Palm Harbor Wrestler Breaking Barriers
Wrestler breaking barriers on the mat at Palm Harbor University High School
In Pinellas County, one family is tied to the sport of wrestling and to the changes destined to redefine it.
“There you go! You’re out! You’re out! There! Hips up! Hips up!" Steve Hall, the assistant coach at Palm Harbor University High School, can be heard shouting in the gym.
The techniques can be tricky, but the proper execution is always expected on this team.
“You are a wrestler. If you want to be a wrestler, be a wrestler,” Hall said. “You are on the mat and we are going to wrestle just as hard.”
When Hall says "we are going to wrestle just as hard,” he is implying - just as hard as the boys.
Hall had tears in his eyes while speaking with WFLA and had to shoo his daughter from the room.
“You are going to make me cry,” he said. “Don’t. She has got to go away. One second. You got to go away.”
Yes, you read that correctly - his daughter.
“The things she has gone through to get where she is it amazes me every day,” he said, explaining why he got emotional.
His daughter Hannah Hall is only a sophomore. Yet she has an overall record of 60 wins and 10 losses in her high school wrestling career. She earned 46 of those wins wrestling against the boys.
So how does she handle it?
“Wrestling is just wrestling,” Hannah said. “It is the same for everyone. It is just the mentality of everyone. Some people are more committed than others and, if you love it, you are not going to let anything stand in your way.”
She is awake before the sun daily, running through the neighborhood and perfecting her form in the garage. Her father, who is also one of her coaches, transformed it into a makeshift wrestling room.
"We have a throwing dummy," Hannah said. "I will go out there with my dad and any positions I need to work on, he will help me with those."
Hannah is the only girl on the varsity team at Palm Harbor University High School. She says she knew she wanted to wrestle when she was in fourth grade but it took her father nearly two years to let her do it.
“Oh, it was a daily thing,” Hannah said. “I asked him basically every single day.”
“I knew that when I put her on the mat, kids were going to wrestle her harder and they were going to make sure they did not lose to the girl," her dad said.
He had a point. The boys actually won every match against Hannah for more than one year.
“This kid had his friends on the side of the mat saying, ‘Don’t lose to the girl,’” recalled Hannah. “And I was just kind of done losing, just something clicked for me.”
Now, Hannah is on a mission. Her daily routine consists of a trip to the gym after practice. She is often there until 9 o’clock in the evening.
“I still have to get my homework done so it is a lot of just time management,” she told us.
Her dedication is different because her heart is set on accomplishing a dream.
“I want to go to college for wrestling and then, hopefully, go to the 2024 Olympics,” she said.
According to the Florida High School Athletic Association, 192 girls wrestled at the high school level in the state of Florida in 2014. The number has since risen dramatically and currently rests at 626 female wrestlers.
“It feels great knowing I am helping other girls come along but, at the same time, everyone has a part in it. Everyone is paving the way for everyone else,” said Hannah.
She is humble but she is bold when it comes to proving she belongs on the wrestling mat.
“As a guy, you can be a good wrestler and, if you are good enough, the sport will remember you. But you didn’t really change the sport. With girls, they have the ability now to change the way that the sport is being viewed and it is a really cool thing," Steve Hall said.