HomeBensalem TimesJulia Horger is PIAA state champ in girls wrestling

Julia Horger is PIAA state champ in girls wrestling

This Conwell-Egan sophomore has been breaking boundaries in the sport since the age of 7

Giving it her all: Julia Horger takes on an opponent at the PIAA state championships. Photo by Bill Rudick

Almost a decade ago, at Apache Wrestling in Trevose, the beginnings of a future wrestling success story were starting to be told. 

On the sidelines, 7-year-old Julia Horger could usually be found coloring as her cousin Eric and the other boys practiced. Despite appearing to be immersed in her art, Horger was absorbing all aspects of the sport and, simultaneously, falling in love with it. That’s why, when Eric found himself without a partner one week, she jumped at the opportunity to fill in. 

At first, the coach was against it, not because of Horger’s gender, but because Apache pupils usually had to train for a year before participating in physical contact. However, the coach made an exception and ended up seeing true potential in her. 

Early beginnings: Julia Horger began practicing wrestling at the age of 7 with her cousin Eric. Photo by Jodie Horger

From that moment on, Horger’s goal was set: become the best wrestler that she could be. In fact, during her first year at Apache, she earned the Hardest Worker award. 

Now, as a sophomore at Conwell-Egan, this Bensalem resident is doing just that. Recently, in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association’s first year of sanctioning girls wrestling as a sport, Horger won the 106-pound state championship.

“I felt pretty good. There were so many people cheering in the crowds. It was really exciting,” she said. “I practiced every day leading up to it. I kept a healthy diet and I was confident, which I think mostly got myself to win.” 

Proud moment: Julia Horger won the 106-pound state championship. Photo by Bill Rudick

The road to this impressive feat hasn’t been easy. When she was starting out in the sport, Horger often struggled in her role as the only girl at practice. 

“There was a point where I didn’t want to wrestle because a lot of the guys were super mean and didn’t want to wrestle me,” she reflected. “And if the coach made them, they would go super hard on me because they didn’t want to lose to a girl.” 

It crushed Horger’s mom Jodie to see her daughter on the brink of abandoning her passion. In an effort to make wrestling a more enjoyable and inclusive experience, Jodie founded Misfits Girls Wrestling.

Located at 1907 Bensalem Blvd., Misfits is an all-girls wrestling program that welcomes participants from across Pennsylvania, as well as Delaware, Connecticut and New Jersey. 

Girl power: Female wrestlers at Misfits take part in a warm-up. Photo by Jodie Horger

Whether someone is 7 years old (the same age that Horger was when starting out) or in college, a beginner or world champion, all are welcome at Misfits. The girls are paired as best as possible with those in a similar age and weight bracket.

“I think wrestling, there’s a place for everybody,” said Jodie. “Sometimes, you think of an athletic person and you picture somebody all slim and thin. But in wrestling, there’s girls that wrestle 235 pounds and they’re also fit. They’ve been working out for years and they’re animals. But there’s also girls that are 50 pounds. Most of our weight classes start at 50 pounds and end at 235 for our all-girls teams. But there really is a place for everybody.” 

Hard work: Julia Horger believes her confidence and discipline are helping her thrive as a wrestler. Photo by Jodie Horger

When girls from Pennsylvania and beyond expressed fast interest in Misfits, Horger was floored. Having grown up with only one other girl who liked wrestling, it was eye-opening to see just how many others were out there. Many shared Horger’s struggle of not feeling completely welcome with the boys. But thanks to Misfits, they were finally able to feel a sense of camaraderie.   

“When I saw girls wrestling all over the state, I thought it was really cool,” said Horger. “I was surprised.” 

One of the coaches at Misfits is Bridgette Schoultz, Horger’s cousin whom she considers a sister and her biggest idol in wrestling. Schoultz competed in women’s freestyle wrestling at Delaware Valley University, from which she is about to graduate. 

Role model: Julia Horger looks up to her “sister” Bridgette Schoultz, a freestyle wrestler at Delaware Valley University. Photo by Jodie Horger

Though Horger still practices with the boys during the Conwell-Egan season, she has found that, with time, there’s been more acceptance.

“They respected me as they got older,” she said. “So it’s a lot better with the guys now.” 

Looking ahead, Horger has no plans to slow down anytime soon. One week after speaking with The Times, she was set to travel to Estonia to wrestle for Team USA in a competition that welcomes wrestlers from all over the world. 

Horger hopes that such successes are able to inspire more girls to get involved in wrestling. According to her, it’s an experience that offers vital lessons in good sportsmanship, discipline and how to bounce back after losses.

“It’s obviously going to be really hard at first. You’re going to go to your first practice and you’re gonna be dying,” she said. “But you need to stay consistent and keep going to practice, and you’ll see how great the sport really is.” 

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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