The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

The Student News Site of Kinnelon High School

Colt Chronicle

Stepping Onto the Mat

Female wrestler Polina Shardakova-Scorzafava’s experience on KHS’s wrestling team.
Polina Shardakova-Scorzafava
Freshman Wrestler Polina Shardakova-Scorzafava competes in a wrestling match

Breathe in, breathe out. This is no time for excuses. She envisions the match, running through her best moves and combinations in her mind. The sound of her footsteps resounds against the floor as she makes her way to the center of the mat. One more breath, in and out. The whistle blows, and the match begins. 

Since the 2021 school year, Freshman Polina Shardakova-Scorzafava has been the only female on the wrestling team. Though she officially joined the Kinnelon team in 2021, she has been taking wrestling lessons since 2018. Through the years, Shardakova-Scorzafava has built a connection and passion for the sport that she wants to take to college.

Shardakova-Scorzafava seemed nervous at first when being interviewed, which is understandable. Considering the harsh light of the athletic trainer’s office, it was amazing that she felt comfortable at all.  When asked about her personal life and topics like school, she made eye contact sparingly, and gave direct, curt answers. 

Contrastingly, when asked about wrestling, she transformed into a new person. Her body relaxed and she passionately spoke about the sport she loves, even with its ups and downs. Looking into her eyes, it was discernible that wrestling was very important to her. 

It started as an optional class for her personal gym, where she chose wrestling only because no other classes seemed interesting. From that optional gym class to PRM’s wrestling team, Shardakova-Scorzafava has always had a knack for wrestling. However, her passion didn’t start for wrestling until she found her style. 

There are two styles of wrestling offered at Kinnelon, folkstyle and freestyle. In eighth grade, she tried freestyle for the first time, “That’s when I really felt the connection, it clicked and everything just started making sense.” Trying freestyle wrestling gave her a goal to finally reach for. Shardakova-Scorzafava stated, “It was making sense of what steps I had to take, and that I have a goal, and that’s how I got the passion for it.”

Wrestling has been popular for many years, however, the sport is especially dominated by males. Women’s wrestling only became considered an Olympic sport in 2004, as stated by the Olympic Museum. Nevertheless, women’s wrestling has increased as a sport throughout the years, and 44 states in the USA consider it a sport, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association. 

Even though wrestling is an individual sport, having a support system, such as a coach, is important to wrestlers. According to the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, “Practices should consist of constructive criticism from teammates and coaches alike, and wrestlers need to be able to take it.” 

Colabella has many positive remarks about Shardakova-Scorzafava, saying, “Polina definitely brings a level of toughness into the wrestling room. She works hard, so that is always a positive when you have a wrestler [like that]. She continuously demands more for herself…[and] she’s always asking…what she could do better to continue to improve.” 

Wrestling has brought Shardakova-Scorzafava many new opportunities and experiences. Since she enters many individual tournaments, she gets to travel extensively. For instance, she once went to California for a tournament where she met ex-Olympic trainer and medalist, Afsoon Johnston. They quickly became close after meeting, and Johnston soon became one of Shardakova-Scorzafava’s trainers. Johnston coaching Shardakova-Scorzafava turned wrestling from a passion to a lifestyle. She participates in recreational wrestling and because of this new “lifestyle” mindset, she would like to coach it in the future.

 Despite being the only girl on the team, she has big goals: to become a state champion and to wrestle at the college level. Colabella comments on this, saying, “She has a lot of talent and …has that work ethic and the desire to be on [the college level]… It’s a long process, [but I] think that she’s on the right track.” 

In addition, Shardakova-Scorzafava has another ambitious goal: starting the first girls’ wrestling team at KHS. The wrestling team is currently co-ed, but creating a girls’ wrestling team would allow Shardakova-Scorzafava to compete in a separate league and wrestle varsity athletes. Furthermore, creating an all-girls team would be an incredible and once-in-a-lifetime achievement for Shardakova-Scorzafava, she believes that any girl that joins will, “see it in their life, they’ll feel empowered and it’s just an amazing feeling.”

Though her wrestling career has just started, Shardakova-Scorzafava has learned many things, which can be applied to both wrestling and her life. She realized at that time that “I make excuses for myself, and I thought that made me better…realized I’m just giving myself excuses so that I don’t feel like I have to aim up to that level.” Wrestling has taught Shardakova-Scorzafava life lessons that many learn later in life. 

Additionally, she’s learned that even if you don’t see progress, you just have to keep going. Once you reach a goal you have, you don’t give up; you make a new goal and keep going. “You have to make connections and work through things, don’t just grind yourself down, you have to change something and improve.” Shardakova-Scorzafava believes that wrestling will always be a part of her even when she is no longer “stepping onto the mat.”

She flips her opponent over onto their back and holds them there, a final effort. Seconds seem to move slower as the official counts to three. Wild cheers erupt from the crowd as he blows the whistle, granting her the win. She struggles to her feet and shakes hands with her opponent. Finally, the referee holds her hand up high as she basks in the glow of her victory. 

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