WATERLOO, N.Y. — Being a student-athlete can be tough, but for Maddison Westerberg, who plays volleyball and softball, and has been on the boys varsity wrestling team since the eighth grade, being an athlete is something she loves.

It’s something she’s had a lot of practice with. Westerberg has been wrestling since she was 9. She took first place in the 2021-2022 Monroe County League Girls Wrestling Tournament and she is among the top in the nation for girls wrestling.

“I initially started to stay in shape for softball and I just slowly got into the sport when I was young and it stuck,” said Westerberg, who is a sophomore at Waterloo High School.

But after years of having to wrestle for the boys team, the school has officially announced the start of a girls wrestling program this coming season.

“I think more girls will join throughout the years because they’ll be like, ‘oh I wanna be a part of that,’ and then they’ll have that click,” Westerberg said.

Girls like Natalie Barrios, a junior at Waterloo who plays soccer and will also wrestle on the girls team in November. She previously wrestled on the boys varsity team.

“Not most girls are determined to go into a sport of men, because it's harder than you would expect," Barrios said. "Everyone looks at wrestling as a guy's sport and not a girl's sport, they feel like girls are not meant for it at all and I feel like Waterloo can be a big change to it."

With a growing interest in girls wrestling nationwide, New York saw a 71% increase from 2018 to 2020 and was only recently added to the list of states that sanction high school girls wrestling.

Christal Kent, the director of health, PE and athletics for Waterloo High School, says they are seeing more and more girls sign up. Many of them are already student-athletes looking to take advantage of the new opportunity.

“So we have some student-athletes that aren’t participating in a winter sport already and now they’re like 'oh I'm signing up for girls wrestling,'" said Kent. "So I'm excited to see what’s to come."

“I think it helps, you know, you have Maddie and she’s been pretty boisterous with trying to get people and as well as just being a model about how to carry yourself in a boy's sport," said Varsity Wrestling Coach Tyrone Thomas.

As one of the first teams in the area to have a girls wrestling program, Westerberg is hopeful that it will lead to something great.

“Growing it more is exciting," said Westerberg. "I feel like it's going to get a lot bigger throughout the years and that’s exciting for me.”

“I feel pretty confident that we can do something special here,” said Thomas.

Waterloo is the second area school to add Section V Girls Wrestling. Canandaigua Academy was the first. Its season starts next month.