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'She's a good wrestler, period'

Hovermale has made believers of coaches, opponents

Hovermale has made believers of coaches, opponents

February 16, 2007|by ANDREW MASON

Smithsburg freshman Monica Hovermale has changed her style, but only somewhat.

"I used to be a tomboy," she said. "But in the middle of eighth grade, I started wearing girls clothes - tighter jeans and stuff."

On the high school wrestling mats, where the men typically are separated from the boys, Hovermale has separated herself from the girls again.

While she's not Washington County's first female varsity wrestler, she's the only one this season and seemingly the county's best yet.

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"A lot of people think, 'She's a girl, she can't be that good,'" said Hovermale, who competes in the 103-pound weight class. "I think I've surprised a couple kids."

In her 29 matches against boys this season, she's 18-11 with 12 pins.

"She's a good wrestler, period," Smithsburg coach Joe Dietrich said. "And she's really good for a girl."

Hovermale will attempt to make history Saturday at the 17th annual Washington County tournament at Williamsport as the first girl to win a county title.

"That would be awesome if she can pull it off," Dietrich said.

"A lot of people have been talking about it. It's pretty exciting," Hovermale said. "There are good kids around here, and I'm just going to try my best."

She'll be the favorite in her weight class, having gone 5-0 with five pins this season against the county's other 103-pounders - Boonsboro's T.J. Boreni, North Hagerstown's Jesse Miller, South Hagerstown's Dane Devin and Williamsport's Dakota Leggett.

"Dane Devin's probably the best out of all of them," Hovermale said. "He's given me the most trouble."

Devin, who's 0-2 against Hovermale this season, is the only one of the four to make it out of the first period against her.

"She's really strong," Miller said. "You wouldn't think she was strong until you wrestle her. And she has good technique."

Hovermale began wrestling in youth programs when she was 5, so she's had plenty of time to get over any feelings of awkwardness.

"I've been doing this my whole life," she said. "The kids around here know me because I wrestled them in junior league."

"Going out there, they know she's tough," Williamsport coach Mike Rechtorovic said. "It's not like they're wrestling a girl. It's like they're wrestling a tough wrestler.

"Male or female, she's a good wrestler."

If Hovermale achieves her goal, she could become the first girl to win a match at the Maryland 2A-1A state championships.

"For this year, my goal is to make it to states and try to place," she said.

In last year's 4A-3A state tourney, Magruder's Helen Maroulis went 3-3 to place sixth at 112, while Arundel's Nicole Woody went 1-2 at 103. No girl before had ever won a match at states.

High school wrestling, obviously, is becoming more of a coed sport.

"We went to the Parkville tournament this year and there were like five girls in it," Dietrich said.

Hovermale's success can only help in opening the door for more girls.

"I know a couple girls at school who have younger sisters who want to wrestle but are afraid of getting hurt," Hovermale said. "I just say, 'Look at me. I've never even gotten a bloody nose.'"

It's been hard not to notice her.

"I've watched Monica wrestle for eight or nine years, since she was in elementary school," North coach Greg Slick said. "She's always been very aggressive and very technically sound. She's just a good athlete.

"I've had a couple of girls on my team over the years, but I don't want to say that Monica's not a pioneer. She's Washington County's most successful female wrestler at this point."

Hovermale is not the most successful wrestler in her family, however. Her older brother, Justin, is 26-0 with 24 pins this season as a senior at Smithsburg.

Then there's her 6-year-old brother, Shane.

"He'll probably be better than both of us," she said. "He went undefeated last year and won the Mason-Dixon championship."

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