Flores blooms at Madison Square Garden
Rosemary Flores had a two-point plan in her first wrestling appearance at Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.
The first part for the Curtis senior was to earn the PSAL Holiday Tournament girls championship at 132-pounds by pinning Kimberly Abdullah of Bathgate High school in 34 seconds at the first annual Grapple at the Garden.
“It’s an honor I feel blessed," she said. "It’s good that it’s my senior year and I get to be a part of the first Grapple at the Garden. I’m proud of myself and proud of my team. It’s an honor to be surrounded by Dan Gable, Jordan Burroughs and people of that stature so I feel really good.”
The three-time national champion, who recently accepted an offer to wrestle at King College in Bristol, Tenn., wasn’t just thinking of her own success competing on the mat of the World‘s Most Famous Arena. It was her duty as the Warriors co-captain to provide support to her other teammates who wrestled Sunday.
Flores was also keeping an eye at the same time to the opposite mat where teammate Alexandra Salmos, who ultimately lost the 106-pound championship to Ana Salazar from Grover Cleveland, was wrestling.
After dashing over to support Salmos, Flores remained to give advice from outside of the mat to teammate Leslie Schoberl, who would take home the 120-pound title with a pinfall at the 1:47 mark over Marion Mayotanzosh of Seneca (NJ).
“I’m proud of my win, but I’m more proud of the victories by my teammates,” Flores said. “I’m proud of Leslie’s win because she [Mayontanzosh] has been wrestling since the sixth grade with her boys team in New Jersey. I was telling Leslie you had to pin to win or your going to lose. All it takes is a pin to win.”
Flores is a competitive athlete who has wrestled mostly against boys at Curtis since freshman year. She believes a hard work ethic is an important tool in wrestling, and it’s that quality Flores wants to see for any girl who wants to eventually gain success.
“I didn’t care about the numbers we had trying out," Flores said. "I care about the quality and people who have heart. I told them they needed to work hard. Everyone takes it easy on the girls, but that’s not how you become champions. It’s coming from the heart. I’m not going to be mean.”
That approach is something Schoberl remembers fondly now, but not quite at first when trying out two years ago. Schoberl embraced the idea and has become friends and co-captains. They will also captain the team in the spring in the first all-girls wrestling league implemented by the PSAL.
“She [Flores] was hard, but I appreciate it because it works. I hated her at first,” Schoberl said jokingly. “She was so hard, but seeing what happened today, she did it for a reason.“
Grapple at The Garden Notes
Petrides senior Kim Cardenas could not believe she would ever be standing on the floor of Madison Square Garden, holding up a 99-pound PSAL Holiday Tournament medal up to the fans that cheered her.
Cardenas joined Petrides as a freshman, and was always keen to hone her craft, despite, at times, being the only female wrestler on the boys’ team.
“It’s amazing because it’s so big and so important and that everyone is watching you, especially in girls which is not that popular, but all these people watching me is amazing,” Cardenas said. “I wanted to come to Madison Square Garden to show I have to go out there and be strong and fight.”
Cardenas will compete at the Mayor’s Cup, but she likes the opportunity to continue wrestling girls in her final high school year. She will get the chance in the spring when the PSAL, which is working closely with the Beat the Streets program, starts a 16-team all-girls wrestling league.
“They work so hard all year and to show their skills in front of a big crowd in such a prominent arena, it's great for the kids and it helps build the sport," said Ken Bigley, director of Program Development for the Beat the Streets. “It gives them a chance to compete head to head with other girls who love the sport of wrestling."
If a school doesn’t have enough female wrestlers, it’s possible for Cardenas and fellow Panthers teammate Heather Kerrigan to get an opportunity to tryout for a 16th team coached by members of the Beat the Street program.
“From freshman year I didn’t think it was going to be this big and I’m glad its increasing more and hopefully it will be successful,” Cardenas said.
The PSAL also crowned champions in the following weight classes: Ana Salazar- Grover Cleveland (106-pounds), Jennifer Jurarez- Robert Wagner (113-pounds), Sarah Andresen- Hunter College High School (126-pounds), Shannon Henry- Curtis (138-pounds), Idalis Graciano - Springfield Gardens (145-pounds champion), Karina Lozano- Grover Cleveland (160-pounds) and Destane Garrik- Wingate (170-pounds).