A Girl’s Wrestling Team? In Passaic?


Hailey Ward

Ladies, have you ever watched WWE and thought, “hmm, I would like to do that” but felt like you couldn’t because you’re a girl?  Well, here is your time to shine! You probably can’t join the World Wrestling Entertainment just yet, but you can join Passaic Girls’ Wrestling Team.

Although he was not predominantly a wrestler in high school and college, Mr. Lightfoot is the current assistant coach of the boys’ wrestling team and has helped to lead them to several wins.

While attending high school in Ohio, he wrestled for one year and also played several other sports including football. After graduating high school, one of his former teachers remembered his excellent sports performances and wanted him to coach the boys’ wrestling team. He was very good with kids and simply learned how to teach wrestling as time went on. This also led to the opportunity for him to coach football.

When he moved to New York City, he coached wrestling again at a school called Grand Street Campus. John Zarcone, one of Lightfoots’ friends, was building a team from scratch and asked Lightfoot to coach them. Coming from nothing, they became New York City champions.

From all of his experiences, he learned how to better communicate and connect with students from a variety of backgrounds. He is now hoping to share that experience, and those wins, with an all-girls wrestling team here in Passaic. 

Check out the interview below: 

What made you want to pivot your focus on the girl’s wrestling team? 

“Well, when I taught in Newark, my vice principal would always ask me to get kids together to carry these big heavy boxes, up three flights of stairs. I would be in the classroom and would always hear, “Are girls allowed to do it?” It really struck me to hear them ask that. It has opened my eyes to see that girls are really looking for a challenge; physical challenges, like sports. It was a perception of where they were allowed to be and they felt like they needed permission to do it. At this time, girls’ wrestling was just starting to become a thing. It made me think that with my background and reading the scenario; it felt like a good thing to take on.” 

Do you think that having girls participating in a combat sport will become controversial? 

“I think that phase is over with. I think every hesitation with allowing girls and every controversy…IDK, I get very political with how I feel about it. But every controversy really shouldn’t be a controversy. I mean give people the opportunity to do whatever that they want to do. If it’s not controversial for two boys or men to be able to do a combat sport, why would it be controversial for girls?” 

What are the requirements for being a part of the girl’s wrestling team? 

“There is only one requirement and that is WANTING to be there! If you want to be there, you are welcomed. It doesn’t matter if you have never did it before. Doesn’t matter if you haven’t wrestled before….You are welcomed. For girls who came out last year, wrestling was the first sport that they have ever tried. You just have to come every day and focus on getting better. When you come into wrestling, especially in the state of New Jersey, you are going to come across bumps so you can’t be afraid of not becoming an instant success.”

When you are coaching your wrestling team, do you see potential in your students? 

“Yes. As I said, the thing that I really learned when I coached in Brooklyn, this was for both football and wrestling, is that when you focus on making kids better instead of just trying to recruit kids that are already good, you become better yourself as a coach and you become confident with the ability to take any kid and mold them into a good athlete. So, if the athlete wants to be there and you as a coach are doing things to grow your athletes… Yes, you can make anyone successful.”

What do you think would be the most challenging aspects for the girls who join the team?

“The sport itself is very challenging. It is physically the most demanding sport there is. But it is a challenge that can be overcome. But the most challenging aspect is that I have girls who come and are eager to start but then their parents tell them that they can not do the sport. Trying to find out why and understand where the family is coming from and find a solution, it gets to the point where it’s like done…don’t ask me anymore. You know, in the parents’ mind girls don’t do this.”

The boys wrestling team that you currently coach, how do they feel about the new girl’s division that you have started? 

“They’re pretty excited about it. This past year, we had a “coed program.” We only had one team, and it was kind of by force…like we had to do it that way. But by working through it with the head wrestling coach, Ryan Corbosiero, it became an awesome experience. The guys are very supportive.”