At most schools, a high school wrestling coach would be drooling at the opportunity to have an accomplished martial arts champion join their team.
But at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, things are a bit more complex. The aforementioned martial arts champion is Amanda Leve, a 16-year-old student at the school. Amanda has competed in and dominated martial arts competitions for years. She trains two times a day, five days a week.
Since she was 14, Amanda has been competing against teenage boys in weight classes two divisions higher than her own. She even gained a bit of internet fame last year when she pinned a handful of male counterparts at Grapplers Quest UFC in Las Vegas.
Simply put, this girl dominates.
Yet despite all of her fighting accomplishments, her high school won’t let her join the wrestling team. She is not allowed to join the team because, according to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, gender differences play a vital role in the development of a mature Christian identity. Allowing a female to join a male wrestling team could compromise that gender identity development.
Amanda’s father, Michael Leve, said the school told him they would make a decision on whether to allow women on the men’s wrestling team in April. But by then, wrestling season will have been over for months.
Michael, for one, couldn’t be more proud of his daughter’ sport of choice.
"As a father you're ok with your little girl doing this? I love it we sit down after tournaments and watch all her fights critique them," he said. "To see the dedication she has makes me proud"
One of the main reasons Amanda wants to join the wrestling team is because she thinks it will increase her chances of earning a college scholarship. Barring an unforeseen change from the school, she will not be on the team this year. There is hope for next year, but that’s got to be an unsatisfying answer for Amanda.
Until then, Amanda will keep busy training and competing in the private competitions she has been for years. From the way she talks, it doesn’t seem like her school’s decision will put a damper on her competitive drive anytime soon.
"When you win it's an incredible feeling, all your hard work paid off, you live for that moment you get your hand raised," she said.
Check out this video of Leve at last year's Grappling Quest: