- Parma City School District
Parma High senior earns second-place finish at historic state wrestling tournament
April 20, 2020
Two years ago, Parma Senior High School’s Liz Matis accepted a challenge from her best friend, and the results changed her trajectory forever.
The challenge wasn’t the latest YouTube internet sensation, running a race, or finishing her homework first. It was a challenge to join, compete and succeed as a member of the Parma Redmen wrestling team.
“It was the rough and tough thing to do,” Matis explained. “We thought that no one else does it. You just don’t see it a lot, and I was up for the challenge.”
Nationwide, more and more girls are competing in wrestling, a sport traditionally dominated by boys. According to an April 2019 ESPN article, the number of girls competing in high school wrestling had jumped from 3,405 to nearly 17,000 nationwide. Many states have sanctioned the sport, making it one of the fastest-growing high school girls programs.
During Matis’ sophomore year, friend Jillaine Bagby, a senior, proposed the challenge to her best friend. Later that season, Bagby won her first match for the Redmen against Holy Name in January. Bagby later graduated and joined the Marines, which left Matis pick up the torch during her final two years at the school.
Matis had some experience in the weight room and enjoyed strength training - but wrestling offered a different set of challenges, including a complicated vocabulary.
“I’ve always been athletic,” Matis expressed. “But, just getting the movements down – taking a shot and sprawling – it’s like a foreign language. You really have to learn something completely different.”
Over the last two years, Matis dedicated herself to the sport and the hyper-physical nature of training and competition it provided. The positive results from her hard work paid off almost immediately.
“Beating a boy for the first time was pretty awesome,” Matis said. “It was my first match ever and it was at Amherst. We went into overtime, and I got a takedown, so I won. It was pretty awesome because I had all my teammates there and it was my first match ever…It means a lot more if your teammates are all there.”
Over the summer of 2019, Matis and her coach Chris Finowski, learned that the state would be sponsoring a wrestling tournament for just girls, which provided extra motivation for Matis. She knew her end goal was to get to that tournament and to win.
In February, Matis traveled to the first-ever Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association girls wrestling tournament and represented her school and team in the 111-pound weight class. During this historic, two-day tournament, 240 girls from 99 different school competed.
Matis pinned her first opponent at the tournament in just 24 seconds. The following day in the semifinals, she pinned her next opponent in under two minutes, setting up a finals rematch with a familiar opponent from Reynoldsburg. In the end, Matis took her opponent to the third period in the finals but came up short of the win and a first-place finish.
“I like to have my goals high,” Matis confided. “My goal was to be a state champ, but, even if I didn’t make, I got the next best thing. I’m not upset that I lost…I shook her hand, and then I went and shook her coach’s hand and then I went back to my coaches. I teared up and I hugged them.”
“It wasn’t the fact that I lost. Yeah, I lost, and it was a little upsetting, but it was about my season being over and it was a relief that we did it. Then I went in the back, and all my teammates were there, and I was bawling my eyes out. It felt so good having all my teammates there to put my head on their shoulder.”
“Liz’s success over her short two years in the sport says a lot about her work ethic,” Finowski expressed. “Her work ethic is one of the characteristics that stands out the most in her development. Every person who came to practice, whether it be alumni or older coaches, all mentioned how impressed they were with how hard she worked. Her teammates respect her because they know how hard she works. She gives her best effort each day.”
In April, Matis signed a national letter of intent to continue her wrestling career at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa. She plans to get her associate degree in Athletic Coaching, and later possibly wants to become an emergency medical technician. She also sees herself possibly returning to Parma to help coach wrestling, to inspire other girls to join the team, and to give back to the sport which gave her so much.
“If you want to be a diligent, hard-working, disciplined person, then you do wrestling,” Matis explained. “I’ve learned to never give up on anything. If you feel you can’t do it, you for sure can do it…If you set yourself a goal, you can achieve it. Wrestling also teaches you also to be a good person. I’m grateful. Wrestling taught me to be ten times more grateful for everything that I have.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Matis attempts to get her opponent on their back during a match at Parma. Photo courtesy of Kevin Bowyer Photography/Parma Senior High School Athletics.