The Girls United Wrestling Team consists of females from a variety of Whatcom County high schools. Their aim? To unify and link diverse communities. These girls train under difficult conditions to build a strong base for the program.

This group of young women has created a family. They struggle, grow and support one another through their love of wrestling. Led by Coach Brian Porteous, this team works diligently to improve their skills, while increasing their family bond.

Savannah Yazzolino, a junior at Squalicum High School, has been a part of United for two years. She’s discovered that, “within this team, every girl has your back …. You’re crying together because coach pushed you so hard or because you’re telling them about personal things, or you’re at a sleepover having fun. Those girls are family.”

United takes on the holidays with gift exchanging and team bonding to grow closer. Photo courtesy: Girls United Wrestling.

Savannah clearly adores her teammates. “Every single one of us is different and always wanting to be ourselves,” she says. “Somehow, we all fit together like a puzzle because we all understand what the other girl has gone through …. I love that we all get each other and have each other’s backs but still stay individual. We help each other engage, encourage and overcome.”

Although personality differences may clash, these girls use it to their advantage, building a uniquely wonderful program.

The sport of wrestling is both physically and mentally draining. Riley Wolf, a freshman at Squalicum High School, is enjoying her first year within this team. “A big challenge of wrestling are the practices,” she says. “But I’ve dealt with them by the mantra ‘when in doubt, cry it out.’ It seems to work very well,” she adds with a laugh.

The girls set up for their annual gift wrapping fundraiser in the Bellis Fair Mall. Photo courtesy: Girls United Wrestling.

“The biggest challenge most girls face is mental toughness,” Wolf says. “Practices are two hours long every day, and every day you’re physically and mentally pushed to this wall. Every day you must mentally break past this wall and realize your body is capable of so much more than you think it is. Our warm-up has you dripping sweat. Then drilling. Then conditioning. Every day you’re working for a full two hours, pushing your body as far as you think it can go and then farther.”

The work these girls put into training is indescribable. They push themselves to their limits to become better and improve the program.

During matches, the team’s rewards can be overwhelming. After ambitious training, Riley explains, “One of my matches was semi-regionals and I had the girl in a bulldog for about 20 seconds, but the referee didn’t call the pin. So I let her go and she got control but I didn’t want to lose after I was so close to pinning her. So I ended up pushing through the pain to get on top and pin her.”

The United Wrestlimg Team is having loads of fun, while they’re away from home for their tournament. Photo courtesy: Girls United Wrestling.

As a freshman, this is quite an achievement.

Just as Riley overcame her obstacle, Savannah used her failures to learn and grow. “My first year wrestling, I won zero matches,” she says. “I lost all of them by pin until sub-regionals. I finally won my first match and realized I had it in me. It was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever felt, knowing I’m capable of winning after losing over and over again for months …. Winning that one match changed my mentality about wrestling. I came back the next year hungry.

“I realized that all those times I woke up at 4:00 a.m. for 20-hour tournament days and all those tears I cried because I pushed my body so far it gave out, weren’t for nothing. If you put in the work, you get the results.”

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