‘Don’t be discouraged’: How Karla Schneider Became Gibbons’ First Girls Wrestling Conference Champ

Dont be discouraged: How Karla Schneider Became Gibbons First Girls Wrestling Conference Champ

Imagine entering into your sophomore year of high school, completely new to the idea of competitive sports, and only five months later becoming the first-ever conference champion in your school.

As a middle schooler, Karla Schneider (Class of 2026) had wanted to play soccer, but her parents suggested that she focus on her studies instead. But as time went along, they eventually warmed up to the idea of her playing a sport once she reached high school. 

After gaining her parents’ approval, Schneider began her thorough search for a sport that she would want to participate in and dedicate herself to. Immediately scratched off that list were basketball and soccer, which despite both being sports she was accustomed to and had prior knowledge about, did not appeal to her due to their “softer” approach to contact. 

It was a path that set her up to be Gibbons’ first girls wrestling conference champion, which she won in January.

“I noticed in both basketball and soccer there is a lot of falling and flopping,” said Schneider. “There are also a lot of rules that you have to follow for those sports, but in wrestling I feel like there’s a lot more freedom. I also enjoy contact sports as well because I think they are more fun and cool.”

Schneider’s attraction to more contact-heavy and free-range sports led her to kickboxing, which created the avenue for her to discover wrestling as a possible sport to try. One day someone from the gym where Schneider was practicing her kickboxing suggested that she give wrestling a try. This intrigued Schneider and prompted her to give it a shot. 

Fortunately for Schneider, her first year in the sport would be the inaugural season for girls wrestling in North Carolina which meant not only would she be experiencing the sport for herself the first time, she would also be a part of something completely new to everyone.

When asked if anyone in wrestling inspired her Schneider stated, “Actually no, I have just been going with it and exploring the sport for myself.” 

Her journey started over the summer months when she attended the daily unofficial practices for the team. This is where Schneider was first met with the realization that although girls wrestling had a growing audience statewide, that traction for the sport hadn’t yet picked up at Gibbons. Schneider started the season as the only girl on the team and because of this she felt a little on edge about the idea at first. Despite that, Schneider explained that in the end it turned out to be completely fine and worked out well for her. She attributes this to the team dynamic and how supportive the group of guys are. 

“We are really just one team, and I have never really been alienated because I’m a girl or anything like that,” Schneider said. 

Adjusting to the team and the sport of wrestling as a newcomer would unfortunately not be Schneider’s only obstacle this past year. Towards the early stage of the wrestling season, Schneider suffered a dangerous concussion that, according to Schneider, dropped her memory to about 37%. This injury not only stopped her from being able to participate in any wrestling for a month but also took her out of school for a month. On top of that, the concussion she suffered took place right before Christmas break, which made the last few weeks of the first semester quite difficult for Schneider. Due to the severity of her injury at such a crucial period in the school year, she was relieved from having to take the midterms for most of her classes.

Because of the concussion and her time away from the sport, Schneider missed out on numerous matches and tournament opportunities. This affected her chances of being able to participate in the NCHSAA East Regional Wrestling championship because any wrestler trying to qualify in the meet has to win a certain amount of matches throughout the season. This setback however did not stop Schneider from continuing to pursue her newly found passion. She even started competing in tournaments shortly after her recovery, including the CAP-6 Conference championship, which this season featured the first-ever girls conference champion. 

As a result of her extensive time off from wrestling, Schneider had not been winning a lot of her matches going into the conference championship and was not favored to place first. Once again, Schneider showed her determination and belief in herself when competing because according to her she felt as unbeatable as ever. 

“I had honestly felt the most confident I had ever felt in my entire life before,” said Schneider. “This wave of confidence just came over me and I just kept a smile on my face as more of a psychological thing to give myself the confidence to wrestle well.”

This psychological trick worked tremendously for Schneider and resulted in her winning both of her matches and becoming the first-ever girls CAP-6 conference champion. 

When asked about her most memorable part of being on the team this past season, Schneider’s answer didn’t involve winning the conference championship, winning different matches, or even the experience she went through after her concussion. Schneider stated that the most memorable part of the season for her was meeting her new teammate and friend Anai “Gali” Carrillo.

Carrillo is the only other girl on the wrestling squad and this past season was her first introduction to the sport as well. As the daughter of a former Cardinal Gibbons wrestler, Carrillo originally joined the team to continue her father’s legacy and meet new people. Carillo is no stranger to participating in combat sports however, because she also has an extensive background in jiu-jitsu prior to wrestling. 

The earlier parts of the season were a bit uncomfortable for Schneider as she was completely new to the sport and was the only girl on the team for some time, but the latter part of the season was anything but uncomfortable for Schneider because Carrillo was there with her. As the only two girls on the team, the two have formed a friendship that far exceeds the wrestling mat. 

“It’s been such a good relationship because we have just been spending every day together and she has been super helpful and supportive to me,” Said Schneider. “She has always been there to help me correct my form and technique and I sometimes help her as well. She’s the best partner I have ever had.”

Schneider plans to remain on the team for her junior year and encourages other girls who want to give the sport a shot to join as well. 

Her advice to anyone wanting to take that next step is, “Don’t be discouraged when you don’t see instant results…it takes a while and you have to lose first in order to win.”

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About the Contributor
Blair Mitchell
Blair Mitchell, Reporter
Hey, my name is Blair Mitchell. I am a Junior and this is my first year working with the Gibbons Globe. As a freelance sports reporter for the Chatham News and Record, I have been involved in writing and journalism for quite some time and it has always been an interest of mine. I am excited to help share stories about our Gibbons community this year.