Athlete Spotlight: Jaala Williams, senior, Montclair High School
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
by Andrew Garda
In October, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association's Executive Committee voted to officially make girls wrestling a high school varsity sport.
For Montclair High School senior Jaala Williams, that’s a big change in concept, while in reality, she has been wrestling for the Mounties for three years.
It all started when she saw the wrestling team at the sports night in the gym at school. She asked the coach if, as a freshman, girls could wrestle and while not told no, didn’t find enthusiasm.
But Williams was not deterred, joined the team her sophomore year and has been there ever since. For Williams, wrestling is unique in that, boy or girl, the goal is always the same.
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“That’s one of my favorite things about wrestling,” she said. “I just feel like, for sports in general, there is an achievement gap with what men athletes and women athletes are expected to do. I think having girls wrestle with boys eliminates that gap because we’re all expected to do the same thing. We’re all expected to go out and wrestle and win no matter what.”
Williams knows how to win, and took third place in the Bloomfield Girls Wrestling Tournament, despite being the lightest competitor [for more, see our coverage of the wrestling team].
Williams was kind enough to take a few minutes to talk to us for this week’s Athlete Spotlight:
Do you want to wrestle in college? I would love to, but the issue is I would also like to pursue a career in architecture. So I would probably go to a private art school and a lot of them don’t have any college wrestling teams.
Do you have schools you’re interested in? I really want to go to the Pratt Institute. They have a great architecture program, but they don’t have a wrestling team. I talked to the school and they said I could start one if I really wanted to. So I might do that. The thing about architecture in particular is that it’s very intense no matter what school it is. So a school that realizes that and is really paying attention to the mental health of their students is the University of Maryland, which is another school I really want to go to. And they have a wrestling team that is Division 1, so I could still be involved in wrestling if I go there.
Why architecture? My aunt has a construction company, and when I came to the high school my mom wanted me to try electives that had something to do with construction. I’m somebody who likes design and innovating things, so architecture fit.
Coach Kline talked about you wanting to visit middle schools to recruit other girls? I really wanted to try my senior year to get young girls on the Montclair recreational team, but a lot of the coaches I reached out to haven’t responded. I might have to try that for next year and way in advance so it gives a chance for coaches to get back to me.