Howland female wrestler knows how to earn her stripes

Think back for a minute and try to remember the most difficult physical activity you ever tried.

Maybe it was football two-a-days, running a marathon, the rigors of boot camp, training for boxing, karate or mixed martial arts. There are tons of answers to this question and none are wrong.

I know mine. It was high school wrestling.

I’ve played football, baseball, basketball, attempted to box and tried jujitsu for a few months. More recently I’ve been using the P90X workout. None of them have come close to the training it takes to wrestle, which is why I give Corri Sayre so much credit.

Sayre is a female wrestler at Howland High School. Scratch that. She is the female wrestler at Howland. She’s the only girl to ever try out for the team in 57 years of the sport. Sayre, a senior, has participated since she was a freshman, and while she hasn’t yet cracked the starting lineup, she’s enjoyed a lot of success at the junior varsity level.

The mere fact that she’s been a member of the team for three years is an incredible accomplishment in itself. The conditioning, the mental toughness, the bumps, the bruises, the scrapes and the ever-loving exhaustion that wrestlers endure on a daily basis is ridiculous. Any wrestling coach will tell you that if you can make it through a wrestling season, you can do just about anything as far as physical activity goes.

Sayre has completed three, and she did it on one of the best wrestling teams in northeast Ohio – Howland finished 10th in the state in Division II last year. And she doesn’t intend on stopping anytime soon.

“I had to build up my confidence a lot,” said Sayre of her first few years on the team. “I don’t think I gave myself as much credit as I should. The fact is, I’m a girl, and I’m going in this room five days a week, two hours a night and I’m not wrestling no 103-(pound wrestlers), I’m wrestling 160-pound men. They’re like full-grown men. So I had to give myself more credit for what I was doing. How many girls do you see out there doing this?

“But I’m here to win,” she added. “I want to be the best I can be.”

That tenacity is what Howland coach Bill Beasom said has kept Sayre coming back, despite some tough times. Sayre has only wrestled two varsity matches (both losses) in her three seasons, and she admits that going up against the Tigers’ middleweights on a daily basis can be a struggle. Still, as Beasom said, she doesn’t quit – ever.

“I saw a will to compete,” said Beasom of his first impression of Sayre, when she joined the team her freshman year. “Her biggest attribute is her toughness. She’s aggressive and she never backs down.”

Some question whether women should be allowed to wrestle on high school teams because of the gender inequality it can present in sports. For example, how would volleyball coaches feel if a male joined the team? That’s a discussion for another day, but people like Sayre make it seem like a moot point.

Beasom, a former Howland state placer who’s been around the sport since he was a kid, has absolutely no problem with Sayre being part of the team.

“She’s honestly been a great contributor to our program,” he said.

Her teammates don’t seem to mind either.

Sayre is a four-time state champion of the Ohio State Girls Wrestling Tournament. Just this past March she placed third at United State Girls Wrestling Association national tournament, the first time she’s placed nationally. The Tigers have taken notice of her success.

“My sophomore year, right before I went to state, they got me a card and told me good luck,” she said. “It kind of shows I’m part of the team when they come up and ask how I did and all that.”

There’s an outside shot she could make Howland’s starting lineup this season, which would be an incredible accomplishment considering the level of competition she faces on her own team. But it won’t be easy.

“A couple of years ago there was a really good girl from Austintown,” said Beasom of former Falcons wrestler Sarah Guerrier. “She was ranked No. 1 in the country (among females), but she couldn’t make the lineup. That’s how tough it is.”

Either way, Sayre is happy she stuck with wrestling this long. Regardless of whether she becomes a starter, she said she has gained a great deal of discipline and self confidence from the sport.

“I feel like I can take on anything,” said Sayre, who has beaten her share of boys over the years, earning a 9-6 JV record in 2012. “They get so mad. They really do. A lot of times they’ll have a little smirk on their face when I go out there because they look at me like they don’t know what to do. Then they realize I’m not here (to mess around), and that smirk goes away and they get all serious.”

They better. Sayre certainly is.