Young ENC female wrestlers break gender barriers

WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – “It felt surreal.” That is how Amy Gilliams described walking into a wrestling match filled with men, with so few women teams.

Zainab Hijawi, Zedya Mitchell, and Amy Gilliams created the first women’s wrestling team at South Central High School and marked their places in wrestling championships.

Gilliams says what happens before a match is crucial to the outcome.

“Emotionally getting ready is knowing that you came to win and if you try your best and do your best, you are a winner in your head. Physically, you could warm up with a champion’s bounce, that’s what my coach calls it,” Gilliams shared.

Hijawi was not only the first female but also the first hijabi wrestler to compete at the state level.

“It’s very different for me to break a cultural barrier with wrestling,” Hijawi said.

After watching her brother wrestle, she fostered her love and interest throughout the years.

Mitchell was raised under a national MMA fighter father, who has been her inspiration and personal coach, Zed Mitchell.

All three pointed to perseverance as the key to their achievements, especially facing many stereotypes and stigmas being the pioneers throughout their journey.

“Keep going, try it out, don’t give up if you get tired because it might turn out as something you enjoy doing and you might love it and might leave an impact on somebody else,” Mitchell explained.