If Your State Does Not Sponsor Sanctioned Women’s High School Wrestling, It Should
One would be hard pressed to find a member of the wrestling community who does not credit their involvement in the sport as a positive influence. No matter if you ask an Olympic Gold Medalist or a former third-string junior varsity member, each wrestler (author included) will agree on how much wrestling does to sharpen its participants physically, mentally, and emotionally. Countless mothers and fathers across this country look back at the time that their son(s) spent in wrestling, and are thankful for all of the many lessons that the sport taught him.
Talk to those men who wrestled growing up and later chose another sport or went down another career path and most will acknowledge the impact wrestling still has on them years later. With added opportunities, we can make the same impact on thousands of young women across the U.S. Matter of fact, in many cases it already has. It’s about time that we as a community came together as a whole and embraced this idea and pushed for more opportunities for young women to wrestle. There are opportunities out there but not nearly enough.
As of right now only Hawaii, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, Tennessee and Alaska sponsor girl’s high school wrestling. Meanwhile, the Women’s College Wrestling Association (WCWA) has 22 collegiate women’s wrestling teams, with plans to grow. These schools include: Campbellsville University, East Tennessee State University, Jamestown College, Northwest Kansas Technical College, King University, Lindenwood University (Saint Charles MO) Lindenwood University (Belleville IL), Lock Haven University, Menlo College, Midland University, Missouri Baptist University, Missouri Valley College, Oklahoma City University, Pacific University, Simon Fraser University, Southwest Oregon Community College, Springfield Technical Community College, University of the Cumberlands, Waldorf College, Wayland Baptist University, and West Chester University.
In order for the WCWA to continue growing, it needs a bigger, deeper pool of talent to work with from the high school level. In order for that to happen, we need to get young women involved in wrestling at a young age and to show the country’s high school athletic associations of the many benefits of sponsoring girl’s wrestling. One way we can do that is through example. A tremendous amount of women have been deeply impacted by the incredible influence wrestling brought to their lives. To illustrate that point, here are personal insights from many of the top female wrestlers in the United States about what wrestling means to them.
“Wrestling has given me all I have and put me where I am. It’s allowed me to travel and see the world. Wrestling has given me knowledge, culture, and wisdom. It’s helped me to learn to deal with conflicts and situations with maturity. Wrestling has helped me to look at obstacles and see different angles and solutions for solving them.” Erin Clodgo, 2015 World Team Trial champion at 63 kg.
“Wrestling has impacted my life tremendously. It has helped me to become more motivated and disciplined individual. Wrestling over the years has taught me to do things for myself, which has made me the strong independent woman I am today. It has shown me what hard work will get you. It will help you grow as a person.” Jacarra Winchester, 2015 World Team Trials 4th place at 55 kg.
“Wrestling has completely shaped who I am as a person. It has taught me to persevere when things get hard. It has given me a mental toughness and focus that has helped me to succeed in college classes. Wrestling also teaches you the importance of having a team behind you, because you realize that you can’t make it to the top, without good workout partners, good coaches, friends and family to support you. Wrestling provides a template for success in every aspect of life.” Jennifer Page, 2015 World team Trials runner-up at 60 kg.
“Wrestling has given me the skill set to make a plan and execute it. My Coach, Shannyn Gillespie has taught me that a positive attitude can change any situation. If I’m down by points, I’m not going to freak out. I refocus and keep moving. Just like in life, I can’t cry over everything that happens, I move past it. I am always looking for a way to improve and adapt. I really believe that all kids can learn from wrestling. It isn’t an easy sport, but it makes you better. I think everyone can benefit from that.” Jenna Rose Burkert, 2014 World Team member at 60 kg.
“Wrestling has allowed me to pursue my education and have it be fully funded. I am three classes away from getting my degree in business, debt free. That would not have happened without wrestling supporters. Wrestling has made me mentally tough and better at life. As a kid and as a young adult, I am hyper and all over the place. My mind and body never stop moving. It made it hard to sit still in professional settings like school or jury duty. Wrestling has helped me channel that energy into a positive place.” Adeline Gray, 2015 World Team Trials champion and defending world champion at 75 kg.
“The opportunities to continue wrestling at the highest level for women and men are nearly equal. I think there are countless reasons to endorse women’s wrestling in high school. The real question is why not? Wrestling has taken me around the world and given me a real platform to be a role model and inspiration for athletes young and old. The people that wrestling has connected me to has made me better. Wrestling gave me a motivation to work hard at my jobs and build relationships with people around me. What wrestling did for me, what it should do for everyone, is make us better, more humble, more hardworking people. It has allowed me to be better in my character, my faith, and my discipline and in turn pass that along to the next generation of young ladies who want to pursue it.” Kelsey Campbell, 2015 World Team Trials runner-up at 58 kg.
