In February 2020, the life of the one wrestler from Mater Lakes Academy completely changed.
Carolyna Bellon, a 17-year-old junior, was at the Florida Unofficial Girls State Championship in Orlando. She was seeded fourth in the deepest bracket of 128 pounds and dominated the tournament.
Before her final match, Bellon plugged in her headphones, listened to the music and got in her zone of “I am about to wrestle and I will do anything to win.”
And she did.
She became the first female wrestler from Mater Lakes Academy to win the championship for the Bears.
“In that moment, I realized that all the hard work and everything I’ve done to get there was worth it and it paid off,” Bellon said.
Before wrestling, Bellon took ballet for seven years. It was her younger brother who raised her interest in combat sports. He was learning judo and jiu jitsu. Together with her parents, Bellon recorded her brother’s tournaments and watched him compete.
That was when Bellon realized she wanted to try it, and her parents became her biggest motivation: “My dad pushes me every day to be the best I can be.”
When she got to high school, she decided to start wrestling.
“Part of the reason why I started was my hope for it to help me to receive scholarship opportunities for college,” said Bellon who is also excelling in the classroom.
FLASH SALE! Unlimited digital access for $3.99 per month
Don't miss this great deal. Offer ends on March 31st!SAVE NOW
To be successful, she needs to sacrifice a lot. “Wrestling takes a lot of my time. I practice every day after school for about three hours.”
Her coach Brandon Neifeld described Carolyna as “tough, very strong and very athletic” he sees her as someone “strong desire to win.”
“She is never scared to get in there and fight,” said Neifeld, who started the program and has been the head wrestling coach at Mater Lakes Academy for seven years.
Bellon practices with boys and sometimes even competes in boys’ tournaments.
“It is fun and it’s different, but I would say that in this sport girls’ tournaments are a little bit more exciting because as girls we have something to prove more than boys do,” said Bellon who will soon start with freestyle wrestling, which is done by girls who wrestle in college.
Despite the huge increase in numbers of girl wrestlers in the United States, it has not been sanctioned in many states. Florida will sanction it next year.
Girls at Mater Lakes Academy will have their own team and roster.
Bellon’s team goals for the next season are very clear: “Hopefully we will be the first girls’ team to win the districts [and] regionals, and make it to the states.”
When asked about her future personal goals, her answer was quick and confident: “Getting a scholarship for college — that is really why I started this. But also I want to make women’s wrestling bigger, I would love to get more girls involved in it.”
It is safe to say that Bellon has already changed many things at Mater Lakes Academy wrestling program.
Neifeld said that before they haven’t even thought about having the girls team, but “Caro” as he calls her, came and won the state championship which caused the things to blow up for the girls at Mater Lakes.
“Girls are coming and wanting to wrestle for us. Without her, they probably would never even think about it. She opened a door for a lot of different people,” said Neifeld who is excited to see what future will bring for Carolyna and girls wrestling team at Mater Lakes Academy.
▪ Hialeah Gardens d. Pine Crest 2-0 (25-18, 25-20): Gabriel Perez 10 Kills, 1 ace ; Alex Cabrera 2 aces, 20 receptions, 16 digs; Daniel Mirabal 19 kills, and 7 blocks.
▪ Hialeah Gardens d. Franklin (MA) 2-0 (25-12, 25-12): Alex Cabrera with 6 aces, 18 digs, 21 receptions; Damian Hernandez 16 assist, 2 blocks, 1 ace; Daniel Mirabal 16 kills, 6 blocks.
▪ Hialeah Gardens d. TERRA 2-0 (25-23, 25-20): Daniel Mirabal with 9 kills, 8 blocks; Alex Cabrera 5 aces, 18 digs, 22 receptions; Gabriel Perez 8 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace.
▪ Hialeah Gardens d. Braddock 2-0 (25-25, 25-22): Damian Hernandez 18 assist, 4 aces, 3 blocks; Alex Cabrera 14 digs, 17 receptions, 2 aces; Daniel Mirabal 12 kills, 7 blocks.