APHS Female Wrestler Makes History

APHS Female Wrestler Makes History
Posted on 03/18/2019

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Don’t let her petite frame and deep dimples fool you. As Asbury Park’s first female wrestler, Quanizja “Didda” Legagneur is making her mark in a sport traditionally dominated by males.

 “She’s tough,” Head Wrestling Coach Matthew Ardizzone said of the 16-year-old sophomore.

Didda is part of an increasing number of high school girls opting to try their hands at wrestling. As a result of the recent surge, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) voted last year to sanction state championship wrestling for girls. Their decision makes New Jersey the 12th state in the nation to give girls their own place on the mat.

 “Mr. Provo (Alexander Provenza) got me interested,” she said of her reason for giving the sport a try. “He was my favorite teacher at the time.”

 Although she’s only been defending her place on the mat in the 95-pound weight class for two years, she’s quite comfortable and seems unfazed by wrestling in front of loud, passionate crowds.

“He asked me if I wanted to wrestle, so I tried it out,” said Didda, who participated in her first match in the eighth grade. “I was stronger than all of the kids because half of the boys didn’t hit their growth spurt yet.”

Despite her instant connection and affinity to the sport, she dropped out because of a coaching change during her transition from middle to high school. As a result, she sat out her freshman year.

“I wasn’t going to stick with it, but I’m glad I did,” said Didda, noting that Coach Ardizzone kept encouraging her to come back.

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Although Ardizzone has been coaching wrestling for 18 years, he said this is his first time coaching a girl who is as successful as Didda -- on and off the mat.

“Her work ethic and love for the sport motivates her,” he said, noting that she’s a B student. “She definitely wants to go out there and win every match she’s in.”

 The challenge this year though was that many of her male teammates in her weight class dropped out.

 “She was beating them,” Coach Ardizzone said. “It happens sometimes, but what happens in the wrestling room stays there.

 “Her carefree attitude is her most positive characteristic,” Ardizzone added. “She always stays even-keeled and ready for the next moment. She never gets too high or low and that’s important in life and in wrestling.”

 This year, Didda has earned several accolades including placing second in the Lady Buc Classic, and third in the South Regional Championships. She was forced to wrestle in the 100-poound weight class because there were not enough 95-pounders to compete. For some, that would have been a disadvantage, but not for Didda. She placed fifth at the NJSIAA 2019 Girls Wrestling State Tournament in Atlantic City.

The second oldest of five siblings, wrestling runs in the family. Didda has inspired her younger sister Amequa, not her three brothers, to take up the sport. Amequa’s in eighth grade. When Didda is not wrestling, you can find her on the Blue Bishops Varsity Cheerleading squad, or pitching or playing shortstop of the Lady Bishops Varsity Softball team.

 In her spare time, she enjoys watching Vampire Diaries and The Foster on Netflix and eating food, especially Chinese. Her favorite food is Buffalo wings. But if she’s cooking, then she prefers fried chicken, noting that she can do it in a deep fryer or skilled. It’s no wonder she wants to be a chef when she grows up.

 “I’m my own role model,” she said. “I don’t look up to anyone because I don’t want to be like anybody.”

 As a former wrestler, football player and standout baseball player for Randolph High School, Ardizzone knows what it takes to succeed. After high school, he received a baseball scholarship to attend the University of Delaware.

“In the sport of wrestling, you have to be coachable, have the right mindset and work ethic,” said Ardizzone, who was drafted in 1998 by the New York Mets, and did a stint with the San Diego Padres. “It’s not just for sports, it’s a preparation for life.”

Ardizzone credits Middle School Wrestling Coach Provenza for cultivating the interest in Didda and unearthing her raw talent.

 

“He has done a tremendous job in partnership with Beat the Streets in creating a feeder program for the district,” Ardizzone said. “He’s the one that got her started.” But Ardizzone hopes to be the one to keep her going.

For Athletic Liaison Dr. Walter Barrett, watching the transformation of the Asbury Park High School wrestling program is pure joy.

“What I see in Coach Ardizzone is what was instilled in him as a high school wrestler. He’s instilling the courage and tenacity to teach her that she can succeed in the sport,” said Barrett, a former wrestling standout. “I look back at when I first met him (Ardizzone) 26 years ago. He has used his experiences to transform Asbury Park into a successful program, not only for boys, but girls as well.”

Quanizja “Didda” Legagneur, is evidence that good things come in small packages.

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