Talia Robles placed third with a 2-2 record at the end of the tournament.


Foufas and Robles, both sophomores, are changing the mold for wrestling, a predominantly male sport. As the only female wrestlers to represent Mepham High School, they see their contributions to their team as a path for young female athletes.


Robles began wrestling in middle school after watching her brother, Nick, a 2020 Mepham graduate, and wanting to follow in his footsteps. “I always went to my brother’s matches,” she said, “and it looked like a lot of fun, so then I decided to start [wrestling].”


As she started to practice in her own time and attend matches, Robles felt more confident as a wrestler, despite her being one of the only girls at matches. At the all-female Copiague tournament, her performance “made me feel like all of my hard work on the offseason was starting to finally pay off, and it made me feel like the future is going to be bright for me.”


Although Robles shows her strength and prowess on the mat, she wasn’t always the most confident wrestler, as most of her opponents were boys. “It wasn’t so easy walking [into] the wrestling room as a girl on the team,” she said. But she hopes that she gets more respect and recognition from acclaimed male and female wrestlers in the area.


Foufas’s wrestling career began much differently from Robles’s. In elementary school, she said she was horrible at sports, “so I started working out so I wouldn’t get embarrassed in gym class.” While her peers would play tag or football at recess, she would work out by running laps or working on her core strength on the monkey bars, but she never cared what others thought of her.


Her workouts eventually paid off, as she made herself stand out at various competitions. At the Queen of the Mat competition, she went 4-0 and pinned all her opponents, three of the four in under a minute. “In terms of my wrestling career, moments like this remind me that it’s worth it,” she said about her performance at Copiague. “In moments I want to quit, I look back on memories like this.”


Robles and Foufas agree that wrestling is a male-dominated sport, but the two add a splash of femininity to their routines. “Both me and Talia like dressing up pretty, painting our nails, doing makeup and other things that are seen as very girly and feminine,” Foufas explained. “We are examples that femininity and toughness can go hand in hand.” This does pay off, as Foufas and Robles are perfect examples of how girls can effectively break the gender gap in the world of sports.


Richards has never coached girls in wrestling prior to Foufas and Robles’ historic seasons, but this year made him appreciate the team’s new additions. “I think people watch Yianna and Talia and get excited about the sport,” he said. “They are proving to people you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to.”