Lower Merion’s Dacia James is treated like ‘ one of the guys’

Lower Merion’s 120-pound grappler, Dacia (DJ) James, is someone who has speed, flexibility, agility, a high level of skill – and is the only girl on the Aces roster.

Dacia James earned her way onto the Lower Merion varsity lineup this season by winning the wrestle off for the 120-pound weight class, and according to James, the team and her coaches treat her like “one of the guys.’ She would have it no other way. Nobody takes it easy on her.

“Sometimes [opponents] try extra hard because they don’t want to lose a girl,’ said James.

In fact, for some, just beating her wasn’t enough. One of her opponents was upset after he won 16-10.

“He was mad because he couldn’t pin me,’ said James, who elaborated that her opponent got more and more frustrated when he learned that she was difficult to beat.

This was her first year wrestling for the Aces – in her sophomore and junior years, she wrestled in Georgia. James’ junior varsity record this winter was 5-6, and three of her wins were pins. Her varsity record was 1-8. At the Radnor tournament, she wrestled JV and finished second in her weight class.

Lower Merion wrestling head coach Jim Perri never had to tell the team to respect DJ.

“She came to the team already skilled,’ said Perri. “She earned her props right away. She could do all the drills; even better than some of the guys. That right there got her respect.’

In comparing DJ to other LM girls he coached, Perri said, “DJ has the best wrestling I.Q. When I see DJ on the mat, I just see a wrestler.’

DJ never worried if the team would treat her differently.

“I never thought about that,’ said DJ. “I just love to wrestle.’

Dacia James started wrestling two years ago thanks to her aunt’s persuasion.

“My aunt wrestled in college (against women),’ said DJ. “She got so much out of it.’

After James practiced takedowns with a teammate, freshman Paul Mariani, he said that the only difference wresting DJ is that she’s more flexible than the guys on the team.

According to Perri, the only other high school girl in the area who wrestles is Interboro sophomore Kyleigh D’Agostino a varsity wrestler at the 106-weight class.

DJ has wrestled other girls, but not on the Main Line.

“Girls are easier to wrestle than guys,’ said DJ. “Guys are stronger, but strength isn’t everything.’

James hopes to wrestle next year in college, but she has not yet decided which one to pick. She will be running track this spring for the Aces. If her passion for track matches her passion for wrestling, she will definitely be someone to watch for this spring.

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