Ella Swygert is an eighth-grade wrestler at West Pine Middle School. Her coach nominated her for December’s Student-Athlete Spotlight.
According to wrestling coach Bill Robins, Ella showed up in the gym in November 2021 in her seventh-grade year. Robins gave her the position of the scorekeeper, and “she quickly mastered the skills needed to record details of a sport she had never seen before. As time passed, Ella began to see herself as more than a participant mat-side but starting to practice.”
Ella said, “I just wanted to join somewhere since tennis was over.”
The following January, Ella began to compete and win her matches.
“Ella has become a year-round wrestler, practicing at the Wrestling Factory and volunteering at tournaments hosted by Pinecrest, wrote Robins in an email to Sandhills Sentinel. “This year Ella has embraced a leadership role helping wrestlers who have no experience. Sharing her knowledge with her counterparts in her new weight class, along with other female wrestlers on the team.”
“When I became a manager, I didn’t think anything about it,” said Ella. “I never really liked aggressive sports. I have never been athletic, but when I started doing it and especially winning, I just fell in love with the sport. It’s something I never thought I would do, and seeing my personal progress day by day inspires me to keep getting better every day. I look up to girl wrestlers that are better than me, and it makes me want to be on their level one day.”
Male athletes have occupied wrestling since its beginning, but more females enter the sport across the country yearly. Locally, Pinecrest High School has seen an increase in girls’ interest in the sport and now has a female wrestling team.
Ella weighed in on being one of three female wrestlers at West Pine Middle School.
“Last year was harder, especially since I joined late,” said Ella. “I was only there a little over half of the season. I don’t think they respected me because I was a girl, but coming into this year, a lot of the same guys saw my improvement. I think now I have earned their respect. It’s more motivation for me to get and be better.”
So far this year, West Pine has had five matches, and Ella has won three against boys.
Ella competed in Raleigh over the summer in BODYARMOR State Games. Competing against another girl with more weight was Ella’s most significant wrestling moment.
“She had 15 more pounds on me,” said Ella. “She was better, and I knew she was better than me. I lost the first match, but they put us in the same bracket again. I told myself I need to win this. It was the hardest match. I didn’t know if I could do it. I tried my hardest and won 6-2.”
Ella went on to finish the state-level tournament in second place. “It felt really good to beat someone better than me,” said Ella. It was a big jump for me.”
Ella plans to continue her wrestling career next year at Pinecrest.
“The teams are amazing, especially the girl’s team,” said Ella. “Coach Curtin is amazing. All the coaches are. I’m excited to wrestle there.”
As much as Ella loves the sport and wants to wrestle beyond high school, that is not her only goal. She plans to go to college and study in the medical field. With a love of children, Ella wants to work in pediatric emergency medicine.
“I always try to challenge myself academically,” said Ella. “I try to be academically successful as I can be.” Ella has been on the distinguished list and honor roll. In high school, she wants to be in the Nation Honors Society.
She also has been a part of the interact club and chess club. With interact club, they go to places to help people in the community. She donates to families in need at Christmas every year.
“I try to help people be happy,” Ella said. “I am an advocate for mental health. In high school, I also want to be as involved as I can be in the community.”
Outside of wrestling and school, Ella loves to go to yoga several times a week. She enjoys pottery and painting and loves spending time with her family.
“I’m a big family person,” Ella said. “My mom is my best friend. I love little kids; there are a bunch of kids under four on my street, so I spend all my weekends with them. I love when they are happy. I babysit a lot on the weekends.”
“I like to make people happy; I like people having my back when I have theirs, especially in wrestling,” Ella added. “It’s good to have people by your side. Winning feels good, but having a good team also feels good.”
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Curtis Self.