Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

February 1, 2014

Defying the norm

Lowndes’ Bailee Flaherty ready for challenge

VALDOSTA — Bold and driven, Bailee Nicole Flaherty did something that Lowndes High had not seen done in nearly 20 years: she joined the wrestling team as a girl and stayed a member without quitting.

This is no small feat. While other female wrestlers have attempted to make a similar stand at LHS, Flaherty has every intention of taking her wrestling talents all the way to college.

Born Feb. 17, 1999, to Kurt and Kelli Flaherty in Ottumwa, Iowa, Flaherty is a freshman wrestler at Lowndes. Moving to Valdosta when she was 2, this is the city she calls home. Beginning in March 2013, Flaherty started wrestling at the South Georgia Athletic Club as a part of the Devil Dogs.

While Flaherty just recently began wrestling officially, she drew interest a few years back from watching her brother wrestling as a Devil Dog.

“Probably for the last two or three years, I wanted to wrestle and my parents always said no,” Flaherty said. “Then, they finally started letting me go to practices for conditioning. When I went to practices, they saw how much I really loved the sport.

“My brother had been wrestling for five years and it looked fun to me, so I decided to give it a try.”

As a Devil Dog, she participated in her first wrestling tournament — against all guys.

“My first one was a freestyle tournament,” she said. “I ended up wrestling against five guys. I lost the matches, however all the coaches came up to me after the matches and told me that I did very well in the matches and they could tell that I wanted to get better.”

After the tournament, the perseverance of Flaherty shone strong.

“I wanted to go to another tournament and work harder to pin someone or win by tech so I could prove to people that I could wrestle and that I was not just a wimpy girl,” added Flaherty.

After the tournament, Flaherty did just that. At a National Body Bar all-girls tournament in Florida, Flaherty accomplished what she wanted, she placed.

“I placed third in that tournament,” Flaherty said. “When I pinned the girl, I was very excited and felt like I was mentally prepared to get ready for the next year so I could get first place.”

In October, Flaherty joined the wrestling team at Lowndes, as the only female member. Flaherty currently wrestles in the 126-pound weight class and will be participating in the Class AAAAAA traditional area tournament Saturday at Camden County.

As a Viking wrestler, Bailee has successfully wrestled 16 times. An even bigger accomplishment however are the two pins Flaherty has recorded since she began wrestling at LHS.

Flaherty admits that being the only female wrestler took some getting used to.

“At first I was kind of intimidated but I did know some of the wrestlers from the Devil Dogs,” she said. “Of course there were some guys who would not want to wrestle me at first because I was a girl, but they got over it pretty quickly. All of my coaches were supportive. They always treated me like a wrestler and not a girl.”

Flaherty noted that her wrestling coaches at the club including Jason Griner, are all extremely supportive and encouraging of her journey as a wrestler. She also pointed out that her Lowndes coaches, including head coach Spencer Graybeal, are very supportive.

"She's a hard worker and she's doing great job," said Graybeal.

Flaherty’s father Kurt is proud of what his daughter has been able to accomplish and her dedication.

“She’s really committed to wrestling,” he said. “After she leaves school practices she goes to other practices with the Devil Dogs.

“It’s nonstop.”

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