Land O’ Lakes girls show they can wrestle too
By Kyle LoJacono
Land O’ Lakes High traditionally has one of the top wrestling programs in central Florida with five state champions in its history, and a pair of girls just added to that tradition.
Senior Hillary Rodriguez and sophomore Shelby Roarks competed in the girls’ state wrestling competition Jan. 22 in Kissimmee, which had about 300 competitors. Roarks came in fifth in the 140-pound classification and Rodriguez took seventh in 125 pounds. Roarks received a medal for placing.
Roarks trained with the team last season, but did not compete in any matches. Rodriguez is new to the team this year. Gators first-year wrestling coach Pat Corcoran said it was very rewarding to see them battle in states.
“We have a really young guys team this year and we’re building to get back to the days we were sending wrestlers to states regularly,” Corcoran said. “To see the girls do as well as they have, they made us all proud.”
Roarks said she started wrestling because her father Kenny Tudor, who is a Land O’ Lakes graduate, went to states in the sport. Another reason is she does karate and was always too rough when sparing with other girls.
“I didn’t mean to,” Roarks said. “It just kind of always happened. In wrestling you’re supposed to be aggressive, so it was a good fit for me.”
Roarks said her friends tease her about being a wrestler sometimes, but she does not let that get in the way of her passion for the sport.
“I can’t think of not wrestling,” Roarks said. “I’m always so nervous before I compete, but then I get into it and it’s a lot of fun.”
The two girls train with the boys on the team and are not treated any different.
“The guys accepted them like any other teammate,” Corcoran said. “They wrestled against boys on the other teams in meets and did everything our guys did.”
Roarks said it was hard to face off against boys, who were usually a lot stronger than she is. To make up for the difference in strength she had to use good form and technique.
Rodriguez is graduating, but Roarks has time to get better the next two seasons.
“I did really well at states and that makes me want to put in even more work,” Roarks said. “I’ll train hard in the summer and hopefully do better than fifth next year.”