From homeless to champions: wrestling sisters aim for nationals

Local News

La’Rissa and Larresha Bryant-Coleman are sisters who wrestle for New Haven high School. Throughout most of this last season, the girls competed against boys. They both placed at State, competed in Regionals, and have been invited to nationals. Now, they are looking for some help to get there. 

About three years ago, those two girls were homeless. They lived in hotels with their mother who worked to make sure they were well-fed. 

“I’d cook them soul food,” said Wanita Coleman, the girls’ mother. “We’d have turkey, fried chicken and we’d bake cookies and brownies all in the hotel.” 

She said her goal behind the food was to keep their spirits up. 

“I never really thought of it as being homeless,” La’Rissa said. “It was all normal to us. Mom would take us to work. We thought all kids growing up went to work with their mom.” 

The family lost their home when it flooded frequently, and black mold began to grow. 

Eventually, they were forced out and stayed in hotels. During that time, Wanita worked at a local McDonald’s. Her manager there was also homeless and let her know about the Just Neighbors Family Center. It was there that Wanita found a way to get her family back into a home. 

Just Neighbors has a program that gives people a temporary home and time to get their finances in order to find a permanent one. Wanita and her daughters are currently staying in that temporary house. 

La’Rissa, a sophomore, and Larresha, a junior, are both are in their second years of high school wrestling. 

As they’ve been invited to nationals, the success has not come without the critics. 

“We are minorities in a male-dominated sport,” said Larresha. “Winning state runner up and state champion, it was met by a lot of praise, but some of the team didn’t take it as well. There would be people saying ‘it’s girls’ state. It doesn’t really matter.'” 

That hasn’t stopped Wanita from being proud of what she calls her daughters’ warrior spirits. 

“While we were homeless, my daughter (Larresha) maintained her 4.0 and she was sick and in and out of the hospital,” she said. “While we were homeless, this child here (La’Rissa) who battled with having a learning disability brought her grades from D’s to B’s and C’s, fought hard and continues to fight hard, brought her grade point average up. We’re not asking for much we’re just asking for whatever you have that’s extra, that you feel that you want to invest into these girls that will invest back into Fort Wayne.” 

The national competition is in Virginia Beach at the end of March, but the girls do not know if they can go because they don’t have the funds to get there right now. 

They are hoping to get some help from the community to get the money they need. 

The family has set up a GoFundMe Page* to raise $1,000 by March 28 so that they can go to Nationals and “put Fort Wayne and Indiana on the map.” 

* does not assure that the monies or donations deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a donation, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk. 

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