This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.Article Published June 17, 2021
Like many children in Guilford, Brianna Seixas began her athletic career on the soccer field as a youngster, although she didn’t fall in love with the sport. Brianna decided to give cheerleading a try in elementary school, and that decision wound up changing the course of her athletic career.
After speaking with one of the football players, Brianna became intrigued by the sport. When Brianna was in 4th grade, one of her friends who played football would often tell her stories about the practices and the games. This piqued Brianna’s interest enough for her to join the Guilford Youth Football program as a 5th-grader.
Now, Brianna is a member of the football team, the wrestling team, and the girls’ lacrosse squad at Guilford High School, where she recently finished her sophomore year. Brianna sure is glad that she had that all-important chat that steered her toward the gridiron.
“I was cheering at a game, and a player ran off the field right next to me,” says Brianna. “He was in his pads and we talked a little bit, and I thought it was really cool.”
While her family was surprised at first, they supported Brianna in her new endeavor. Brianna feels thankful to both her late grandfather, Matthew Middleton, and late great-grandmother, Shirley Middleton, for their encouragement as she started playing football. Both of them passed away earlier this year, although they were able to see Brianna continue with football as she entered high school. They also saw Brianna take up two new sports with wrestling in 8th grade and lacrosse as a freshman.
“I picked up wrestling a lot faster than football and was the only girl since I joined the 8th-grade team,” Brianna says. “Since I was new, I didn’t win a lot, but I won my last match by pin and realized I could pin another person again. I wanted to test my motivation and continued in high school.”
Brianna also tested her mettle by signing up for the football team at Guilford High School. While Brianna and her competitors were similarly sized throughout youth football, she saw this change at the high school level as many of the other players were taller and now outweighed her by at least 40 pounds.
“The first time I got hit at that level was during practice, and I was told that I was going to be scared at first. But once I took the hit and got up off the turf, that was my adrenaline,” says Brianna, who is a tight end and outside linebacker. “One hit can’t stop my love for what I want to do. If you find love in it, there’s nothing stopping you.”
Guilford football Head Coach Anthony Salvati remembers the first time that he and Brianna met. Brianna demanded that she receive no special treatment as a female player on the team.
“Brianna is amazing and has earned the respect from her coaches and teammates by working as hard as everyone, sometimes harder,” Salvati says. “She knows what her position responsibilities are on both offense and defense at all times and always helps her teammates if they are struggling to comprehend.”
Coach Salvati adds that he’s eager to see Brianna hit the field and fight for playing time as a junior next season.
“Brianna will be competing for varsity playing time this fall against players at her position who outweigh her by 50-plus pounds, but one thing is for sure: She will be ready to compete and she will not back down,” says Salvati. “Brianna and I share a common goal, and that goal is get her to be the first female to score a varsity touchdown in school history.”
Brianna is grateful for Salvati’s support in their quest to make Guilford history. Brianna is already the first female in Guilford to complete more than one season of youth football and high school football. Brianna does offseason training at Pro Limit Athletes in North Haven with Ike Igbinosun, who was a member of several NFL franchises.
Brianna has received support from many other people, including her mom Ashleigh Fritz, who Brianna says, “really pushes me,” along with her teammates, team captains, and her classmates at Guilford. Brianna recently realized that her accomplishments have inspired other people.
“I didn’t realize how many girls actually supported me and thought it was cool and I was brave,” says Brianna, who also plays the violin and shows cattle. “Last fall, a little girl from Southington messaged my mom and asked me to come to her football game. I went and her eyes lit up and she was so happy to see me and wanted pictures. I didn’t realize I had an impact on younger kids.”
Another lesson that has always resonated with Brianna was one from Ron Lecointe, her lineman coach. Leconite gave her an assignment of watching the 1997 film Gattaca and reporting the movie’s message to him the next day.
“The message was that genetics don’t define your potential,” Brianna says. “That is something that has stuck with me through football, wrestling, and lacrosse, and will hopefully stick with me when I’m wrestling in the Olympics.”
Brianna has been working toward her goal of qualifying for the Olympics. After earning the pin that inspired her to continue in 8th grade, Brianna joined the team at Guilford High School, where she wrestles at 145 pounds. Brianna competed in enough varsity matches to earn her varsity letter as a freshman last year. Although she got injured midway through the season, Brianna came back to compete at the inaugural Girls’ Wrestling Invitational, where she finished in fourth place for the 145-pound division.
Brianna became the first female wrestler at the high school to finish a full season and also to first to place at a state competition. When COVID-19 took away the 2020-’21 wrestling season, Brianna’s coach recommended that those interested should join a club. Brianna had previously competed among 99 wrestlers at the Women’s State Championship and became familiar with Ella Nichols, who won the state title.
“A few months after that tournament, she texted me and asked if I’d go to KT Kidz [in Rocky Hill] with her to drill,” says Brianna. “As a mediocre fourth-in-the state wrestler going against a girl who was fifth in the nation pushed me and made me see what I could work toward.”
Brianna then joined the Overcomer Training Center in Middletown, where she worked on her technique several days a week. With that club, Brianna traveled to Nationals in Virginia Beach and won a match in the women’s brackets.
Brianna went on to compete in women’s tournaments in Gatlinberg, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brianna took first place in folk-style and second in freestyle at both events, making her a two-time All-American wrestler.
“I’d only worked on freestyle for about a month,” Brianna says. “So, I just wanted to test what I’d learned in those tournaments, and I ended up knowing a decent amount.”
Even with all of these achievements, Brianna is hardly satisfied and has some big goals for herself going forward.
“I really push myself a ton to get what I want. You have to be the best to stand out,” says Brianna. “I’ve made town history four or five times and state history with a record 99 girls going to the state tournament, but there’s still more I want to do.”