“Wrestling has taught me to deal with change and how to adapt to not so ideal situations. It has made me a better person by teaching me how to control my emotions and be a good winner or loser, no matter what the circumstances. It’s taught me self-discipline, what’s really worth sacrificing and the value of hard work.” Alyssa Lampe 2015 World Team Trials champion at 48 kg.
“Wrestling gives you a perspective of toughness you may never have known you had. As a woman, wrestling has helped me to realize my own potential as a strong athlete. It has taken a strong work ethic and will to strive for big goals. This is important to me for my future career once I embark on whatever is next after my wrestling career. Wrestling is the type of sport that will make a young lady a successful business woman, doctor or whatever else she decides to do. Along with the benefits it gives you for your personal life, wrestling is the type of sport you never leave. Coaches, who are in your corner while you are fighting the hardest battles of your life, inspire you to do the same for others. I want to emphasize the importance of sanctioning girl’s wrestling throughout the United States. It is imperative that girls wrestle against their own gender. We should not require young girls to test themselves against males in this sport in order to be a competitive wrestler or to be valued as a good wrestler. It is a tough and demanding sport as it is, and young girls deserve the right to compete with other tough female wrestlers. The longer we force girls to compete against boys, the more we prevent the growth of women’s wrestling.” Katherine Fulp-Allen, 2015 World Team Trials runner-up at 53 kg.
“Wrestling gave me a new kind of drive and determination, both on and off the mat. I created and then met new expectations for myself that I would have never thought possible. My affinity for wrestling segued into countless opportunities. I received a college scholarship; I am traveling the world; and I am meeting and competing alongside some of the best girls I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Wrestling teaches so many life lessons that are applicable outside of the wrestling room. Two of my favorites are mental toughness and perseverance. If someone has the will to persevere and the mental toughness to get through wrestling, that person can do anything they set their mind to.” Julia Salata, 2015 World Team Trials 3rd place at 69 kg.
“Wrestling has given me opportunities to inspire people of all ages. My coaches would yell out at me, ‘Keep your head up and keep moving!’” One day I thought to myself, ‘Wow, those principles are just as true in everyday life.’ You have to keep your head up to keep moving forward and you can’t stay stagnant or get comfortable. God used wrestling in my life to grow me as an individual. Wrestling has taught me that it’s important to serve the people who support you, be humble and to always be respectful.” Jessica Medina, 2015 World Team Trials 3rd place at 55 kg.
As seen from the testimony of these elite athletes, wrestling has made an incredible impact on their lives and they believe that it can do the same for other young women. Many questions and concerns arise for how exactly to go about implementing women’s wrestling into our high schools, and like any endeavor worth taking, it has its challenges.
One known concern (especially by outsiders of the sport) is a physical sport like wrestling is not appropriate for females, or that it will transform feminine girls body’s into too much of a masculine physique. Take a look at any of the female athletes quoted above. These young women are like most other young athletic women their age, with similar interests. Except they wrestle.
Another discussed concern is how schools would coordinate the coaching of the boys and girls wrestling teams. Depending on team and facility sizes, schools would have to determine whether to split the boys and girls squads or do joint practices with both teams. This is especially important because boys’ wrestling at the high school level is folkstyle, whereas girls currently compete only in freestyle.
Several of the female wrestlers interviewed though voiced concern over girls not being able to wrestle with the boys, citing going to-to-toe with boys in the practice room has helped push them to become better, more improved wrestlers.
Other questions linger though, like how a state offering girls wrestling for the first time will be able to schedule girl’s duals and tournaments. Especially when the sport is new and likely not an abundance of schools offer it initially.
The silver lining to each of the aforementioned “problems” with states offering girl’s wrestling is that most are simply logistical roadblocks rather than problems with the sport itself. The quality of wrestling is not at all in question. American stars like Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis (both returning world medalists) prove that it is quite possible to display both excellence on the mat and elegance off it.
One way or the other wrestling has too many benefits and positive impacts that it can make on a young lady’s life for there not to be more opportunities for her to be a part of this great sport. Let’s do what we can to build opportunities for our young women to wrestle. Let’s endorse and support women’s high school wrestling.