Girl Grapplers: Former Shik student pursued wrestling to prove a point
Part 4 of 5
SUNBURY - Just try telling Amanda Barley she can't do something.
A member of the boys wrestling and football teams at Shikellamy High School as well as Chatham High School in Virginia from 1999 to 2003, she doesn't take kindly to naysayers.
The 27-year-old Washington, D.C., resident said she was introduced to the idea of female wrestlers during a cheerleading practice when the squad found out a girl was on the wrestling team at Chatham. Barley said out loud she could probably handle being on the wrestling team, and one of her squad members doubted her.
"I said, 'Oh really? Next year, I'm wrestling.'"
And she did.
Having already played youth football in eighth grade in a different school district, Barley joined the football and wrestling teams at Chatham her freshman year. She expected the coaches or school officials to push back, but they didn't.
If they had? "I would have fought it anyhow," Barley said.
Brian and Angie Beattie are fighting back, too, against Line Mountain School District officials telling their 12-year-old daughter, Audriana, she's not allowed to wrestle because of her gender. They have taken the matter to federal court, saying the district is discriminating on the basis of sex in violation her constitutional rights. A judge is expected to rule later this month and, in the interim, the district has been ordered to allow Audriana to wrestle with the junior high team.
Encouraged by mom
Barley and her family moved to Sunbury during her sophomore year in
2002, but her story starts in Virginia.
She was a cheerleader in seventh grade, but she had her eye on playing football, a sport she loved watching on TV with her family.
Her mother, Cindy Barley, of Baltimore, recalled when her daughter first wanted to join the male-dominated sport.
"As a single mom, I've been telling her there's nothing she can't do, but how am I supposed to look at her and say, '... but that?'" she said. "I've had women come up to me and ask how I could let my daughter do that. How can I not?"
She said Amanda had to fight to earn everyone's respect.
"She showed up early, she stayed longer, she worked harder," she said. "For boys to stand out, they just have to be good."
Amanda would eventually join the varsity football team, where she started at cornerback and halfback and played special teams. She played similar positions at Shikellamy.
And she joined the wrestling team at Shik, too.
Just like in football, she said she worked hard and never took the easy way out.
"I never wanted my coach to think I was slacking," she said, noting it led to many sore nights for her male practice partner.
At Chatham, Barley was first in the district and second in the region in her first year on varsity at the 125-pound weight class, which included wrestling boys. However, at Shikellamy, she had less success since the boy in her weight class was a state champion.
"I didn't get a chance to wrestle as much as I wanted to," she said.
She finished her senior year via cyber classes in 2004, but continued to wrestle in girls tournaments not associated with a school.
Barley lives with her 8-year-old son, Kai, and works as a permit manager for a construction management firm. She is studying to earn a degree in biology at the University of the District of Columbia.
Of her five siblings, Joshua Barley still lives in Sunbury and Richard and Corey Barley live in Shamokin.
Boys not thinking sex
Line Mountain argues the wrestling program is gender-specific and that allowing Audriana to join opens the district to liability. They say they are protecting Audriana and male athletes from potentially awkward situations and sexual contact during practices and matches and the psychological scarring and inevitable injury and defeat of female wrestlers.
Asked her opinion on the district's stance, Barley laughed.
"Sexual harassment is not on their minds. Boys are so scared they're going to lose to a girl, they're focused on beating her," she said. "If there's any nasty thoughts, it's (from) the parents watching."
During one match, Barley said a boy grabbed her buttocks harder than normal as part of a legitimate move, but she did it right back and just as hard.
"He didn't expect me to be as strong as I was. He realized really quick he would lose if he kept messing around," she said. She said she won the match.
Leave no regrets
Barley said there's a double-standard when it comes to the "emotion" of female wrestlers. She said she's watched plenty of male wrestlers lose their cool after a loss, but she knows if she did the same, there would be criticism for "not being able to handle it because I'm a girl."
Barley said she preferred wrestling boys, even though it was easier to beat girls.
"I was very strong in high school. When I wrestled girls, it was like they were made of goo," she said. "They were easy to fold. I did not like wrestling girls because there was no challenge to it."
Barley said Audriana should not give up no matter what anybody says.
"They will try to make you give up. Keep working; keep doing what makes you happy," she said. "In the end, you're the one who lives with you. Nobody wants to wonder what it's like if you didn't do it."