Scrolling through a list of the 27 Davis High teams, football is the only sport not to offer a co-ed or girls squad. At most schools, wrestling is the other exception. But not at DHS, at least not this season.
Blue Devil wrestling coach Ty Brown has only had one girl on the team during his eight years at the helm (Hannah Herrera). But this winter, the DHS squad features two ferocious females: sophomore Lisa Ghiglieri and senior Dontella Stanley.
Both Ghiglieri and Stanley were introduced to the sport by friends who were on the team.
Stanley was encouraged by her good friend Marvin Grant, a sophomore who is one of five Devils headed to this weekend’s Sac-Joaquin Section championships. Grant also plays defensive end for the DHS football team.
Last year, Ghiglieri learned the language of wrestling from a pair of Blue Devils grapplers — Gabriel Leal and Connor Spann — in a ninth-grade Spanish class.
“They would always leave (class) and they were like, ‘Oh, you should come check it out some time,’ ” Ghiglieri said. “I checked it out last year and it was really interesting.”
What drew Ghiglieri to wrestling was the physical nature of the sport:
“I really liked a sport that’s mainly based on strength and skill, it’s not really about team coordination, because I’m not very good at that. And it’s a way for me to be aggressive. … and I’m not (usually) very aggressive (off the mat).”
But it was that same physicality — and fear of injury — that had the parents of both Stanley and Ghiglieri apprehensive about their daughters wrestling.
The concerns weren’t unfounded, as Stanley was coming off of a sprained hip suffered during track season — she is a hurdler and long jumper.
“My mom was kinda upset,” Stanley said. “She (said) ‘I’m not trying to have you hurt yourself like you did in track.’”
Ghiglieri has not suffered from injury in her athletic career, but her sister, a rugby player, broke her collarbone while playing rugby.
The pair also had to work through the mental and physical challenges of being the only girls on the team.
“It was the hardest thing I had ever done,” Ghiglieri said. “People don’t understand how hard it is. And it was mentally demanding because I started out as the only girl on the team and I didn’t want to look weak if I couldn’t do anything so it took a while to overcome that.”
It’s the way Ghiglieri has powered through those obstacles that has most impressed Brown.
“With Lisa, this is her first year (so) at first she didn’t want to say anything,” said the former Blue Devil athlete. “Now she’s taking on a leadership role, she’s teaching Dontella some moves that Dontella doesn’t know.
“Lisa has an internal drive to do well. She does well in academics, she has a drive to get better at this. Whole-heartedly, a high-character young lady, we enjoy having her on the team.”
As for Stanley, the coach is proud of how she has improved throughout the season.
“For Dontella, a senior in her first-year … she’s pretty aggressive. She’s just a really great athlete,” Brown said. “She’s picking things up day-by-day, everything is coming along. I’m definitely pleased with the way things have gone so far.
“Dontella, she’s a nonstop talker, she never has a shortage of words to say. It’s good to have her here too … she gets everyone awake and alive. She’s committed herself to getting better at wrestling and we’re very happy to have her on the team.”
Though Stanley says she will probably stick to track if she plays a sport at the next level, Ghiglieri hopes her future includes wrestling.
“I hope to get a scholarship for wrestling because, especially for female wrestlers, a lot of colleges look positively upon them. It’s a great scholarship opportunity.”