photo courtesy of Presbyterian College Athletics
This is a guest column from Shannyn Gillespie
I first met Dany DeAnda (Coach Dany) at the 2004 Olympic Games Prep Camp at the USOTC. Coach Dany was invited to that camp because she was an accomplished high school wrestler winning 3 Hawaii high school state titles & 3 Jr. National (Fargo) All-American awards. She was recruited to the US Olympic Education Center (at Northern Michigan University) where she went on to win 2 medals at the Jr. World Championships (Silver & Bronze medals). Coach Dany was also a Silver medalist at the Jr. Pan American Championships.
Now, Coach Dany is the Womenś Wrestling Head Coach at Presbyterian College (PC) located in Clinton, SC. PC is the only NCAA Division I program that sponsors womenś wrestling.
Below is the Q & A with Coach Dany…
What were your Jr. World experiences like?
Jr. Worlds were an amazing experience. Not only did I get to travel to different countries and experience new cultures, but I also had the honor of representing the USA at a World Championships. I have always loved to compete and Jr. Worlds was a stage that really pushed me to show up both physically and mentally.
What age did you start wrestling in competitions?
I starting wrestling when I was 8 years old and I guess that is the year I started going to competitions as well. When I was younger, I played a lot of sports and didn’t begin to focus completely on wrestling until high school. High school is when I really started wrestling year round and going to all the national/international competitions.
How has wrestling helped you in your life?
Wrestling has literally helped in every aspect of my life from being a good parent to working a job. Wrestling taught me how to work hard and push through adversity. It has taught me that no matter how many times you got pushed down that you always get back up. There are so many mountains you climb in both wrestling and life. Wrestling gave me the tools to meet those mountains/challenges head on and figure out how to overcome them.
How many years have you been coaching at the college level and what has that experience been like?
I have been coaching college for the last 8 years. I started in 2011 as an assistant at the University of Jamestown. Coaching college athletes has been one of the greatest experiences because I have the opportunity to work with young women in the sport that has given me so much. I feel very fortunate to be a part of these ladies’ journey and helping them meet their collegiate goals.
How do you balance marriage, children, & coaching?
The thing that has helped me the most with balancing marriage, children, and coaching is time management. It is important for me to be organized and have a daily/weekly/monthly schedule. Once I have that schedule, then I try to stay focused on the tasks at hand. That way, when it is family time, I have all the “work” things done.
It’s a lot like setting a goal in wrestling – you start with the end in mind and work your way backward to make sure you stay on task to meet that big goal.
What will it take for high school girls wrestling to triple or quadruple in participation numbers? (Current estimates are 17,000 high girl wrestlers.)
I think the one thing that will help girls HS wrestling grow is to sanction [state tournaments] across the country. I believe we lose a lot of girls during the transition between elementary school and middle school years. If girls had the opportunities to wrestle in HS on a girls’ team, those girls we lose would potentially continue wrestling.
Why is women’s collegiate wrestling important in the USA? (Current estimates are 63 collegiate freestyle wrestling varsity teams.)
Women’s collegiate wrestling is important for the USA because it is a direct feeder into the Jr./Sr. [international] level. There are a lot of college athletes that are on the Jr./Sr./U23 National and world teams. Having [freestyle] wrestling at the college level encourages girls to continue to strive for their dreams and aspirations.
What impact (if any) will women’s collegiate wrestling have on Japan’s world dominance in women’s wrestling? (Japan has won 22 of 29 team World titles.)
The fact that women’s college wrestling is freestyle, and, since more programs are being added every year, this increases the number of women that continue after HS which will feed into the Sr. circuit.
What was your experience like as a high school wrestler?
I had a great HS wrestling experience. I was blessed to have some amazing and supportive coaches in Charles Kaulukukui and Billy Wood, they really helped me to see my potential.
Living in Hawaii in the early 2000s, we were one of two or three states that had sanctioned girls wrestling at the HS level. This gave me the opportunity to wrestle against girls my whole HS career. I feel very fortunate to have grown up in a state that supported girls wrestling very early on.
What current challenges do you see now for female wrestling?
Female wrestling, although we have made huge leaps in the recent year, is still fighting for equality on the mat both at the HS and college level.
Right now PC is the only NCAA Division 1 college that offers women’s wrestling and I think that needs to change. Hopefully, in the near future, we have a lot more D1 schools on board with adding and supporting women’s wrestling.
How can people contact you to learn more about your program?
They can always send me an email at email@example.com. They can also visit our school website www.presby.edu or the athletic website www.gobluehose.com. We also have an Instagram page @pcwomenswrestling. Finally, students can learn more about the PC program through our co-ed summer wrestling camp website http://www.totalcamps.com/PRESBYMENSWRESTLINGCAMPS.
Bonus: What are your goals for the future?
We have a lot of big goals for the future of this program. Short term, recruit, recruit, recruit. We want to have a roster of 30 athletes. It’s not just about numbers, we want to make sure the young ladies we are bringing in value their education, work hard, & are all around good kids.
Long term, we want to be a successful program that produces national and international champions.
Bonus #2: What are 3 things people don’t know about you?
I’m the oldest of 6 kids.
I moved around a lot when I was younger, to date, I have lived in 7 states.
I also love running and right now I am training for a half-marathon.
Bonus #3: What makes wrestling different than other sports?
I think the individual aspect makes wrestling different from most sports. It requires a lot of grit, persistence, & determination to go out on the mat and compete against another person. Yes, you have teammates and coaches that help you along the way, but it is ultimately up to you i.e., which moves you attack [with], your energy, etc.
Thanks Coach Dany!!
After this interview was conducted, NCAA Division I Lock Haven University (PA) also added a women’s wrestling program slated to compete in the 2019-2020 season.
To date, women’s freestyle wrestling teams compete in two recognized national championships. The Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association (WCWA) National Championships have been conducted since 2008. The NAIA Women’s Wrestling Invitational was introduced in 2019.
For more from Shannyn check out his facebook page: http://facebook.com/uswomenswrestling.