Hard work pays off: West Forsyth’s Neal tapped to lead inaugural womens wrestling team at Maryland-based university

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2023

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CLEMMONS — When Breonnah Neal started wrestling in high school, she had no idea where the journey would take her. She just became the first-ever women’s wrestling coach at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland.

It’s the first year that Frostburg will have a women’s wrestling team.

“Can’t wait to see how our first season goes,” Neal said. “I’m super excited for the opportunity to start my own team, build a culture, build an environment and start something great at Frostburg for women’s wrestling.”

Neal has been a head coach before, and her stints have taken her around the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. Most recently, she headed up the women’s wrestling team at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Before that, she was the coach at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia.

“In 2019, I got the job as the head women’s wrestling coach at Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia,” Neal said. “I was there for two years. My first year, I got my first all-American. The second year, we had another all-American. Those are the only two all-Americans for a women’s wrestling team that they had ever had.”

Next, Neal spent two years at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania.

“I had four all-Americans my first year at Gannon,” Neal said. “I had four all-Americans this past year, too.”

Despite her success, Neal said that the landing spot at Frostburg required a stroke of luck.

“I kind of lucked out,” Neal said. “My college coach at King University called and asked me if I would be interested and said what a great opportunity that it was. I followed up with them. It turns out it was a great opportunity, great people and great administration. I couldn’t turn it down.”

Her coaching career officially began at West Forsyth High School, where she instructed junior varsity wrestlers.

That stint came after she took a year off to have a child following four successful years wrestling in college at Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky and King University in Bristol, Tennessee.

She came close to tasting glory at Campbellsville as a first-year wrestler, making it to the national finals.

The following year, she transferred to King, where she continued wrestling throughout her tenure and graduated in 2017. As a sophomore, she made the final four. She qualified for the national final as a junior.

“My senior year, I finally won nationals,” Neal said.

Her tenacity on the mat was evident long before her college days.

In high school, she was the first girl to qualify for the 4A state competition against the boys.

“At the time, I held the record for the most wins for a female in a career against the boy,” Neal said. “A few years later, someone I coached broke that record.”

Neal wrestled against boy competition all four years of high school and competed at the varsity level starting as a sophomore.

“I still live by the same motto that I did from high school when I was wrestling the boys,” Neal said. “As a woman wrestling the men, you have to work a whole lot harder than they do to be able to keep up with them. My mindset was always that hard work pays off, so the harder I worked, the results will show.”

Neal was the coach of the under-17 Pan-American team that recently competed in Mexico City last month.

“U17 did great,” Neal said after the competition. “We had 10 in the finals, and nine won. So 10 out of 10 weight classes. We won as a team as well.”

In the lead-up to that competition, Neal visited the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“I had the opportunity to be around great quality coaches and great athletes, too,” Neal said. “So I had a chance to learn a lot more.”

Neal will be the one doing the teaching during the upcoming season.

Frostburg University’s season officially begins in October, but the first competition will be in November. Since it is Frostburg’s first season, Neal knows she will have her work cut out for her.

To any young female athlete thinking about hitting the mat, Neal encourages them to go for it.

“Wrestling is still kind of a new sport for female athletes,” Neal said. “North Carolina just now sanctioned the sport. I say if you are interested in it or by it, definitely try it out. You learn a whole lot. You learn so many life lessons about working hard, dedication and discipline. Wrestling has a tendency to steal your heart. Once you start, it is hard to put it down.”

If the sport catches on, Neal pointed out that colleges are always offering scholarships.

“There are so many opportunities for wrestling at the next level (college) now, too,” Neal said. “Take a chance with it, and I think you won’t be disappointed.”

Neal certainly wasn’t, and who knows, if a female athlete’s high school career takes off, they may be getting a call from Frostburg University.