Kiski Area sponsors girls wrestling team as sport’s momentum grows

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Wednesday, December 22, 2021 | 6:01 PM


The movement to sanction girls high school wrestling has arrived in the Alle-Kiski Valley.

Monday night, the Kiski Area School District became the first A-K Valley school board to sign on to the movement to someday have girls wrestling receive PIAA sanction.

Kiski Area became the 31st school in Pennsylvania to register as a sponsor of the sanctioning push. One hundred schools are needed to attain PIAA recognition.

“I believe other schools are looking at it, and it’s only a matter of time ‘til it gets sanctioned,” said John Peterman, Kiski Area athletic director and a WPIAL Wrestling Steering Committee member. “It’s more opportunities for young ladies to participate in sports. It’s now an Olympic sport, and colleges are starting to give scholarships for (girls) wrestling.”

Kiski Area already has a female wrestler — junior Bella DeVito — on the varsity boys squad.

Her father, Pete DeVito, is assistant athletic director at Penn Hills.

“I became interested in wrestling as a little girl when my dad was coaching,” Bella said. “A friend, Josh Klingensmith, talked about having a girls team.”

Another girl, Alayna Darley, wrestled on the boys varsity last season. Ava Golding is on the Kiski Area Middle School team.

While it’s often a challenge for a girl to compete against boys in a physical sport such as wrestling, Kiski Area coach Chris Heater appreciates DeVito’s efforts on the mat.

“I certainly respect what Bella does,” Heater said. “She’s got a win and a pin and in girls tournaments. She’s 14-3.”

DeVito won the prestigious Queen of the Mountain tournament last weekend at Central Mountain High School, going 4-0 with three pins and a technical fall. None of her four opponents scored on her in the 126-pound class.

She likes the idea of being a pioneer.

“It feels great being like a leader for the girls, a captain for the girls movement,” DeVito said.

Added Heater: “If there’s going to be somebody leading the way, I’m glad it’s Bella. She’s been in the program for four years now.”

Peterman said this gives Kiski Area four club sports: indoor track, bowling, hockey and girls wrestling.

A club sport is not funded by the school district. Parents groups and others have various fundraisers to pay for participation. School districts generally give club teams the OK to use the school’s name, mascot and colors.

What’s next for Bella and Kiski Area?

Attempts will be made to get the word out to see if Kiski Area has enough girls to form its own club team until PIAA sanctioning is attained. At that point, Bella and any other girl could either continue wrestling on the boys team or stick strictly with the girls.

Bella also would like to wrestle in college. Lock Haven and Gannon are among the schools awarding girls wrestling scholarships.

History also was made Tuesday night when Canon-McMillan hosted North Allegheny in the first girls dual match between WPIAL schools. No score was kept in that match, but the movement is there.

“When I started coaching 30 years ago, if someone would have told me that I’d be speaking at a school board meeting about getting girls wrestling started, I would have probably looked at you side-eyed,” Heater said.

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