Favorite athlete: Gabbi Douglas
Favorite team: Olympics USA
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning my first wrestling match
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: I smacked my opponent in the face during a wrestling match.
Music on mobile device: Country, Rap, Pop/Pop Rock, ‘throwbacks’
Future plans: To become successful
One goal before turning 30: Travel the world
One thing people don’t know about me: I have two rods and 26 screws in my spine.
By Mary Jane Souder
Tough, tenacious, fearless.
Take your pick. Bensalem wrestling coach Donovin Williams uses all of them to describe this past season’s 106-pound wrestler. Tough is a word that comes up repeatedly, which is hardly surprising since wrestlers are typically tough, and they better be tenacious if they want to succeed. Fearless – that’s a definite plus.
In this case, however, the Bensalem wrestling coach is describing Lauren Bordone, a 4-11, 96-pound dynamo.
Two years ago, Bordone, a manager of the wrestling team, made an unexpected debut.
“What happened was we needed a 106-pounder,” said Williams, an assistant at the time. “We couldn’t find anybody. Another kid got hurt, and we already threw the idea out there to Lauren, ‘Hey, let’s certify you. If we need you, you can wrestle for us.’
“She was a little hesitant, but she was like, ‘Okay, for sure, I’ll do it.’”
Two days later, in the Owls’ season-opening match at Academy Park, Bordone took the mat.
“I had only practiced two days, and they were laughing at me because I had a cap on my head,” Bordone said of the then required wrestling hair cap. “I felt so strange.
“We were making a joke of it before I went on the mat because they just wanted me to fight, that’s it. They said, ‘Fight as hard as you can. If you get pinned, you get pinned. It’s okay. You’re here to help us.’ I go out to my match smiling, all happy. The kid’s giving me a mean face, and I’m like, ‘Uh oh.’ We shake hands, and we were not expecting me to win, but actually, I pulled out a pin. I pinned him in 50 seconds.”
Williams remembers it like it was yesterday.
“At the time, it was her raw ignorance that made her so successful,” the Owls’ coach said. “If you know Lauren, that’s one of her things – she goes with what she knows.
“Earlier in the week, we had showed a front headlock to a cross ankle pick to a cradle. I think the whole room went over the move 20 times just that day, and we moved on from it. She goes out on the mat, I said, ‘Lauren the guys are going to be stronger than you. You’re going to have to try to be faster because you’re not stronger than a lot of people. It’s just anatomy.’ She said, ‘All right, it will be fun.’
“They start the match, and it starts out just a little rough. The kid’s a little stronger than her, but he’s also new. Lauren doesn’t do anything else except what she’s been told. She gets kind of snapped and thrown around for a second, and you see her battle back. You see the competitor in her come out. She gets this fiery look in her eyes, and this kid takes a bad shot.”
Bordone made her opponent pay.
“The kid started smacking me in my face, pushing my headgear, and I did one of the moves they taught me, and I ended up pinning him,” she said. “I jumped up in the air so high. I was so happy. I was jumping up and down.”
“I remember that day we had a particularly large fan crowd come with us,” Williams said. “We had a lot of parents in the stands so everyone jumped up and cheered when she pinned him. She jumps up and she starts cheering because she doesn’t know any better at the time. It was a good moment.”
A good moment that underscored Bordone’s toughness and also her fiercely competitive nature, but listening to Dan Schram tell it, that’s just one piece of the senior’s personality. The Owls’ softball coach recalls teaching her as a sophomore in his senior psychology class.
“Bensalem switched the elective process where they started giving senior electives to sophomores,” Schram said. “I could see she was a very, very unique kid because she’s very mature and very worldly.
“She and her sister (Rachael) are known for being two of the toughest kids at Bensalem – as far as the girls. She’s not afraid – she’ll stick up for somebody. She’s just a good advocate, and she’s well spoken. She has a good head on her shoulders.”
Bordone - a triplet – grew up playing softball and logged a whole lot of miles doing it, traveling with triplets Richard and Rachael from their home in New Jersey to Bensalem where they played community sports.
“We had family and a lot of friends there,” Lauren said. “We would play at Ramblers. I did a little bit of cheerleading. I wasn’t really a fan of it. I did dance, but I just considered that an activity.”
The triplets attended Holy Innocents School in Philadelphia through eighth grade, but the family moved to Bensalem prior to the start of their freshman year of high school. Both Lauren and Rachael are four-year members of the softball program, and Lauren was the manager of the wrestling team when she made her debut on the mats as a sophomore.
“One day I was doing book work for the team, and the coach asked me how much I weighed,” Bordone recalled. “I looked at him and was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Don’t take offense. I just need to know.’
“He asked me if I could wrestle so we wouldn’t have to give up six points. I had no idea what I was doing.”
Convincing her parents to allow her to wrestle was another challenge.
“I wasn’t allowed to at first until I won, and I begged them,” Bordone said. “They didn’t want me wrestling guys.”
Bordone’s rookie wrestling season came to an end in January when she underwent surgery to correct a serious case of scoliosis that – despite two previous surgeries – was worsening.
“I had a 12-hour spinal fusion,” Bordone said. “I wasn’t supposed to come back to school after January. They recommended I do home school.
“To build up strength, I asked my mom to help me walk up and down the steps every night and every morning. I stayed active. I barely took any of my medications because I just wanted to get out of the house. I wanted to go to school. Our softball season was right around the corner.”
Two weeks after surgery, Bordone asked her doctor for the okay to return to school.
