Blazing a trail: Hilton Head wrestler making a path for the next generation

On the mat, Hilton Head’s Zao Estrada stands out- both for her skill, and her gender.

Blazing a trail: Hilton Head wrestler making a path for the next generation

HILTON HEAD, S.C. (WTOC) - On the mat, Hilton Head’s Zao Estrada stands out- both for her skill, and her gender, but make no mistake- she’s not the token female wrestler for the Seahawks, and she never wants her teammates to take it easy on her.

“I had a kid walk up to me, I was wrestling 120, and he said, ‘how’s your 113 pounder?’ and I said, ‘she’s good,’ and then he said, ‘what do you mean, she?’ and I was like, ‘she’s good,’ and then she went out there and beat the crap out of their kid,” senior wrestler James Levy recalled. Levy happens to be Estrada’s training partner.

Estrada’s dad is a club-level coach, and her older sister wrestled, so she’s been training since she was five, but one issue she’s run into this season: getting matches. Her coach says some wrestlers will forfeit, because they don’t want to wrestle a girl.

“It sucks too, because I wanted to get a match, and sometimes like, it’s my only match I can get there, and they forfeit, because I’m a girl, and it kind of hurts my feelings too, because it’s like, I’m not as bad as you think,” Estrada said with a laugh.

She isn’t bad by any means. Estrada is currently ranked 25th in the nation for female wrestlers in her weight class, and undefeated this season. In her first year at Hilton Head High, she’s made an impression on her coaches and teammates from the start.

“When she walked in the door and the first guy she grabbed was James, who’s a two-time state runner-up,” said Head Coach Patrick Boulware. “He’s the best guy in the room. She goes in there and starts banging up on him, and everybody was like ‘oh, ok.’”

In other places she’s lived, like Colorado and California, girls wrestling isn’t so unique, and Estrada may be the one to help change that in the Lowcountry.

“These girls are going to watch their brothers wrestle, she goes out there and beats them up,” Boulware said. “These little girls are plastered on the side of the mat.”

By taking on these challenges, she says she can take on anything.

“You have to be really mentally tough, like, you have to be pretty tough,” Estrada explained. “It’s really hard.”

Levy said he predicts a state championship in her future.

Copyright 2021 WTOC. All rights reserved.