From the wrestling mat to pageant stages to NBC's "Weekend Today "show, Arielle Rosmarino is not a girl who likes to sit still.
By Jim Reedy
The Roanoke Times
Arielle Rosmarino is a girl of many talents.
She dances. She sings. She competes in junior pageants. Last year, she parlayed a newfound knack for blowing great pink bubbles with her chewing gum into a trip to New York City and an appearance on NBC's "Weekend Today "show.
She is an athlete as well, making her no different than thousands of other 13-year-old girls. But here, she deviates from the prim and girly. Arielle is a wrestler.
For three years, she has sweated and grunted and thrashed around on rubber mats, working vigorously to pin and avoid being pinned by an overwhelmingly male series of opponents.
"It's a different side of my personality, "she said.
"It certainly kind of doesn't go with the typical 13-year-old-girl persona, that's for sure, "her mother, Tabitha Cain, said at the family's Southwest Roanoke County home. "And it definitely doesn't mesh with ... being on stage and all that other jazz, but at the same time, it fits well with her personality."
Arielle attacks most any activity she tries with zeal, so it follows that an aggressive sport such as wrestling would be her favorite -- even as she wears evening gowns and heels as Miss Teen America's Commonwealth of Virginia Junior Teen.
"She's very, very competitive, "A.C. Burke said after coaching Arielle last year at Glenvar Middle School. "She wrestled her heart out."
Arielle's interest in the sport was sparked nearly three years ago when her family, then living in Winchester, received a flyer in the mail from the local recreation department. It offered two winter sports: cheerleading and wrestling.
"I didn't want to be a cheerleader, "Arielle recalled, "so I asked mom if I could try the wrestling thing."
Her parents agreed to let her give a try. She was the only girl in the program that year.
"I was kind of scared, because the guys, they weren't used to wrestling with a girl, "Arielle said. "I was always the oddball when we got partners."
But when that initial nervousness receded, Arielle grew to love wrestling. She has always preferred individual sports -- she runs track as well -- so her success isn't dependent on the performance of her teammates. "I can be in control, "she said.
At 11 and 12, Arielle's male opponents weren't too much stronger or more powerful, but that began to change last year after her family moved to Roanoke County and she began competing for Glenvar at 120 pounds.
Burke -- a self-described "old school "coaching veteran of 34 years, including a stint as head coach of the Glenvar High varsity team -- said Arielle is among several girls he's had on the wrestling team in the past few years.
They are usually at a strength disadvantage, he said. "You know, it's the natural way."
But Arielle handled the challenges well. "She stayed very positive with that, "Burke said. "She was an integral part of the team."
This year Arielle plans to continue wrestling as a freshman at Glenvar High, where there is room on the team for anyone who wants to practice hard. She also will follow the progress of the nascent U.S. Girls Wrestling Association, whose Virginia tournament she attended in the spring.
"I'll support her 100 percent, "Cain said, "if that's what she wants to do and it's not hazardous to her health."
She stopped short. "I mean, I guess sometimes I think this is hazardous to her health, "she said with a laugh.
"And your health, "Arielle said, chiming in from the couch.
"And mine, "her mom admitted, "because I don't breathe when she's wrestling. Good thing they only have two-minute matches or I'd be passed out for sure."