Athlete of the Week: Brenda Conley

SYLVANIA, OH (WTOL) - Brenda Conley's wrestling career started out in an unlikely way.

"I needed to get involved with the school, so one of my friends told me, 'I guarantee you won't come out and try wrestling. We need more people on the team,'" she said. "So last year I came out and I've been here ever since."

A bet took Brenda from Southview mat maid to wrestler. She credits the coaches for why she came back for another season.

"The energy in the room and the coaches most definitely this year," Conley said. "If it wasn't for the coaches, I don't think I would've stayed. They've really pushed this team and they're really building up the program and I'm proud to be a part of it."

As you can imagine, Conley gets her fair share of looks for being a female in what is viewed as a predominately male sport.

"At meets they're all like 'Ooo it's a girl,' and everyone's scared to get beat by a girl or they don't want to hurt the girl, but once you step out there on the mat, it's the true equalizer," Conley said.

It was also a first for first-year head coach Brian Helminiak.

"I had never coached a girl before. This is my first year at Southview coaching, and I showed up and she was here day one," he said.

Helminiak says Conley's determined attitude and work ethic have helped her grow, and led to her first win just a few weeks ago.

"That's kind of our motto: 'Get your hand raised.'  She's put that down on her goal sheet and she's been working hard for that for months now, and to see that come to fruition, it was awesome," Helminiak said. "She went the whole match and the whole crowd and the whole gymnasium went nuts, everyone cheered for her and everyone supported her, kind of like an underdog story. It was awesome."

Another one of Conley's goals is to get better every day.

"Just to keep practicing, to keep striving to do better, to work on more takedowns most definitely," she said.

Besides her work ethic, Helminiak sees the impact she's making on others as well.

"We wrestled Bowsher and they have a girl that wrestled as well. She was a little hesitant, and I think she saw Brenda go out there, and Brenda wrestled hard and did well. She didn't win her match, but she wrestled well, and it's courageous to do that. I think she inspired the Bowsher girl to go out there and do that," he said.

That inspiration spans beyond fellow females.

"I think she motivates our guys because it's easy to get beat and get down on yourself, but they look over and see Brenda and she never stops. It's definitely motivating to keep going even when you're defeated sometimes," Helminiak said.

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