BRONX, NY – It’s a “Cinderella Story” that perhaps nobody could have predicted. The Truman Mustang girls wrestling squad goes from nonexistent two years ago – to top-ranked in the city and undefeated in the borough today. This, as their head coach is heralded as one of the best – and their practice digs get a brand new facelift.
“I was always aggressive and I wanted an aggressive sport,” said girls team member Pearl Fletcher. She started out on the boys team before the new team was formed. “I wanted to play football with the boys but they wouldn’t let me, so that’s when Coach Cook invited me to be on the wrestling team.”
Although the boys team has been around for many years, just last year the school added an all-girls team.
“I had four or five girls sort of hanging around and gravitating toward the team,” Cook said. He wanted to know if they could feasibly put together a team of ten. “I figured if I can get [at least] eight girls out that would be great,” he said. Thirteen ended up joining the team, and they finished in the top three in their division last year. Most of the girls were sophomores and juniors, who continued the team’s meteoric rise this year, where they are now the top-ranked undefeated Bronx team heading into the playoffs.
On the heels of these accomplishments, this week, the “Beat The Streets” program announced that Coach Cook will be named the New York City Girls Wrestling Coach of the Year.
“I feel like he really deserved it. He really worked hard for that award,” Fletcher said. She recounted how Cook helped others at a recent tournament. “He was not only coaching our team, he was helping girls from out of state, he was helping girls who did not have their coach right next to them. He always helps out. The girls love him as a coach and they respect him and I know he really deserves it so Im really happy he got it.”
“I wasn’t really psyched about the idea of coaching all girls, but once I started – I found it was pretty remarkable. Being able to teach girls is a pleasure. They pick up on things a lot quicker in practice. They’re a lot more refined than the boys,” Cook said. “The one thing that you couldn’t prepare me for was the emotions that go along with coaching an all-girls team.” He explained that as a coach he does a lot of yelling- both at the boys team, and the girls team. “They’re all wrestlers, so I’m not going to change who I am and they know that. If I’m going to yell at them and try to break them down to build them back up – that’s the way I work at it.”
And while the team is working towards the upcoming playoffs, they have a newly-remodeled wrestling room to practice in.
“It makes me feel like I am just a better wrestler,” Fletcher said. “The mats are so new and it makes me feel alive and ready to wrestle and work out.”
“It’s like falling on a cloud,” according to Cook. “It looks like more of a real wrestling room.” Cook estimates that only around ten other high schools in New York City have their own dedicated wrestling rooms. Others are left to use shared space, and roll out mats for each practice or competition. The grapplers on the team say they’re thrilled with the upgrade.
“It’s beautiful,” according to junior Adrian Ramirez. “Everyone now feels more energized in that room. It gives me a sense of motivation that I’m part of something bigger than myself.”
The renovation included wall-to-wall floor mats in traditional Truman green, as well as grey wall pads that sport the words “Truman Wrestling.” The new pads include markings for 12 individual practice areas where the team can work on their fireman’s carries, hip tosses, and ankle picks, while maintaining safety.
The final round of competition in the PSAL will be held in Times Square on May 19th. Later that evening at the Beat the Streets Gala, Coach Cook will receive his honor as Girls Coach of the Year.
“This year… I can’t describe it… It’s pretty awesome,” Cook said. He will mark his tenth year leading the Mustang wrestlers this coming Fall.