FAIRMOUNT CITY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Iris Reitz was told she couldn’t wrestle.
“You’re a girl,” the then 9-year-old was rebuffed. “Girls don’t wrestle.”
While most in her position would simply accept that explanation and move on, Iris is not like most.
It made her want to hit the mat even more. It made her determined to show her mettle as a wrestler.
Her father, Jeremy Reitz, was one – and one of the best. He won a state championship at Brookville High School and went on to wrestle at Clarion University.
Her brother, Manny, was also one. Iris would tag along to his practices, longing to grapple just like him.
It seems telling Iris Reitz, now a 12-year-old sixth-grader at Redbank Valley Intermediate School, that she can’t do something is the surest way to motivate her to do it.
“Usually with her, anything she’s told she can’t do, she tries really hard to prove you wrong,” said Iris’ mother, Alicia Reitz.
Iris finally won the debate, and it didn’t take long for to assert herself in the sport. She was a natural and quickly developed a passion for wrestling.
“I definitely loved it, the first night I went to pratice,” she said. “My favorite part is that you only get out of it what you put into it. So it’s up to me to work as hard as I can at practices to be as good as I can be.”
Iris has become pretty darn good in a short period of time.
She recently finished second at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships in the 108-pound weight class at the Petersen Events Center in Pittsburgh.
(Iris Reitz stands on the podium after finishing second at the Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling Championships at the end of March)
Iris notched two pins to get to the finals, but her run was stopped in the championship bout.
“I did think that I had a good chance to get to the finals,” Iris said. “My goal was just to at least finish in the top five. It was really nerve wracking. I was nervous because it was such a huge arena and they had spotlights coming down on you.
“It was definitely not my best wrestling (in the final),” she added. “But I tried my hardest. I came up a little bit short. That just means I have to practice more for next year.”
Iris said she plans on wrestling at the junior high level next year. After that, she said she’ll just see what happens.
“If I continue to like it,” she said, “I’m going to try and do it through high school.”
Iris takes her craft seriously.
Also a standout soccer player, Iris is always looking for ways to improve.
“I’m definitely really hard-working,” she said. “I can take criticism well, so I just apply all my corrections to my wrestling. I definitely want to get better at my technique. I want to make it almost perfect.”
Iris, though, is just an enamored with her other interests as she is with wrestling.
She enjoys scoring goals on the soccer pitch just as much as getting pins on the wrestling mat. As a striker, Iris uses her blazing speed to beat the defense down the field and her strong and accurate leg to score goals in bunches.
Iris could be a force to be reckoned with for the Redbank Valley girls soccer team in the coming years.
Her family also owns two Quarter Horses — Leo and Snickers — and she loves riding and competing with them in barrel racing.
Iris has been doing that for nearly three years.
“I definitely enjoy just spending all that time with the horse,” Iris said. “Petting them and grooming them.”
That makes for a busy schedule for the Reitz family, which also features another daughter, Livy, 8, and son, Bridger, 5. Bridger is just now getting involved with wrestling.
Iris is always on the move.
“She does wrestling in the winter and then she does soccer in the fall and right now in the spring,” Alicia said. “And then she got the first horse during COVID and she started riding with friends. Then she got into barrel racing and that’s kind of a year-round thing.
“She’s a hard worker. She did ballet and tap and jazz — where she started was with dance. She has really good footwork and that makes her a good dribbler in soccer and quick in wrestling.”
Iris said she couldn’t chose just one sport — that would be just too hard to do. She can’t give one up, especially wrestling.
She fought too hard to get on the mat. She’s too determined to buck the stereotype of what a wrestler should be.
“I like them all,” Iris said. “I like it because you get to see all your hard work pay off.”