From heart patient to state champion: Delialah Betances makes history for Lee County wrestling

A comeback story for the history books.

LEE COUNTY, GA – A few months ago, Delialah Betances made history, becoming Lee County Wrestling’s first female state champion.

CBS 44 sports reporter Mary Alex Anders sat down with the champion in an exclusive CBS 44 interview.

Betances began her wrestling journey at just nine years old.

“I’ve always been like pretty physical with like, family, we used to play around a lot, and I thought wrestling was kind of like the same thing” Betances said.

However, Jacklyn Lamardo, Delialah’s mother, was not happy with the idea at first.

“When she was like eight years old, she asked me if she could wrestle, I told her no, she’s not going to wrestle. She’s going to wrestle boys and get hurt. I started going to more tournaments with my son and saw more girls being involved and I said ‘hey, let’s give it a shot’!” Lamardo explained.

And the rest is history. Before becoming a state champion, Betances stood out to her coach, Chris Morton, as a middle schooler.

“She’s sold out for it,” said Morton. “In other words, she’s all in. She has a great work ethic. I knew she was coming; I knew she was going to be a force to be reckoned with and she totally proved that this year.”

Competing against and defeating many boys as a freshman, she is reinventing what it means to “fight like a girl”.

“Sometimes it is intimidating because they’re a lot stronger and you know that can kind of mess with me a lot. But strength normally doesn’t win matches, so I just go out there with confidence.” Betances explained.

However, competing against male opponents is not the toughest obstacle she has had to overcome. At seven years old, Delialah was diagnosed with ASD (Atrial Septal Defect), meaning she had a small hole in her heart. And as she grew, so did the murmur.

“I noticed something was wrong” said Betances’ mother. “Sometimes she would wrestle, she was using the asthma pump too much, her face would get flushed and red and she was not the same person from the beginning.”

After a Cardiologist appointment, Betances received bad news.

“I did have a murmur, but my hole was bigger than a golf ball. A stint couldn’t fix it, not even the biggest one could. So, that’s when we had to get open heart surgery. I was scared I wouldn’t wrestle anymore. Pretty nervous on the outcome, just hoping i could go back to wrestling and come back stronger” Betaces explained.

After a successful surgery, she had to undergo extensive rehab and physical therapy.

Delialah’s mother said seeing her child in pain during her recovery process was very difficult to watch.

“You know you cry of course, but she was tough. She fought through it. Next day she got out of ICU she was walking without really any help. So, mentally I think she made me feel stronger because I saw how strong she was. She’s a warrior, put it that way” said Lamardo.

However, Betances’ was determined to get back to doing what she loves. She was soon back on the mat with only a few practices until the state match.

“I was very nervous because I knew i didn’t get as much practice as I needed to. I think i got like two practices in after. I was nervous, like super nervous, more nervous than I had ever been before with any other tournament because I knew this was it. I had to make history, so i had to go out there and do my best” Betances explained.

She went on to make history as a freshman, becoming the first female wrestler to win a state title at Lee County.

Bentaces said “It feels good to accomplish something that big. I was like, I did it, you know? I made history and I overcome from heart surgery and just won the state championship.”

“It was awesome. It was straight awesome” Coach Morton said. “This is my third year as the head coach here and she is my first state champion that I can say ‘Hey I had a part of that one’ you know? So yeah that was pretty awesome.

Mary Alex Anders reporting.

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