Williams looks to cement legacy for Mason girls wrestling

Ali Sami | The Chronicle

Haley Williams battles to make a move against her opponent in the OHSAA girls wrestling state tournament.

In her first three years with the sport, Haley Williams has already made history for Mason wrestling as a three-time state qualifier.

Williams, a junior, joined the team as a freshman in the girls wrestling program’s first year. She was one of Mason’s six state qualifiers that year. Williams said her success has reaffirmed that she made the right decision joining the team, and motivates her to continue to reach new heights.

“Ever since I started wrestling I’ve loved the way it made me feel,” Williams said. “Wrestling drives me to do even better since I’m now highly ranked.”

Girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing high school sports in the country and has seen major developments since Williams started the sport three years ago. The Ohio High School Athletic Association added it as a sanctioned sport for the 2022-23 season. This allowed the state to host the first official OHSAA girls wrestling state tournament. More teams in the state are starting teams as a result of the decision, increasing the difficulty of a road to state.

Williams knew she wanted to play a sport for Mason when she entered high school. At first, she planned to join the swim team. Her older brother, Bryce, was on the varsity wrestling team. Because of him, she was recruited to join the newly created girls wrestling team. Williams said that she had not initially thought of it as part of her athletic future, but is glad that she opted to try it out.

“I went to the wrestling practice room one day to see my brother and a coach pulled me aside,” Williams said. “He asked me if I wanted to try wrestling, I gave it a shot and it ended up sticking.”

Williams has qualified for the state tournament in all three years of her career, the most of any Comet. Williams credited her success to her coach Wayne Black, who has mentored her.

“We’re really close,” Williams said. “As much as wrestling is a physical sport, it’s also a mental sport, and Coach Black and I have worked really hard to get where we are.”

Along with the competitive environment, Williams immediately felt at home with her teammates, Williams cited several of her older teammates, 2022 graduate Brynn Clark, and current senior Tanushree Upadhyay, as driving forces in the team’s growth and her development as a wrestler.

“I love my teammates. Williams said. “Brynn pushed me so much last year when I got tired at practice, and Tanushree also helped me a lot because we helped each other.”

After finding success early in her wrestling career, Williams realized she could do something groundbreaking for the team. Williams said she spent a lot of time in the offseason training to allow her to compete at an even higher level as a junior and in the sport’s first OHSAA-sanctioned season.

“Last year specifically and over the summer I put in a lot of work to get where I am,” Williams said. “I went to a camp eight hours away and didn’t see my family for a week, and that camp was really hard but it paid off in the end.”

Now that Williams has established herself in the sport, she is looking towards cementing her legacy. Williams said she plans to take on more of a leadership role as a senior and wants to help more of her teammates take their next step and make state tournament runs.

“My goal for myself this [upcoming] year is to place top six at state and hopefully lead all my teammates to state as well,” Williams said.

Photo by Savannah Libby