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Cameron Smith

Female wrestler bridges cultural and generational gaps

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Carla Amaya is like any number of high school senior student athletes across the country, with one very specific difference: She plays a boys sport, all while hailing from Hispanic cultures that don't endorse girls playing sports at all.

According to the Washington Post's James Wagner, Amaya has done more than just grapple with the difficulties of being a girl as part of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.) High boys wrestling team, she's also had to help convince her mother, who hails from Colombia, that playing an aggressive boys sport is an acceptable option in modern American culture, all while also assuaging her El Salvadorian father's quite reasonable concerns that she would be seriously injured in the sport.

Eventually, Amaya's mother, Patricia, came around, thanks to increased cultural acceptance and the hope that her daughter can achieve things she never would have considered possible.

"When you live here, you learn," Patricia Amaya told the Post in Spanish. "The culture teaches you. If I were in Colombia, I wouldn't let Carla wrestle. But now, perspectives change. Now I want my grandson to play football. And my granddaughter is going to play soccer.

"I've matured. I've had daughters here, born here, which is very different. And American culture is different. You have plenty of opportunity. Look at the school and how many sports are available. In Colombia, there isn't that."

Amaya's parents eventually accepted her involvement in the sport thanks in part to her dedication and her ability to overcome her own physical shortcomings. The senior stands just 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds, often forcing her to compete at the junior varsity level to accommodate other, more skilled B-CC wrestlers at her weight class.

Still, Amaya has kept with the sport, despite at least one incident in which her mother forced her to temporarily quit the team after a rough scrimmage left her with a bloody nose and injured cheek.

"If there is one kid you can count on in that [wrestling room] to never make excuses and not push themselves to the limit, it's Carla," B-CC assistant wrestling coach Josh Singer told the Post.

Now, as her career nears an end, Amaya is beginning to receive some of the accolades she deserves for huge perseverance and dedication to a sport that her parents have learned to embrace, even if they don't quite love it.

"It's a great feeling knowing that my daughter is growing up and maturing," Carla's father, Carlos Amaya, told the Post. "Because what I feel we couldn't do, she has done.

"[Wrestling] seemed riskier and I always had that fear that something worse would happen. Now I have more confidence in [Carla] because she's stronger and she knows how to defend herself better."

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