PITTSBORO — Keira Rosenmarkle laughs and blushes a bit when asked whether she’s a trendsetter for girls wrestling in North Carolina.
A blonde bulldog at center circle, the Seaforth freshman is decidedly more timid discussing her mat prowess. After a pause to reflect, she humbly admits that her success has made some waves in the wrestling world.
“I guess at the beginning of the season I was winning most of my matches against the guys and you don’t normally see that around here,” Rosenmarkle said.
Her victory against cross-county rival Northwood put a punctuation mark on her wrestling resume. As her opponent stood up, Rosenmarkle followed. Staying close, she tightened a body lock from behind, lowered her level and dropped straight backwards, her foe helplessly being tossed head over heels into the air and onto his back for the pin. It was the sort of acrobatic, crowd-thrilling throw one might expect from a seasoned freestyle or Greco-Roman grappler.
“That’s how people started to find out about me, through that match,” she said.
In addition to her varsity role with Seaforth, Rosenmarkle has been a pinning machine on the girls tournament trail this year. Indeed, it’s a rare opponent that can go the distance with her. So far this season, she has seized the gold at the Jolly Roger Girls Invitational, the Wakefield Girls Winter Rumble, the Elite Resolution for 15 and Under Girls and the Elite Resolution for High School Girls, the Tiger Holiday Classic and the Red Wolf Girls Invitational.
“My season has been pretty successful,” she said in a classic case of understatement.
Her favorite move?
“Definitely a hip toss,” she said.
Last Thursday, Jan. 26, Rosenmarkle added to her impressive credentials by winning gold at the Mideast Regional Tournament, qualifying her for the NCHSAA’s third annual girls wrestling invitational state tournament.
“She had two pins and a very decisive finals match with a girl that kind of used her head to talk, gave her two black eyes, but the (9-5) score looks closer than what the match was,” said Seaforth coach Ryan Armstrong. “That girl placed second at state last year, so we have high hopes for Keira.”
“That girl” is Sumaiya Aamoud of Jack Britt, this year’s No. 1 seed and champion at the United 8 Conference tournament who was runner-up at the 2022 NCHSAA Invitational at 145. It was the second victory Rosenmarkle claimed over Aamoud this season, along with an 8-3 victory at the Tiger Holiday Classic.
Armstrong held Rosenmarkle out of the state team duals over the past weekend to allow her to recover from her bruising regional tournament and to stay mentally sharp for her state tournament. But she found a way to stay involved. She worked a scoring table while sporting a pair of shiners.
The two-day state tournament will be split between preliminary matches at the RISE Sports Complex in Bermuda Run in Davie County on Friday, with the final rounds taking place at the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday.
“We’re excited to watch her wrestle this weekend,” Armstrong said. “The work she’s putting in in the room, I’m not going to jinx her, but I think her chances are good.”
“Hopefully I’ll place at girls state,” Rosenmarkle said. “I need to work on my mindset — a lot, definitely — before my matches. That’s the main thing. As far as my technique goes, I need to be more aggressive.”
She does not believe she is at a disadvantage wrestling against the boys in terms of upper-body power, but concedes more strength would be beneficial. She is not afraid of stepping onto the mat with a boy, but is looking forward to next season when the NCHSAA will have sanctioned girls teams.
Seaforth started this season with eight girls wrestlers, but the numbers have fallen off as the season progressed. Armstrong expects to put a good squad together next year and get a girls coach.
Rosenmarkle said she has been welcomed into the Seaforth wrestling family.
“I love being on the team. I definitely feel a part of it,” she said. “It’s like I’m one of the guys. They don’t treat me any differently.”
Rosenmarkle doesn’t come from a wrestling family. But her father owns a jiu-jitsu dojo in Wisconsin where she used to hang around.
“One of the coaches there, when I was 9, said you ought to get into wrestling. So I tried it and I’ve been doing it for about five years now,” said Rosenmarkle, who moved to North Carolina in 2020.
Armstrong is happy she landed at Seaforth.
“She’s going to be something. This young lady is beating boys at her weight, if not above her weight,” Armstrong said. “She’s undefeated in girls wrestling this year. We’ve got high hopes for her. We’re going to see her on the podium at states for the girls this year.”