sponsored by Asics and Schuylkill Valley Sports
Written by Bill Rudick; published on March 3, 2020
Tiffani Baublitz - Kennard-Dale
After the last boys get their medals and the mats are rolled up and hauled out of the Giant Center after this weekend's PIAA states, the girls will get their chance at the MyHousse/PAUSAW Girls Folkstyle States at Gettysburg High School on Sunday. It's quite likely you'll see Tiffani Baublitz atop the podium at the end.
Baublitz, a junior at Kennard-Dale High School, first entered the girls state tournament back in 2012, when it was still small enough to be held at Susquehanna Township High School.
"I just love wrestling. I love the competitiveness."
"I started wrestling when I was eight, because my older brother wrestled and picked on me, so I wanted to learn how I could beat him up," joked Baublitz. "But I really started to take wrestling seriously after that first time at states. It was incredible to see so many other girls like me wrestling and loving the sport the way I do."
Photo by Nic Cortez, MatFocus.com
It probably didn't hurt that Baublitz walked out of the gym that day with gold, like she has every year she has entered. With double bracketing in many years, Baublitz figures she's won 10 or 11 championships over the years.
"I first started working with Tiffani when she was in seventh grade," said Gino Frank, a coach at the Modern Day Gladiators club. "She is very coachable, and works as hard as anyone you'll find."
The successes kept coming, and Baublitz expanded her wrestling horizons to freestyle, something she'd avoided for years because of fears of the unknown.
"It's kind of funny that it took me so long to get past my fear of trying freestyle," said Baublitz, "because it is my favorite kind of wrestling by far now."
Freestyle wrestling has afforded Baublitz all kinds of opportunities. By winning USAW Women's Nationals in Texas a couple years back, Baublitz earned a spot on the USA Schoolgirl National Team, and competed in Columbia at the Schoolboy/Schoolgirl Pan Am Games.
And people took notice.
"It was surreal," said Baublitz. "It happened so fast and all kinds of things started opening up for me."
Soon, Baublitz was recruited to be part of the first high school team in PA dedicated to girls wrestling at Wyoming Seminary. Though Baublitz appreciated the opportunities Sem provided for girls wrestling, it just wasn't a good fit for her, and she returned home.
"Tiffani never hesitates to try to find the best training opportunities she can," said Frank.
Keeping up with her training locally, mostly at the Red Lion Wrestling Club, Baublitz kept on competing, and kept on succeeding, winning the UWW Cadet Pan Am Championships as well as USMC/USA Wrestling National Championships in Fargo, ND this past summer.
"I just love wrestling," said Baublitz. "I love the competitiveness, and the fact that you so readily see your progress is based on the kind of work you put into it. And it is totally on you—you can't rely on a teammate to carry you. Your teammates are a huge help training in the room, but once you get out there in a match, it's all on you."
Photo by Jim Thrall, MatFocus.com
At Wyoming Seminary, the focus was on freestyle, and women's-only competition. Back home, neither of those was the case. Given that the PIAA is still dragging its feet in sanctioning girls wrestling, if Baublitz wanted to wrestle for her high school team, she'd have to go up against the guys. While she has no qualms going up against the boys, competitively speaking, Baublitz decided against donning a singlet for Kennard-Dale.
"Wrestling boys at my weight (72 kilos) would be too much of chance to get injured," said Baublitz. "I don't want to risk my freestyle season just to wrestle folkstyle for my school."
Baublitz enlisted the help of her coaches at Red Lion WC, Eric and Chris Albright, to make the decision. The coaches pointed her in a different direction—coaching.
"We wanted to make sure we kept her in the room and on the mat with us," said Eric Albright. "We weren't even sure it would be possible to get a junior at another high school a job as an assistant coach. But Red Lion approved her as a junior high coach, and she has been great."
In no time at all, Baublitz took to the position, and the team took to her as well.
"The kids love her," said Albright. "She is close to their age, and they know all about the kind of success she's had. Any success I had in my career may as well be from prehistoric times for them, but they have all seen Tiffani getting it done."
Baubllitz has had a blast in her new role, and it isn't just the kids she's coaching seeing a benefit.
"When you get into teaching technique, and breaking it down for the kids, it sharpens your own" said Baublitz. "And a few times I caught myself correcting kids and realzing that sometimes I do the same thing."
It has been more than that, too.
"Tiffani is about as happy as I've seen her," said Albright. "Coaching seems to have brought back a love for the sport that might have been missing a little bit."
Having banked the knowledge that comes with competing and coaching, Baublitz is going to try her hand at something new yet again—officiating through the freestyle season.
"I really just want to learn wrestling from every angle that is out there," said Baublitz.
Photo by Bill Rudick
Following folkstyle states, it will be time to get back into freestyle mode. And there isn't some local cakewalk to ease her back in. Baublitz is going to be entering the Last Chance Olympic Teams trials at Millersville University at the end of the month, with an aim to earn a slot at the Olympic Trials at Penn State in early April.
"There is no doubt that Tiffani will be in the conversation for World Teams and Olympic teams in the very near future," said Albright. "And she is starting to believe that herself. She is not going to Millersville just for the experience. She, and we, believe she can win it. And still, we think her upside is still well in front of her. She has a very high ceiling she hasn't yet begun to scratch."
There are already colleges expressing interest, but that is a decision Baublitz, who is figuring to major in law or pre-med, is in no hurry to make.
"I still have my senior year of high school ahead of me," said Baublitz. "I want to let the offers come and take my time making the decision that will be best for me."
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