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In a City Known for Boxing, Wrestlers Make History

Updated, 6/17/16: A Philadelphia wrestling program takes tradition to the map and breaks down gender barriers for student athletes.

By Joel Serin-Christ

June 17, 2016

Updated, June 17, 2016

The Philadelphia School Reform Commission adopted a policy Thursday night that allows transgender students to play on athletic teams of their gender choice, either boys’ or girls, as reported on "It's really important for us to acknowledge and respect all children and how they identify themselves," Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. said. "This ensures that they are treated fairly, and that everyone understands the protocols that we should use with respect to children who identify as transgender."

“Wrestling is like life. Wrestling is a struggle, life is a struggle. Make adjustments and move on.”



In 2009, high school math teacher Max Tanenbaum started a wrestling team with three students at Philadelphia’s Mariana Bracetti Academy. Today, it has grown to 25 strong.

In March, 12th grader Edwin Morales became the school’s first wrestler to qualify for the state tournament. And 9th grader Tatyana Ortiz scored a victory for female athletes when she caused the city’s Catholic League to revise its rules to allow boys to wrestle girls in post-season matches. (Bracetti, a public school, sometimes competes against private schools.) In an interview with The Philadelphia Inquirer, Ortiz shrugged off the notoriety. Team first, she says. “I am not alone because they are with me.”

© Photo BONNIE ARBITTIER Edwin Morales was the first student of Tanenbaum's to go to the Pennsylvania state tournament.
© Photo BONNIE ARBITTIER Tatyana Ortiz scored a victory for female student wrestlers.

More from the MBA Wrestling Team

You can check out Mariana Bracetti Academy Wrestling on Facebook for updates and match results from Edwin, Tatyana, and the whole MBA team.


About the Author


Joel Serin­-Christ (Greater Philadelphia ’10) is the web content producer for One Day’s online magazine. He got his start in multimedia storytelling while a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has since applied it to a diverse range of work in education. He lives in Berkeley, California.