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Tonawanda’s Crouse Signs Wrestling National Letter of Intent

Bailey Crouse, a Tonawanda High School senior, became the first female wrestler in the history of the Warrior program to sign a National Letter of Intent to wrestle in college for Gannon University women’s wrestling team.

“It means a lot to me. It really does. Wrestling has always been a big part of my life,” Crouse said. “I get to continue doing it for at least a couple more years. So I’m really happy about it.”

It was the perfect way to cap off a memorable season that saw Crouse win a state championship at the inaugural NYSPHSAA Girls Invitational that was held at Niagara County Community College in February.

While this is a milestone moment in Crouse’s life, it’s also a huge step for girls wrestling in general. Crouse is also just the second female from WNY to sign and intent to grapple in college.

Crouse’s signing sends the message to other girls that if you put in the work wrestling can be a vehicle to college for you too.

Bailey’s signing also helps girls wrestling as a whole gain a greater level of respect and hopefully wipe away the mindset of a girl wrestler being a novelty.

“For sure. For girls to have the opportunity to wrestle in college on an all girls team it gives them the sense that they’re included on their own team,” she said. “So they don’t have to worry about being the only girl in the team. So I feel like it brings us all together. “

Transferring to Tonawanda this season, Crouse came to the Warriors with a wealth of experience that included four seasons as a member of the Sweet Home Panthers varsity team where she wrestled with her older brother, Dominic.

“My time at Sweet Home was a great experience. Having a spot on the varsity lineup as an 8th grader was unheard of for a female wrestler and we made it happen,” Bailey said. “Getting to be on a team with my brother Dominic was also very special to me, as I have always and will always continue to look up to him. Coach Don Lilly, Coach Patrick Mix, and Coach Cory Mitchum were a huge part of my high school career and were always by my side.”

Forever thankful for what her Panther wrestling family did for her to get her to this day, Crouse is just a thankful for the way her Tonawanda brothers embraced her as one of their own.

“They’re always there for me,” Bailey said with a smile as she looked out and saw several of her teammates in attendance. “Even if I nag ’em they show up.”

A key part of the Warriors winning their first outright division title since 1995, Crouse was Tonawanda’s first female wrestler since Heather Becker from the Class of 2006.

Tonawanda assistant coach Jordan McGregor, himself a former Warrior, said that from day one Bailey’s hard work, knowledge of the sport, and natural leadership skills earned her the unquestioned respect of her teammates.

“Coming in as a female into the room you’d think that people would have less respect for her just because she’s a female in a male sport,” McGregor said. “But early on you could see that wasn’t the case. Because of her knowledge the kids just sort of latched on to her; they knew she knew what she was talking about was correct and as we got further into the year they started to buy into her goals. At that state tournament we had fourteen guys there supporting her. It was a non-mandatory thing and to have that much support for someone who has only been here for one year is extraordinary.”

Photo left to right in back: Tonawanda head coach Dan Bishop, assistant coach Jordan McGregor, and Sweet Home head coach Don Lilly. Crouse seated in front. 

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