Editor's note: The next competition for Anna Naylor will be held at Oak Grove High School, not at Overfelt as a previous version stated.
Anna Naylor is smart, funny, and has a smile that is pure sunshine. She is also one of the strongest young women I have the pleasure to know. Anna is the only woman on Lynbrook High School’s wrestling team.
Last weekend, Anna earned first place at the Girls Baler Bash wrestling tournament. Earlier this season, she took second place at the Peninsula Tournament and first place at the Overfelt tournament. She is competing this Friday and Saturday in the CCS Girls Wrestling Tournament at San Jose’s Oak Grove High School, where she hopes to finish high enough to qualify for the California State Girls Wrestling Championships.
Anna started wrestling at Miller Middle School. “I don’t really remember why I started wrestling, but I can tell you why I almost didn’t. When I first started at Miller, my friend (who was a girl and had wrestled the year before) couldn’t go to the first practices, and because she didn’t go I almost decided to just forget the whole thing. I’m pretty glad I didn’t,” she said.
While winning tournaments and matches all over the Bay Area, Anna has come face to face with a lot of male wrestlers. I wondered what it’s like to be the only female in a male-dominated sport.
Anna commented, “My teammates have always been pretty supportive, mostly, although more and more lately I get comments about how girls’ wrestling is easier, and girls' CCS is ‘a joke.’ I've wrestled boys with all kinds of reactions to wrestling girls, from those who cry when they lose to those who can still respect a girl they beat. I don't think I've ever had anyone refuse to wrestle me.
“There aren't a lot of girls in this area. Lynbrook and Cupertino each only have one girl, but schools like Andrew Hill and Overfelt have whole girls’ teams. Girls’ tournaments are a lot of fun, because that's where I usually win. Girls do have to support each other, particularly when they come from mostly boys’ teams.
“I had a friend from Terra Nova High School (a good girls’ program) who would invite me to warm up with her team at all girls tournaments, because she knew I had no team. It was good to have a friend who was not only a great female wrestler but a good role model for me,” Anna said.
Anna credits hard work and great support as keys to her success. She is thankful for Lynbrook volunteer Coach Bill Fatjo, who goes with her to the weight room daily to help her “get strong enough to compete against and with boys.”
Miller Middle School coaches Sergio Gonzales and Joe Pele gave her a firm foundation in wrestling and sportsmanship. It was Coach Joe who first started calling her The Naylor. Of Lynbrook Head Wrestling Coach Alan Vinciguerra, Anna says he “always pushed me hard but it made me better.”
Anna also credits Carolyn Wester, who runs Wrestling Prep in San Jose, where Anna wrestled all summer. She learned some new moves and ways to use her very strong muscles, and competed with strong California female wrestlers.
Anna says, “People need to know that girls’ wrestling isn’t easier, especially in California. We have girls in California winning national tournaments but not winning our California state tournament because the level of competition here is so high.
“One thing I just wanted to say is I’m lucky that I’ve always had great coaches. I’ve never had a wrestling coach treat me differently because I’m a girl, or treat me worse than the boys. I’ve heard of coaches who purposely make things difficult for their female wrestlers, or let them off easy just because they’re girls, and that’s just as bad because then they won’t grow as wrestlers.”
Anna’s proud mom, Jo Naylor, and her younger sister, are always cheering on the Lynbrook sophomore during her matches. Jo loves that Anna has won first place in four girls’ wrestling tournaments this year. Jo says wrestling is “hard work, extra training, and more hard work.”
She supports Anna’s passion, and is impressed by Anna’s determination.
Jo notes, “I am very proud that she’s the only girl in Lynbrook to wrestle seriously. She wrestles Varsity for girls and boys. She’s so looking forward to the CCS this weekend. Her training all season long is to win CCS and go to Nationals, hopefully. It’s really cool to have Anna be the only girl on her team, because the coaches and the JV boys openly respect her and like her. She is by nature a sweet kid and very grounded, and just wants to be her best and win.”
Anna is a sweet kid. She has a great sense of humor. She’s bright. She’s one of those kids you’d be glad to know is a friend of your kid. She has biceps to die for, works her tail off, can pin guys and girls quickly in tournaments, is ranked number one in the Central Coast Section, and reminds me, “Girls who wrestle are still girls. Wrestling is a lot of fun, even though it is a lot of work. There’s nothing more satisfying than working hard for a goal and finally achieving it.”
Go Anna! Wishing you the best of luck at the CCS tournament this weekend and beyond!
Upcoming Wrestling Events for area students:
CCS Girls – Friday and Saturday at Oak Grove High
CCS Boys – 24 Feb. at Independence High
SCVAL high school league finals (boys and girls) Feb. 10 – 11 at Cupertino High School.