TWP from WOOLWICH. – Jaclyn McDowell finds herself on more than just a personal mission these days.
Minutes after etching her name in the history book of Gloucester High School’s wrestling program, the second was not thinking of herself or the championship belt she won at the Southern Regional Tournament.
“Hopefully that means a lot of girls could come out for sports now,” McDowell said. “I feel like that’s my motivation to win a regional title and go to the United States. I believe the sport will grow. I feel like I’ve accomplished something bigger than myself. .
McDowell became the first wrestler – boy or girl – to win a regional title when she scored an 8-3 decision over Middletown South’s Ella Hansen to win the 100-pound title.
Last season she was the first woman to don a Gloucester jersey and enjoyed great success with a second-place finish in Regions and a fourth-place finish in States.
The trip also helped McDowell find a teammate when senior Katherine Suarez joined the Lions.
McDowell’s sophomore season got off to a rocky start as she battled two injuries, a partially torn ACL suffered cross-country and a torn ligament in her arm from wrestling. A late start led her to register only 10 fights before the playoffs.
McDowell didn’t look rusty on Sunday as she picked up a pair of pins to go along with a pair of decisions.
“I was a little nervous, but I was also confident because I’ve been here before,” McDowell said.
Delsea’s Emma Coesfield had also been to the regions before. However, she had a slightly tougher road, losing in blood twice in the previous two seasons.
The junior has taken a huge step forward this season and she took a huge step up to the top spot on the podium on Saturday, winning the 107 title and becoming the first woman in Delsea history to achieve the feat.
“It’s very exciting, I’m so proud to be the first girl to have her name on my school’s (champions) council,” Coesfield said. “I had confidence this time, I knew I had been wrestling all summer. With the help of my coaches, I definitely improved my shot defense and it was huge.
Being the only female wrestler in the Delsea program, Coesfield trains daily with the boys. It’s the South Jersey Group 3 champion Crusaders who will battle for a state title on Sunday.
Despite a few bumps and bruises along the way, the fight against the boys paid off for the junior.
“It definitely made me stronger,” she said. “I just tried to keep working and preserving throughout the season.”
Coesfield racked up four wins, including a pair of falls, to improve to 23-1 for the season and 52-8 for his career. She should make some noise next week when the state tournament takes over Phillipsburg on Sunday.
Maya Hemo of Cherry Hill East also made history by becoming the first woman in her school’s history to win a regional title. The junior has won four times, including a pair of close decisions in the last two fights. She beat Jackson Memorial’s Chloe Lawler, who placed fourth in the state last spring, in the 126 final by a 4-1 count.
Hemo is the first Cherry Hill East wrestler to win a regional title since Brian Lussier accomplished the feat 11 years ago.
Hemo, who finished fifth in the state last April, improved to 18-1 and has 36 career wins.
Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story to tell, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or email [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.