One of a kind

Any idea how many females have wrestled at Howland High School in the program’s 57-year history?

Here’s a hint: It’s less than two.

Still thinking? OK. The answer is one. That one is soon-to-be senior Corri Sayre. The 2013-14 season will be her fourth year on the team, which is four more than any other girl dared to attempt since wrestling began at Howland in 1957.

“I don’t think we’ve even had a girl try out,” Howland coach Bill Beasom said.

That’s not real surprising considering the physical and grueling nature of the sport.

Wrestling is especially big in Howland. The Tigers boast one of the most consistent and successful programs in northeast Ohio.

They’ve registered three undefeated regular seasons in the past six years and won two of the last three Eastern Ohio Wrestling League titles. Just this past season, they finished 10th in the state in Division II and crowned the only state champion in the Mahoning Valley in senior Gabe Stark.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Sayre, who said she tried other sports, but they weren’t for her.

“I have always been the more aggressive type,” said Sayre, who competes in the 182-pound weight class. “I didn’t like playing basketball or volleyball. I always got yelled at for being too rough. So I figured I might as well do something where they don’t care how mean you get.”

She picked the right sport. Sayre, who said she first became interested in wrestling because of her brother, former Howland wrestler Chuck Sayre, recently placed first at the Ohio State Girls Wrestling Tournament – for the fourth straight year. She also finished third at the United State Girls Wrestling Association national tournament at Eastern Michigan University.

The success isn’t surprising to Beasom, who said he could tell Sayre could hang with the boys after he saw her “will to compete.”

“She’s not your typical girl,” he said. “She’s not afraid to exert herself – not that other girls don’t do that – but she’s in the wrestling room and competing with men five days a week. She doesn’t back down from anyone. It could be the best person on your team. She’s always aggressive. She’s honestly been a great contributor to our program. She’s always at practice. She doesn’t quit early. No matter how bad she’s hurt, she doesn’t quit.”

And Sayre doesn’t intend to give up anytime soon. While she’s only wrestled two varsity matches (both losses), she’s had success at the junior-varsity level, and Beasom said “there’s a very good possibility” Sayre could be the Tigers’ starting 182-pounder for the upcoming season.

“She’s actually been able to beat some pretty big, muscular boys, just because she’ll tire them out,” Beasom said. “She goes in there and gives it her all. She helps our good kids because she’s not rolling over and letting them beat on her and pin her. She’s always trying her hardest and she’s making everyone she wrestles work, so she’s making them better.”

The success of females in high school wrestling reached an all-time high in 2010, when Paige Nemec became the first female to qualify for the state tournament. The 103-pound Nemec finished her career with a 115-34 record. Such trailblazing ways are something Sayre enjoys. With the help of her family, director of athletics Ron McCleary and head youth wrestling coach Brian Baxter, Sayre was able to bring the 2014 Ohio State Girls Wrestling Tournament to Howland High School. The date and time of the event are yet to be determined. The state tournament is only a small part of the pioneering efforts of Sayre, who hopes more girls become interested in wrestling.

“When I go to a competition, there are younger girls in the club I’m on, and they always come up and talk to me about wrestling the boys in high school,” she said. “I tell them to stick with it. It’s easy to quit when you get to middle school and things start getting tougher. Then you get to high school and it’s way more intense.

“I kind of feel like I’m making a difference and showing this is what girls are made of,” she added. “Nothing against basketball and all that, but you can do something else. You don’t always have to play softball or volleyball.”

Taking that chance is something that’s paid off for Sayre.

“She’s the ideal girl that you would want on your team,” Beasom said. “It’s great to be able to coach someone like that.”