High schooler Amanda Leve fights Philadelphia archdiocese to wrestle

Amanda Leve is trying to change the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's bylaws to let her on the wrestling team at Archbishop Ryan High School. Credit: Provided
Amanda Leve is trying to change the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s bylaws to let her on the wrestling team at Archbishop Ryan High School. Credit: Provided

Amanda Leve isn’t looking for a boyfriend. She’s just going out there to win a wrestling match.

The Northeast 16-year-old has approached the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to let her wrestle for Archbishop Ryan’s inaugural team this year. The archdiocese has said officials are reviewing the situation, but bylaws state wrestling is a full-contact sport open to boys only.

“I think the archdiocese is being stubborn about it,” Amanda told Metro today. “I want to be on the team. I want to represent my high school.”

When she heard the team was forming, the high school junior thought she’d have no problem trying out. According to her high school’s handbook, a policy of nondiscrimination says any student has rights to “activities made available at the school.”

“That’s why I was confused,” she said. “I figured I could join.”

Amanda is already an accomplished grappler, having practiced jiu jitsu for the last five years and competing in tournaments around the country. She frequently spars with boys — many bigger than herself.

Amanda Leve is trying to change the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's bylaws to let her on the wrestling team at Archbishop Ryan High School. Credit: Provided
Amanda Leve is trying to change the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s bylaws to let her join the wrestling team at Archbishop Ryan High School. Credit: Provided

“She has the experience. She’s very physically fit, very strong,” said her father Mike. “She’s no tiny little girl who has no experience.”

An archdiocese official told Amanda and her father the answer to whether she can play is not a yes or a no, Mike said, but the policy can be discussed at an April meeting.

Even if his daughter won’t be able to make the team this year, Mike said, they will fight for her right. “It’s not going to go away.”

In a statement from the archdiocese, the decision to not allow girls in wrestling and football ensures “an appropriate playing environment that is safe for all participants. They also reflect the Catholic teaching that gender differences are important and play a role in the development of mature Christian identity while serving the distinct differences between male and female athletes.”

The statement also said “the situation will be reviewed moving forward” and that there is “no definitive timetable for a final decision,” but that “all possible factors will be taken into account to ensure that sports programs in our high schools foster an enjoyable and safe atmosphere to supplement academic pursuits and provide for proper human formation with Christian dignity and maturity.”

While Mike said he respects the bylaws, “it’s 2013” he said.

“Women and men compete today,” he said. “This is her future. She wants to be a professional fighter. That’s what she’s training to do. She should be allowed to participate. I know it’s contact but when a boy gets in front of her, he knows it’s a wrestling match. Amanda says, ‘I’m not looking for a boyfriend. I’m going out there to win a match.’ It’s nothing more than a wrestling match.”

Amanda started an online petition, Let Girls Wrestle! Equality for Amanda Leve, which was up to more than 1,100 signatures as of late afternoon today.

“It’s not fair that being a girl denies me the opportunity to compete at school despite having years of experience in mixed-martial arts,” Amanda wrote. “I’m an athlete … and I deserve to be treated fairly.”

Follow Metro Philadelphia on Twitter: @metrophilly

Follow City Editor Christina Paciolla on Twitter: @cpaciolla

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