At the tender age of 8, Logan Elementary School second-grade wrestler Delainey Wisor offers some advice that athletes much older would do well to heed.
"It's not something to be afraid to do,'' Delainey said of her efforts in competitive wrestling. "You will lose sometime, and you'll want to give up, but you can't give up. Even if you're a girl and you're wrestling against boys, don't be scared, because you can beat them.''
Delainey, who is one of only two girls in the Altoona Elementary Junior Wrestling program, won a championship while competing against boys in a tournament at Penn Cambria this winter.
Earlier this month, while wrestling against girls for the first time in her life, she took first place in the 55-pound weight class in the girls open state tournament held at Susquehanna Township High School in Harrisburg.
Delainey prevailed over the other two wrestlers in her age and weight class, winning one match by fall and the championship match by 8-3 decision.
"It was [a] tough [match],'' she said of her championship bout. "[Her finals opponent] was a good wrestler, too, and either of us could have won.''
Delainey's parents are David and Heather Wisor of Altoona. David wrestled for Keith Junior High School as a youngster, and encouraged Delainey's interest in the sport.
"From an early age, she said she wanted to do it,'' David Wisor said of Delainey, who also plays soccer. "She's a quick learner, and she's very talented in both her sports. It was easier for me to say 'yes' to her wrestling than it was for my wife to do so. My wife was concerned about Delainey wrestling against boys and getting hurt.''
There were other, much more significant concerns.
Last June, Delainey was diagnosed with a condition known as Chiari malformation type I, which caused the back part of her brain to drop 13 millimeters out of her skull, onto her spine. The condition causes headaches, and back and shoulder pain, and a neurosurgeon at Pittsburgh Children's Hospital told the family that Delainey could no longer play any sports.
"The thought of never wrestling again was too much for her,'' Heather Wisor said of Delainey. "She cried constantly, and as parents, we decided to get a second opinion - because she is so athletic and we did not want to take her childhood away.''
The family visited Dr. Richard Anderson, a pediatric neurosurgeon from Columbia University's Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. Anderson specializes in the treatment of Chiari's, and his research indicated that a child with Chiari's is not at any increased risk of injury over any other child from participation in athletics.
"I have to be honest that it was with extreme caution and strong faith that myself and my husband allowed her to wrestle again,'' Heather Wisor said.
David Wisor's brother, Dennis - Delainey's uncle - is a former Altoona Area High School wrestler who coaches Delainey at tournaments.
"She's a really good little wrestler,'' Dennis Wisor said. "She qualified for the Ohio State Tournament Of Champions in Columbus last year, and she's very athletic and agile. She's really come a long way in her first two years.''
Delainey hopes to go much further in her future wrestling endeavors. She has earned the respect of Lock Haven University women's wrestling coach Terry Fike - another former Altoona High wrestler - who gave the Wisor family his business card at the Pennsylvania girls state tournament.
"Terry Fike told us that he thought she was a fabulous wrestler and that she had a future in it,'' Heather Wisor said of Delainey. "I don't think she ever thinks about stopping. She has said that she wants to earn a gold medal in the Olympics some day.''