NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – Ana Bradshaw laughs.
The attention is new and quite a bit uncomfortable for the Fletcher High School junior and it’s taken some getting used to.
Talking about herself is, well, still a bit challenging, but Bradshaw’s working on it.
If the victories continue to pile up for the Senators’ wrestling star, she’ll have no choice but to talk about herself more often. Last weekend, the 17-year-old is believed to be the first female to have won a Gateway Conference wrestling championship while competing against boys when she earned a pin one minute, 23 seconds in to her final.
“I have thought about that a little bit,” Bradshaw said of younger athletes who she could be inspiring. “I look up to this Olympic wrestler, her name’s Helen [Maroulis]. … Keep following your heart. Keep working.”
Fletcher won the conference championship, topping Lee and Englewood in the team standings, but the bigger story was the performance of Bradshaw, who wrestles at the 106-pound limit.
“Wrestling is a guy-dominant sport, so yeah [it’s big],” Bradshaw said of her accomplishments.
According to the most recent data from the Florida High School Athletic Association, 475 girls wrestled in 2018-19, the highest number on record in the association’s history.
While her recent victory was no doubt her biggest, Bradshaw is far from one-meet flash in the pan. Injuries likely kept Bradshaw’s rise in check before 2020. She suffered a broken arm as a freshman, and then underwent season-ending surgery for a shoulder injury as a sophomore.
But she returned this season healthy and focused and with a goal. Bradshaw said that she wants to “place at states next year.”
Fletcher coach David Harrison said that since Bradshaw has been on the mat and been healthy, her pursuit of a spot at state is realistic.
“I like to tell everybody, she’s not a girl wrestler, she’s a wrestler that’s the way we treat her, that’s the way everybody in this room is treated, there’s no difference, there never has been from Day 1,” he said. “She’s been our starting 106 out the gate and she’s just done nothing but continue to improve and improve.”
At 21-6 on the season, and unbeaten in the handful of matches that she’s had against girls, Bradshaw is ranked 18th in Class 2A in the Orlando Sentinel’s state wrestling rankings.
“She’s done nothing but prove it since her ninth grade year,” Harrison said.