BEATING THE BOYS: Cleveland wrestler breaks boundaries
CLEVELAND, Tenn. (WDEF) — The city of Cleveland is the heart of wrestling here in Tennessee. Either Bradley Central or Cleveland have won the state championship all but three years since 2001.
Just down the road at Cleveland Middle School, a new era of Cleveland wrestling emerges. Her name is Piper, and she’s not about to let any boy stand in her way.
When you ask Piper Fowler what her favorite thing about wrestling is, the answer comes easy.
“Being able to be aggressive, and you know just, beat the boys.”
That’s exactly what she does. She’s undefeated. All of her opponents have been boys. Most of them she’s pinned. Some of them, even state champions.
“I have heard people say that it was going to be an easy match. Since I’m a girl, [they think] I’m not strong,” Fowler said. “[They think] It’s just a girl I’m going against. It’s going to be an easy match.”
Fowler says everything she needs to say on the mat.
“I ended up pinning the kid in the first period,” Fowler said.
“I would say she’s the best, without a doubt, 100 percent. I’ve never seen a girl wrestle at her ability,” said Coach Eric Mountain, who’s coached Cleveland Middle’s wrestling team for 15 years.
However, wrestling wasn’t the original path for Piper.
“At first my parents signed me up for dance, and they signed my twin brother up for wrestling,” Fowler remembers. But even at four years old, she knew what her passion was. “I begged my parents to do wrestling.”
“She asked to wrestle and I said no,” her dad, Zack Fowler, said. “I guess I just didn’t want my daughter out there with the boys at first.”
“We gave in and she definitely proved that she deserved to be out there on the mat with the boys,” her mom, McKenzie Fowler, said.
Zack Fowler says Piper’s twin brother Cy is her biggest fan.
“I was surprised but I was kind of supportive of it. I thought it was cool to have a sister wrestling,” Cy said.
The Fowlers moved to Cleveland in July. After a bit of adjusting, Piper fits right in. She’s Cleveland Middle’s first ever female wrestler — and the boys on the team even voted her team captain.
“She’s a wrestler, and she’s been treated like a wrestler. She’s one of us,” Mountain said.
“She’s proven that if you have the desire and you have the work ethic, you can do what you want to do,” McKenzie Fowler said.
The next item on Piper’s to-do list? Start an all girls wrestling team at Cleveland High School.
“I hope that she’s really encouraging a lot of girls to get out there and do what they want to do, no matter what anyone else thinks,” Zack Fowler said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a guy. It doesn’t matter what other people think or say or do towards you. Just go out there and do it, and do your best,” Piper Fowler said.
Piper finished the season 24-0 in the 130 weight class. Her brother Cy lost only one of his matches, and that was to a two-time state champion.
Piper hopes to rally some other Cleveland Middle School girls in eighth grade so they all can start a girls team together once they get to Cleveland High School in 2021.