Why we're hearing about her
Last summer Wetzel, 40, became the first deaf female referee in Division I history. After 13 years of working in lower divisions and high school, then turning in an eye-catching performance at a referee tryout camp, Wetzel, a former guard for primarily-deaf Gallaudet University, was hired by the Patriot and Atlantic 10 conferences to referee women's games. She's following a trail blazed by Guy Kirk, who despite being deaf has refereed men's games in the Southern Conference for 17 years.
She calls 'em like she sees 'em
Wetzel, who was born deaf to deaf parents, hires an interpreter to help her at pregame meetings and depends on fellow officials to use clear hand signals to communicate calls. Mostly, though, she relies on what she calls "my radar eyes—I'm more aware than anyone during games because I double my attention level." Recently Wetzel was able to make a key foul call a split second before halftime because she was aware of the clock and wasn't swayed by the buzzer. "My only fear," she says, "is blowing the whistle too loud."
The silence of the stands
Neither booing from the crowd nor screaming from the sidelines rattles Wetzel. "When I sense emotion and anger," she says, "I don't let it get to me." Says Bucknell coach Kathy Fedorjaka, "You don't notice that she's deaf until you start yelling at her and realize it's not going to do a thing."