“He actually let me,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to do gymnastics anymore because I was a big tumbler. That took a lot from me, and I was really upset.
“I was so worried about coming back and being able to play softball because I really thought I wasn’t going to be able to bend down, run and be as fast as I was, but Schram stuck by my side and helped me get through it.”
“You couldn’t keep her on the sidelines,” the Owls’ softball coach said.
Bordone did not wrestle her junior year but served as a manager.
“She’s in the (wrestling) room all the time trying to get herself healthy,” Williams said. “She’d be like, ‘Donnie, let me wrestle this kid.’ The entire time she was itching to go, still running around being Lauren. One time I caught her doing a back flip. I was like, ’What are you doing?’ She said. “I just wanted to see if I could back flip.’”
That spring, Bordone was back on the softball diamond, playing mostly jayvee.
“Every time she came up on the varsity team she was a fire engine – she was great,” Schram said. “She would run the bags, she would get us in good situations.”
This winter, Bordone was back on the mat.
“This year she comes out, and she said, ‘I’m ready to go,’” Williams said. “I said, ‘You can just be a manager.’ She said, ‘No, I want to wrestle.’ She got in some tough matches and wrestled some tough kids, and she just had a ball. She’s tough.
“Wrestling is sometimes more of a self control sport. It’s not brute force. When I get a Lauren – she’s not afraid of anybody. She’ll fight anybody there is. She’s definitely not backing down from you – you could be a state champion, you could be anybody. She’s not going to back down or run away from you.”
Proof of that came in a tough match that Bordone lists as both a low and high point of her wrestling career.
“This kid was pulling my hair a lot, and my thing was to smack him right in the face,” she said with a laugh. “The ref almost pulled me off the match.
“The kid actually posted (a video of) it on his social media accounts and said I was the highlight of his season. It was a big thing.”
For all her toughness, Bordone added a unique touch to the wrestling room.
“Lauren’s a ray of sunshine, she’s a little fireball, she’s infectious,” Williams said. “When she’s in the room, she is not just one of the guys, she’s looked up to.
“Everyone likes hanging out with her because she can be funny, she works hard, she’ll push herself, she’ll do whatever she has to do. She’ll take responsibility for her own actions when she feels like she’s messed up.”
Schram was one of Bordone’s most loyal fans.
“I follow wrestling pretty closely – 106-pound wrestlers are very, very good,” the Owls’ softball coach said. “She’s wrestling tough, tough kids, and she gives it her all. She developed great technique.
“She didn’t have a great record, but I would watch her matches, and she would go the distance. She was tough. I was always so impressed with that.”
“I just do it for the team,” Bordone said. “And it’s fun. If you’re angry some days, you go in there and wrestle, and it gets your anger out. Sometimes I would wrestle my brother – we would go at it. I actually got him to join the team, and he wrestled 106 last year for me
“It’s a little crazy, but I had a great time, and I’m really glad I got to end my wrestling year before this happened because I was waiting and waiting for the Senior Night.”
Bordone entered her senior softball season in the best shape of her young career.
“If there’s one kid who my heart breaks for that we’re not having a season, it’s her,” Schram said. “You’ll see kids that will come prepared for the season because they play travel all year and maybe their arms get a little stronger or they hit the ball further.
“Lauren was rocking the ball to the fence, hitting triples off our pitchers. The kids that play travel – they come softball ready. This kid came push-up ready. When we were doing conditioning she’s running top of the pack. When we were doing sit-ups, burpees, pushups, she’s pushing everybody else. She just came game ready because she’d been wrestling all year.”
Softball practices were a whole lot less grueling than life in the wrestling room.
“I was in way better shape this year – I had a lot more stamina, and I could do more things,” she said. “The workouts for softball were a lot lighter than wrestling.
“Every day in wrestling it would be 50 sit-ups, 50 pushups, 50 squats or it could be 60 or 70. It was different every day. I was driving the ball a lot better, I had a lot more power than I had last year when I would only hit ground balls.”
The senior infielder was excited for the opportunity to play varsity.
“It would be my first year playing full-time varsity,” Bordone said. “In wrestling, I already had a full-time varsity spot whether I liked it or not, but softball I worked as hard as I could to get there just to have it taken away.”
In the eight days before the season was halted, Bordone – who was battling back from a wrestling shoulder injury – took a newcomer that had never played softball before under her wing.
“I had a catch with her a couple of times,” she said. “My shoulder wasn’t so good at the time, so I told her she was actually helping me too.”
“It was genuine – she wasn’t being pretentious in any way,” Schram said. “She didn’t think she was too cool for the moment – she was like, ‘All right, give the kid a shot.’
“That’s the way this kid is – tough enough to be the wrestler, tough enough to know what’s stacked against her when she would go out and wrestle. Those first eight days we had practices – Lauren Bordone made our practices, she really did. She was our surprise player.”
Looking ahead, Bordone has her sights set on becoming a math teacher. She is not certain of where she will be attending college, but Temple and Holy Family top her wish list.
Whether she takes the diamond this spring or not, the Bensalem senior was a bright spot for both the wrestling and softball programs.
“You could just see this kid was a rising force,” Schram said. “I just thought she would have been that one kid who would have come out this year and just really, really brought something special and would have produced in big moments. She’s just a tenacious kid. She’d make a very big impact on our season.”
“She’s one of my favorite kids I’ve coached,” Williams said. “It’s one of those things – I can teach you how to wrestle, but I can’t teach you how to be free spirited, I can’t teach you how to be tenacious. Lauren has that on her own.”
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