The high school wrestling season may be over, but one student athlete received a pretty big first-of-its-kind award.
Freshman Emma Alford was the first girl at Conard High School in West Hartford to earn a varsity letter in wrestling.
Alford said she can remember the first time her father took her to a wrestling match.
"My dad wrestled high school, college [and] coached youth," she said. "I went to one of the youth practices and just kind of fell in love with it and started the next year."
Alford said she was only 7 years old the first time she hit the mat.
However, she knew from that moment on it would be something she'd do for a long time.
"I don't remember much, I just remember always having fun," she said. "My first win I remember vaguely. I like very fast-paced sports and very involved sports. I don't like standing around. I just kind of loved it."
Alford said starting out was pretty easy. As she got older, the competition became tougher.
"Fifth grade is when it started to get harder because I moved into a new age group and then sixth grade, seventh and eighth were pretty hard," Alford said.
When it came time for high school, she said she knew she wanted to keep wrestling even if it meant she'd be the only girl on the team.
"I'm used to it and I knew some kids from elementary school and everyone was really welcoming and open to it," Alford said.
"They welcomed her with open arms and they were very, very supportive of her right from the first day," said Chris Glowacki, varsity wrestling coach, Conard High School. "The kids really embraced her, helped her with her moves. There was no animosity, there was no worrying about 'this is a girl.' I told them, she's as tough as you guys so you can go hard on her, and they did."
Alford said no matter who she was up against, boy or girl, she always hit the mat with a clear mind.
"Don't overthink it. Don't stress. Have a plan, what you want to do, what you like to do. Just know what you're going to do before you just go out there," she said.
Alford was in the 120 pound weight class.
She said this past season brought on new challenges, but she fought through them.
"It was pretty rocky," Alford said. "They were a lot more difficult than youth. The guys were a lot stronger."
"She had a couple injuries early on in the season, but kept coming back," Glowacki said. "She just kept coming back and that kind of motivation, that kind of spunk is what we want all our wrestlers to have."
That determination earned her the varsity letter.
She's the first girl at Conard ever to receive one for the sport.
"Which I did not expect, so it came as a surprise to me," Alford said.
"She earned it. She was there every day. She was working hard," Glowacki said. "If she couldn't make it to practice, the trainer would tell me or she would tell me, but every day she was on that mat with her other wrestling partners just working hard."
Alford's high school wrestling career is just beginning.
"It means a lot to me," she said. "I'm very passionate about it. It's something that brought me and my dad much closer. My sister, my mom and dad all support it. I feel like I accomplished my first year of high school wrestling and it makes me want to come back next year."
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