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Keeping busy on the mats

Butler Freshman Ana Malovich has been selected for the Pennsylvania girls wrestling team and will compete in a national tournament in Oklahoma in June.
Butler's Malovich headed for girls wrestling nationals again

BUTLER TWP — Life keeps getting busier for Ana Malovich on the wrestling mat.

Opportunities in that regard keep growing as well.

“I'm loving it,” the Butler freshman said. “Girls wrestling really seems to be taking off.”

Malovich has been wrestling since age 5. After a stellar junior high career, she finished 15-5 as a 106/113 pound wrestler on the Golden Tornado boys team.

For the second straight year, she's been picked to be a member of the Pennsylvania girls wrestling team, which will be competing at USA Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., June 15-19. There will be 14 states represented at that tournament.

The Pennsylvania team was hand-picked, by invitation only.

Since the high school season ended, Malovich has already competed in a national women's freestyle tournament in Irving, Texas, where she split her eight matches. She competed in 32-wrestler brackets.

“I've never been in a tournament that size or a bracket that large,” she said. “That's how big this is getting.”

Malovich recently competed in a girls dual team tournament in West Virginia. She went 6-1 and helped her team place sixth out of 32 squads.

She also stopped by the Legacy Wrestling club in Butler on Sunday to help out with instruction.

“Ana keeps going non-stop,” Butler wrestling coach Scott Stoner said. “She's so passionate about the sport and she already wants to give back to it.”

She may be giving back to it in more ways than she knows.

Stoner said the Tornado wrestling coaching staff has received approval from school administration to conduct a survey as to interest in starting a high school girls wrestling team. That team could be formed as early as next season.

Malovich's name and image are attached to the survey as an indicator of what wrestling can do for a young athlete.

“She's a prime example of that,” Stoner said. “We asked Ana if we could use her name and she was on board with it. She wants a girls team here as much as anybody.”

Stoner said he knows a few girls in school will be interested, but the exact number is hard to gage.

“It's an honor that Coach Stoner is using me as an example,” Malovich said. “Let's get our desire to form a girls team out in the open. I want to help grow the sport.”

She continues to grow and improve her skills as a wrestler 11 years after first taking the mat — something her mother did not envision.

“This whole thing is so surreal to me,” Jess Malovich said. “I mean, Ana tried wrestling as a little kid for something to do.

“Now we're traveling all over the country to wrestle in different events, she's competing in national tournaments, she may be the face of the first girls wrestling team at her high school ... this is all so unbelievable.”

Malovich will be heading to Fargo, N.D., in July for another national tourney.

Her trip to Tulsa next month must be self-funded.

“We've been getting a number of donations in,” Mrs. Malovich said. “We are so grateful for the support Ana's been receiving.”

Stoner is among those supporters.

“Only too happy to write out that check,” he said.

In the meantime, Ana Malovich keeps working on her mat skills.

“My biggest strength is probably how I attack people,” she said. “I like to dictate the pace of my matches.

“My weakest spot is defense. I'm working on that. But you can always improve in all phases of this sport.”

Malovich has had plenty of experiernce wrestling against girls and boys. She doesn't alter her strategy either way.

“I don't care what the gender of my opponent is,” she delared. “When they get on the mat with nme, they have to know what they're getting into.”