Girl wrestler, 15, at the top of her sport
May 28, 2015
Vayle Baker, age 15, is 88 pounds of tough. She has to be, as a girl competing in the male-dominated sport of wrestling.
As a girl wrestling against boys, she holds her own and then some, racking up a 23-2 record this year against boys.
“I’m kind of stuck in a boy’s world,” said Vayle.
However, there are girl wrestling clubs and tournaments, not to mention international competitions, spurred in part by introduction of women’s wrestling as an official Olympic sport.
As a girl wrestling against other girls, Vayle is at the top of her class, recently making the USA Girls World Cadet Team.
Her success has led this PA Cyber Charter School freshman to set some lofty goals for herself on both sides of the gender divide. One is to earn a spot on the women’s national Junior Olympics team-in-training. Another is to become the first girl to qualify for – and hopefully win – the boys’ Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state wrestling high school championships.
Helping her little brother
Most girls who do get into the sport have older brothers who wrestled. In Vayle’s case, her little brother was the reason she started wrestling.
Six years ago her brother Jake, four years younger, went out for the local elementary wrestling team. Jake was a just a little tyke, so Vayle, being a nice big sister, went to practice with him for support.
“I liked it,” she said. “I was good at it.”
Pennsylvania is recognized as having the toughest high school wrestling competition of any state in the nation. Her hometown of Benton, Pa., although a small community, has a proud wrestling tradition, having produced several state champions, college wrestlers, and wrestling coaches. She was on the local elementary team, the Slaughterhouse Boyz, and since then has wrestled off-season with the Benton Tigers Wrestling Club and the Downtown Mat Club Girls Wrestling Team.
Practicing on the mats daily against boys in youth, club, junior high and now high school wrestling rooms, Vayle found she can hang with the best of them.
“It makes you a lot tougher because your practice partners beat up on you,” said Vayle.
Her teammates learned to accept and treat her as just another wrestler, and her opponents learned they have to forget about her being a girl if they want to beat her. Not many do.
“Most of them become kind of friends with me because they respect me,” she said.
Making Cadet World team
Her most recent accomplishment, and possibly her biggest, is winning first place at 40 kilograms, Cadet Division, at the Body Bar Nationals in Texas, thereby earning a spot on the USA Girls World Cadet team. She was one of 10 Pennsylvania girls’ team members to earn All-American honors at Body Bar.
Against boys this past season, Vayle went 23-2, wrestling at the optional junior high level because she was too light for even the lowest high school weight class of 106 pounds. She plans to try out for varsity on the Benton High School team this fall.
Overall her record this year, including open and girls’ tournaments, was 95-11.
In junior high, she went to the boys’ state tournament three years, finishing seventh in 2013, second in 2014 and third in 2015.
She is a three-time champion of the Pennsylvania Women’s Wrestling Federation State Championships (2012, 2014, 2015), and was also three-time champ of the Federation’s girls’ freestyle tournaments (2012, 2013, 2014). She placed twice in the Federation state boys’ freestyle tournament, and took fourth in its boys’ Greco 2014 tourney.
A community pig roast raised more than $2,000 two years ago to send Vayle to Puerto Rico for an international girls’ tournament. She brought home the first-place trophy.
In the first War of the Roses Grand National tournament for girls in 2014, Vayle took third in freestyle, second in Greco, and first in folkstyle.
This past March, she won national honors at the USA Wrestling Girls Folkstyle Championships in Oklahoma City. Because of her age she could double-enter in two classes. She won third place in the younger bracket, Cadet, and second in the older Juniors bracket.
Challenges immediately ahead include Cadet Pan Am Games in Mexico, the Asics/Vaughan Cadet and Junior Nationals in Fargo, N.D., Cadet World’s in Bosnia and two camps at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado. It is an honor to be invited to the camps as part of the World Team as part of the world team.
Why PA Cyber?
Vayle’s parents are Wes and Lisa Baker. Wes is a pipeline technician. With eight children, Lisa understandably has her hands full at home. The youngest is Rhett, age 6, while the eldest, Tara, 21, a PA Cyber graduate, is now in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“We had the older kids in a Christian school and then brought them home to homeschool. We made that decision way back when,” said Lisa. “Then it just got overwhelming for me at home.”
They ended up with some kids in local public schools and some in PA Cyber.
“I looked at the [PA Cyber] curriculum and liked it,” Lisa said. “I continue to like it, and I like the options that PA Cyber gives us.”
This is a good time to be in women’s wrestling, not only from a competition standpoint. Along with her straight-A grades, girls’ wrestling may be her ticket to college.
“Women’s wrestling is the fastest growing sport right now,” said Vayle’s mom Lisa. “A lot of colleges are offering girls wrestling scholarships.”
With Vayle traveling across the country –and now to other countries - for competitions, PA Cyber’s flexibility is an obvious benefit as she continues to pursue her goals in wrestling, and in life.
Casie Colalella / firstname.lastname@example.org
About PA Cyber
Serving students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School (PA Cyber) is one of the largest, most experienced, and most successful online public schools in the nation. PA Cyber's online learning environments, personalized instructional methods, and choices of curricula connect Pennsylvania students and their families with state-certified and highly-qualified teachers, and rich academic content that is aligned to state standards. Founded in 2000, PA Cyber is headquartered in Midland (Beaver County) and maintains a network of support offices throughout the state. As a public school, PA Cyber is open for enrollment by any school-age child residing in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and does not charge tuition to students or families.