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Parma High senior earns second-place finish at historic state wrestling tournament

Matis wrestling an opponent 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.‬