BY MARK MORING, Eastern Shore Post —
Delaney Drummond is having her picture taken in front of the trophy case at Nandua High School. She smiles as the camera clicks away.
Suddenly, she cracks up laughing. Her coach, standing behind the photographer, is flexing his biceps, and motions for Drummond to do the same.
She obliges, still cracking up. It’s a pretty great moment.
Drummond’s is the face of girls wrestling at Nandua, and indeed, the face of the sport for the entire Eastern Shore of Virginia.
She finished fifth in her division in Virginia’s inaugural girls wrestling state tournament in February, despite it being only her first year in the sport.
She has her sights set on winning it all in this, her senior season.
“I was so close last year,” says Drummond, recalling her 4-2 semifinal loss to eventual state champ, Elaina Primozic of West Springfield High. “I want it this year.”
Drummond is one of 11 female wrestlers on Nandua’s varsity team, which is made up of boys and girls. Last year, the Warriors had four girls. The year before that, just one.
It’s growing at other Shore schools, too. Arcadia has about half a dozen girls on its varsity roster, and Northampton has one. Local schools also have girls on their junior varsity teams.
Drummond is excited about the rise in girls wrestling — not just on the Shore, but throughout Virginia and across the nation. Nationally, high school girls wrestling went from 31,654 participants in 2021-22 to 49,127 last year, a staggering 55.2% growth rate.
“People are starting to see that it’s fun,” Drummond says. “I’m happy it’s growing, because it’s nice to see people of your gender coming out and trying new things.
“It’s not like we want to prove that we’re better than guys or anything, but it’s nice to get some victories in a sport that’s predominantly male.”
Drummond, like many high school female wrestlers in Virginia, usually has to square off against boys. When opposing teams don’t have a girl in her weight class, she’ll wrestle a boy. Last winter, most of her matches were against boys, and she won about half of them.
She admits it can be awkward.
“It’s hard because some guys don’t want to go fully aggressive when they’re wrestling girls,” Drummond says. “And there’s other guys that take advantage of it because they’re quote-unquote ‘stronger.’”
Drummond smiles as she says the words.
“I mean, they’re not always stronger, you know?” she says. “It’s not always about strength. It’s about technique. I beat some boys that were stronger than me.”
Virginia is behind most of the nation in sanctioning girls high school wrestling; 44 states have already sanctioned it.
But Virginia is on the way, currently in the second of a three-year waiting period with girls wrestling as an “emerging sport.”
If, after the 2024-2025 season, more than half of the Commonwealth’s schools have at least one female wrestler on their team, the Virginia High School League will sanction girls wrestling as an official sport. Currently, about 270 Virginia schools have a boys wrestling team, and about half of them have at least one female.
Drummond will be off to college by the time girls wrestling becomes official here, but she’s excited about that future. So is her Nandua coach, Nathan Metzger.
“Girls are becoming more comfortable with the idea of participating in the sport,” says Metzger, who had two other girls wrestle at the state tournament last year, juniors Iris Martinez-Chaves and Dulce Perez-Vicente.
Metzger is aware that there’s still some cultural hesitation around the idea of girls wrestling against boys — and vice versa. And he’s sensitive to that.
“When we have a match and one of my girls is up against a boy, I’ll ask them if they want to go forward with it,” he says. “I respect their decision. I want to make sure they’re comfortable with it. And the other coach will talk to their boy and ask if they’re comfortable with going against a girl.
“We’ve never really had any issues. The students are usually, ‘Yeah, we just want to wrestle.’”
Wrestling ‘makes you better’
Drummond is the perfect poster girl for the sport. She’s got a winning smile, a warm personality, and is super-smart: a 4.09 GPA while taking all college courses. She loves math, and wants to major in architecture in college. She was class president last year as a junior.
She’s also very involved in her church, Exmore Baptist, and its youth group.
“My faith is a very important part of my whole life,” Drummond says. “I try to apply it to everything.”
Even wrestling, where the goal is to throw someone to the ground?
“Even wrestling,” she says. “I pray before every match, because those nerves can get to you. And I thank God when I win and when I don’t win.”
Drummond is a three-sport athlete at Nandua. In the fall, she ran cross country. In the spring, she’s the goalie on the soccer team.
She came out for wrestling for the first time last year, partly motivated by watching Angie Joynes, Nandua’s lone female wrestler two years ago. Today, wrestling is Drummond’s favorite sport.
“There’s just something different about it,” she says. “It’s a team sport, but it also isn’t. You compete as an individual. You get to go out there and do what you learned. You don’t have to depend on anyone else. It’s all on you.
“And honestly, this sport just makes you better — physically, mentally, all around. It’s pretty cool.”