Pennsbury girl earns mat scholarship

Kait Fitzpatrick, a Pennsbury senior, has accepted a women's wrestling scholarship to Campbellsville University in Kentucky. LOU RABITO / Staff
Kait Fitzpatrick, a Pennsbury senior, has accepted a women's wrestling scholarship to Campbellsville University in Kentucky. LOU RABITO / Staff
Posted: February 10, 2014

Wrestling is a weird sport, Kait Fitzpatrick says.

"You just get consumed by it," she explained.

The Pennsbury senior is on the mat six days a week, sometimes up to three hours in a session. Though she no longer competes for her school, she estimates that she works out at 10 wrestling clubs. She practices against guys at four area colleges. She does lifting and conditioning drills four or five times a week, and she meets with her personal coach several times weekly.

That sweeping commitment, that passion, helped lead to a women's wrestling scholarship at Campbellsville University, an NAIA program in Kentucky. And, recently, it made what could have been a tough decision for Fitzpatrick really easy:

Does she go to the world team trials for women's wrestling in May in Texas?

Or does she attend her senior prom?

Fitzpatrick said her boyfriend understood.

"He knows the deal," she said of Jason Bing, and surely he does. The Pennsbury grad is a wrestler himself, a freshman at Division I Franklin and Marshall.

Fitzpatrick's "deal" grew out of a dare.

By middle school, Fitzpatrick had dabbled in traditionally male sports such as football, hockey, and tae kwon do. One day at lunch, a boy told her that none of those compared to the ultimate boys' sport, wrestling, and challenged her to go out for the middle-school team.

Fitzpatrick loved the sport right away, finding she was quick and strong although she lacked technical skills. Through work at clubs, including one for females only, and at national developmental girls' camps, her technique improved. She also wrestled a season and a half for Pennsbury.

Competing in girls' tournaments, she won a cadet national folkstyle championship at 101 pounds in 2012, and she has earned one state folkstyle and two state freestyle titles.

The almost 30 hours a week devoted directly or indirectly to wrestling are never a chore for Fitzpatrick. She simply loves the sport.

"It takes so much out of you, like in a good way," said Fitzpatrick, 17. "It takes strength. You have to have the right mentality. I recently found out that, for me, I can't go out there and just be mad all the time. I found out that if I look at puppies, or play with puppies before I wrestle, I wrestle 10 times better.

"[Personal coach] Jeff Moretti and I, we actually found that out - I wrestle better when I'm happy. So we go to the pet store and play with the puppies before I go to nationals."

Campbellsville, Ky., will offer not only a pet shop, but also an opportunity she doesn't enjoy here: wrestling full time against females.

High school girls' wrestling has increased in popularity, but most of the growth has been out west. Of the seven states that sponsor girls' state championships in wrestling, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, four are in the West: California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.

"On the West Coast, they have so many girls they have high school teams. Over here, I practice with the boys and I don't compete as much," Fitzpatrick said.

"When I do compete, that's kind of like that's it - it's all on the line - and I don't always perform to the best of my ability just because I don't have the experience."

At Campbellsville, she'll join a second-year program that competes in the 20-school Women's Collegiate Wrestling Association with other NAIA teams as well as some NCAA Division II and III squads. The Kentucky school offers eight scholarships, coach Lee Miracle said, and he divides them as he wants. Fitzpatrick said she received about a three-quarters scholarship.

Campbellsville, whose roster includes freshman Cassidy Ferrell from Ridley, finished sixth in the WCWA championships two weekends ago. Competition was held in 10 weight classes ranging from 101 to 191 pounds, and the top eight in each class earned all-American status.

Fitzpatrick plans to wrestle next season at 109.

"I think Kait's potential is unlimited," Miracle said. "I actually expect her to be an all-American next year. I had five all-Americans this year. There's no reason for her not to be an all-American next year."

The expectation doesn't faze Fitzpatrick, who says she wants to be No. 1.

She wants to win a national title in college. She wants to compete for her country in a world championship. Eventually, she wants to qualify for an Olympics, perhaps in 2020.

That's what all the hours and hard work are for.


rabitol@phillynews.com

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