Xylia Warner did not initially set out to become a wrestler. The 2020 W.F. West High School graduate was just determined to prove a point.
“I was a girl who was told she couldn’t wrestle, that it was a boys’ sport,” said Warner. “I refused to accept that. I had to be better (and) with every victory I had against a male opponent my obsession and love for the sport only grew.”
After a standout high school career with the Bearcats, which included a regional championship, back-to-back state semifinal appearances and a pair of top-five placings at the state tournament, Warner will now take that passion to Corban University as a member of the Warriors’ inaugural recruiting class for the women’s wrestling program.
“I am a little nervous,” said Warner who placed third in the 140-pound classification at this year’s state tournament, “but extremely excited to be a part of this new program and (I) look forward to watching it grow.”
Overcoming nerves, however, is something hardly new to Warner.
Ask her what some of the most memorable mat moments have been over the last six years she has competed in the sport and you will not hear her describe one of her several victories at state. Instead, she details her first-ever match in middle school.
Due to a light turnout of females, as it was usually the case during her initial year in the sport, Warner’s first match was against a boy.
“I had never wrestled aside from my training at practice. I was nervous and it showed,” Warner said. “The boy I was wrestling made it very clear as soon as that whistle blew that he wanted to make an example of me. He could have finished the match at any point, instead, he decided to take it all three rounds continuously picking me up and slamming me into the mat as hard as he could over and over and over.”
With every takedown, Warner could feel the air escaping her lungs. She was in pain but kept battling, eventually losing by pin in the third round before stepping off the mat hurt and embarrassed.
“I walked over to my mom and she said, ‘Never let a boy get his hands on you like that again, or you’re done,’” Warner recalled. “So, I didn’t. Although I wrestled boys after and lost some, it was never a one-way battle. I stood my ground and I trained hard. I wrestled boys my entire middle school career. I think I might have wrestled two girls. Although this doesn’t seem like a moment that one would normally announce as their ‘eureka,’ it was mine. I may have lost but strangely enough, I had felt that this was the sport for me. It felt right. I used to think fastpitch was my sport but since that first match, wrestling has claimed my heart.”
Warner will next wrestle at Corban for new head coach Stryder Davis. The Warrior women’s wrestling program was added last fall and becomes just the fourth full-time member of the Cascade Collegiate Conference to add the sport, with the squad’s first season of competition slated for 2020-21.
“Wrestling is pretty aggressive to most but to me, it’s thrilling and amazing. It takes everything you’ve got and more,” Warner said. “You remember every loss with frustration, determination, and the desire to improve and recall every win with gratitude to those who pushed you to get that far. Then there is that satisfaction at the end of that win because you know that although you could have given up from the pain and exhaustion, you pushed through it and won. It strips you to your core. Whatever you put in; you’ll get back ten-fold. That is what I love.”
The biggest challenge for Warner before she heads to college is simply finding the time and space to workout.
“It’s been stressful. I love being active, I run nightly and during the day. Lifting and practicing my moves at home with my dad is also a way I keep busy,” Warner said. “This summer will be busy and hectic. Wrestling is something that is constantly on my mind. I want to be great and successful, so no matter what the cost I’ll train and work endlessly, and push myself to the limit because in order to achieve your dreams you have to be willing to work for it.”
In addition to all the hard work she plans on dedicating to the mat in the future, Warner also plans to put in equal amounts towards continuing to be an ambassador and champion the sport of wrestling to females.
“I will promote girls wrestling all my life, that is a guarantee,” Warner said. “I want to see it explode and show the world our hard work and power.”