Virginia girl makes history, tackles stereotypes on wrestling mat

Brianna Ta is a student at one of the D.C. area’s most sought after high schools, Thomas Jefferson High School, in Fairfax County, Virginia. She maintains a 4.2 GPA and has her eyes set on the field of computer science.

But when 16-year-old Brianna Ta isn’t hitting the books, she is on the wrestling mat squaring off against boys and girls alike, as crowds shout her name from the bleachers.

“It’s just great when you’re wrestling, and they’re just cheering you on,” Ta said.

At the age of six, Brianna — who has earned the nickname of “the Warrior Princess” — started learning jujitsu. Wanting to try a team sport once she entered high school, she took what she learned in martial arts and applied it as a part of the wrestling team.

“It’s really fun to watch this young lady do her thing,” wrestling coach Charles Phillips said, adding Ta brings a lot of heart to her matches and always gives it her all on the mat.

Spectators at the matches see that in Ta, too, Phillips said, and she instantly becomes a crowd favorite during events.

Sixteen-year-old Ta has risen through the ranks to be listed among Virginia’s best high school wrestlers. (Courtesy Brianna Ta)

This past weekend, Ta made history when she became the first girl from the capital region to compete in the state championships, held in Virginia’s Loudoun County.

For Ta, she said making it to state competition was a dream come true.

“I actually couldn’t believe it, it felt crazy,” Ta said, of the moment she became one of the best high school wrestlers in the state.

She lost her first match, won her second and third, and lost her fourth, all of them against male opponents. She said having the support of her family, friends, teammates and coaches is what motivated her through the matches.

It’s about more than just competing, though.

A humble Brianna might not admit it, but her coach said she is inspiring other girls to take part in what has long been characterized as a “boys’ sport.”

When Ta began there wasn’t an all girls team at T.J., this year Phillips said they have a team with eight girls on it, many of which he said were inspired by Ta.

Ta said she does try to do her part by encouraging other girls to wrestle, and has had girls come up to her and tell her she has inspired them to give the sport a try.

Phillips said Ta is paving the way for more all girls teams in the state, even though he knows some coaches are hesitant about establishing them.

“Some coaches were happy to do it, some coaches — you know, it is still a new thing,” said Phillips.

As a father with daughters, Phillips said coaching a girl wrestler has been a learning experience for him. He recalled wanting to end a fight when Ta injured her nose.

“She looks at me with them little eyes and goes ‘I’m OK, I’m OK’ and I’m like, I don’t know, man, I want to call this,” Phillips said. Ta continued the match, and that’s when Phillips said he told another coach that Ta is destined for the state tournament: “Because she is just got guts.”

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