SILVERDALE, Wash. (NNS) -- Women have been making naval history since the early 1900s when Congress established the Navy Nurse Corps and since 2004, when the armed forces first hosted women's Freestyle wrestling in the annual Armed Forces Championship (AFC).
Operations Specialist 3rd Class Abril Ramirez, an El Paso, Texas, native stationed aboard USS Halsey (DDG 97) was the first female Sailor to wrestle for the All-Navy Sports (ANS) wrestling team Feb. 20.
Ramirez credits wrestling as part of her reason for serving, but had to wait through mission obligations to pursue her passion for wrestling.
"I decided to join the military so I could use the GI-Bill to pay for my school and I could wrestle as a walk on," said Ramirez. "When I found out the Navy had an All-Navy wrestling team, that really pumped me up. I grew motivated when I got to my command and I started working out to prepare myself so I could try out, but qualifications as a new Sailor and a deployment kept me from wrestling the first two years."
Armed Forces Sports caters its wrestling styles to the Olympic styles of Greco-Roman and Freestyle wrestling. Women have their own wrestling divisions within the armed forces. The Army sponsors its World Class Athlete Program (WCAP), allowing soldiers to train year-round at Fort Carson, Colorado, near the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The Navy held its camp, beginning Jan. 20, at Naval Base Kitsap (NBK) leading into the 2016 AFC held at the NBK Bremerton Fitness Complex.
"I haven't wrestled in over three years so I'm starting to get more knowledgeable on it," said Ramirez during the second week of camp. "We're here to dedicate ourselves to wrestling full time, so on our off time I'm able to do things that will improve my performance on the mat."
Being the only female on the team, Ramirez did every practice, drill, and wrestling match with her male counterparts.
"The guys are great," Ramirez said. "They keep me motivated, they teach me things I need to improve on. The guys don't treat me any different than the other guys so that's good, it makes me more comfortable. I like working with the guys, it makes me more aggressive, something I always had a problem with. Everything from my technique, to my grips have improved from training with men because of their strength advantage."
Ramirez, along with every other prospective ANS athlete, applied with the endorsement of her chain of command and medical clearance.
"I am very thankful to my command and everyone that made this happen, because now I only have to focus on improving and pursuing my passion," said Ramirez.
Wrestlers often attribute their work ethic carrying over to other aspects of their lives as noticed by Ramirez's chain of command.
"OS3 Ramirez is an outstanding Sailor," said Lt. Major Singleton II, operations officer aboard Halsey. "She consistently excels as a member of Halsey's Combat Information Team. We were confident that she would perform well as a member of the Navy's wrestling team, but she even exceeded our highest expectations. She has set a new standard for excellence and we are proud that she was able to represent USS Halsey and the Navy."
Operational commitments are paramount for Sailors as Ramirez's twin sister was also unable to wrestle due to a deployment with USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
"My sister and I started wrestling our freshman year in high school," said Operations Specialist Seaman Genesis Ramirez, also from El Paso, Texas. "We were obsessed with the sport. During our free time we were in the mat room. That means before school, during lunch and after practice. Wrestling was pretty much our life."
Dan Gable, an American Olympic gold medalist, is credited with saying, more enduringly than any other sport, wrestling teaches self control and pride. Some have wrestled without great self control-none have wrestled without pride.
"I put a lot of effort in everything I'm passionate about," said Abril Ramirez. "That way I am never left with regrets and make people proud of my work and accomplishments. Wrestling is one of the main things I'm so passionate about, I strive to put as much dedication to the sport as I can."
Abril Ramirez earned silver at the 2016 AFC after wrestling against Army Sgt. Sally Robers, a Colorado Springs, Colorado, native, Army WCAP athlete and 2003, 2005 U.S. World Team member.
"I want to leave a mark in women's wrestling and although I was the first female on the All-Navy wrestling team I don't think it's enough," said Abril Ramirez. "Continuing to set milestones and earning Olympic gold is what I am striving for."
The story was released in conjunction with USA Wrestling declaring March 5 - 13 Women's Wrestling Week and March 8 being International Women's Day.
For more information on All-Navy Sports, visit: http://www.navyfitness.org/all-navy-sports/.
For more information on Armed Forces Sports, visit: http://armedforcessports.defense.gov/.
For more information on USA Wrestling, visit: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Wrestling.
For more news from Navy Public Affairs Support Element, visit www.navy.mil/local/npasehq/.