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A pioneer on the mat

Female Lynbrook High School wrestler continues making history

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With another history-making feat on her resumé, Ally Fitzgerald has continued to become a trailblazer in girls’ wrestling.

The Lynbrook High School junior captured the 113-pound girls’ title in the first all-girls tournament in the 42-year history of the Eastern States Classic on Jan. 11. Seventy girls, from 30 schools, competed in various weight classes at Sullivan County Community College in Loch Sheldrake.

“It feels really amazing to know that I’m one of the pioneers of girls’ wrestling, especially on Long Island,” Fitzgerald said, “and that I’m paving the way for other girls in the future. I’m really proud to be a part of it.”

Fitzgerald, 16, created a buzz as a freshman in 2018 when she became the first girl in Nassau County history to win a championship at a boys’ high school wrestling tournament, at South Side High School in Rockville Centre.

She has an edge, she says, because she can compete against boys as well as girls.

Fitzgerald had to overcome adversity and a bad break early in the tournament, but was able to rebound. She was leading her match in the round-robin portion of the tournament when she accidentally elbowed her opponent with 18 seconds left in the third and final round, and was disqualified, a decision she said she disagreed with.

Undeterred, Fitzgerald used the loss as motivation, she said, and went on to win three straight matches en route to the championship in her weight class. She pinned Genesis Ceron, of Grover Cleveland High School in Queens, in 29 seconds, and Kylah Holka, of Niagara Falls, in 2:30 to make it to the finals. Then she faced previously undefeated Riley Dalrymple, of upstate Copenhagen, whom she was familiar with. Fitzgerald had defeated Dalrymple, 4-3, in both of their previous two encounters in past years, but this time Fitzgerald dominated, earning an 11-2 decision to capture the title.

Fitzgerald said she realized that many people did not want her to win because of her past success, but she didn’t let their opposition stop her. She added that she was excited to wrestle Dalrymple in the finals because she has enjoyed their past encounters. “My strategy was to just focus on my technique,” she said, “and just go out there and wrestle her like any other person.”

Fitzgerald’s victory also meant a great deal to her father, Peter, and mother, Rebecca, who attended to cheer their daughter on, much as they did when she won titles at major tournaments in Virginia Beach last March and in Fargo, N.D., in July.

“We’re extremely proud of her,” Rebecca said. “Ally wrestled incredible, with so much confidence and the determination to win. . . . We’re excited to see what’s next for our daughter.”

Fitzgerald’s road to success began when she was a victim of bullying in first grade, and her parents signed her up for jujitsu classes to build her confidence. She joined the Lynbrook Titans Wrestling program at age 9 after watching her younger brother, Liam, compete. Liam has also succeeded in the sport and is now ranked fifth in Section 8’s Division I in his weight class.

Hilary Becker, who runs the Titans program, praised Ally for her success. “It’s so exciting to watch Ally continue to flourish and grow,” Becker said. “She’s already a dominant wrestler, and her technique continues to get better and better, and so long as she continues to work hard and stays mentally tough, then the sky’s the limit for her.”

Fitzgerald made waves as an eighth-grader when she set a Lynbrook school record of 110 push-ups, breaking the previous mark of 108 set by All-Conference wrestler Anthony Salamone a few years earlier. In her final two seasons at Lynbrook South Middle School, Fitzgerald went 11-0, winning nine of her matches by pin. In high school, she wrestles with the boys’ varsity team, and has earned a 66-18 overall record, which includes a 25-6 mark this season. She has also wrestled as part of the Team USA Wrestling Cadet Women’s National Team, which could be a bridge to Olympic competition.

“I wrestled boys most of my life, and started training with them from such a young age,” she said. “I’ve learned how to deal with overly aggressive boy wrestlers, and I don’t let them get into my head. I just try to stay calm [in] those kinds of situations. With wrestling girls, I’ve become a lot more flexible, and I’ve learned how to deal with more flexible wrestlers. I’ve benefited from wrestling both boys and girls by learning different styles.”