Sophomore Emma Carter pins down success
February 1, 2019
“Being a girl in this boy’s sport, there [are] so many things you have to do. People are constantly watching what you’re doing to try and protect themselves; people in this sport are so sexist, it’s insane,” Carter said. “I know you’re thinking, ‘oh, they’re wrestlers, why would they care?’ But men want to keep their masculinity, so it’s tough. And then they’re teenagers, so they have their own inner battles, so they think ‘I don’t want to lose to a girl, how will this person look at me and how will that person look at me? I’ll be a laughing stock.’”
Then, Carter’s matter-of-fact tone becomes blended with melancholy.
“I’ve had some pretty hurtful things said to me as well. I remember we were at Ladue and this guy, we went hand in hand and he beat me, and he said, ‘you only lost because you were a girl.’ That really got to me,” Carter said.
She pauses, reflecting on her rise from the receiving end of diminutive treatment to being a trailblazer for the next generation of female wrestlers.
“How do they respond when they lose to a girl?”
Carter does not hesitate now, her answer is blunt. This is not the first time she has been asked this question.
“How would you respond if you lost to anybody?”
“Does it matter if you’ve lost to a girl or a boy?”
Carter is short-spoken. Determined to establish herself as a leading presence in the inaugural season of officially-sanctioned Missouri girls’ wrestling, Carter strives to no longer be seen as a female wrestler, but simply a wrestler—and a serious contender going into the district tournament Feb. 1-2.
“Fingers crossed, knock on wood that I make it to [the] state [competition] because that’s all I really want,” Carter said.
Currently ranked fourth in Missouri in the 167-pound weight class, Carter has her sights set high, and she has the hardware to back it up with third place medals at both the Mehlville Women’s Invitational and Lafayette’s Fred Ross Invitational.
“If I really want to do this, [I can’t have] breaks. Last year I think I lacked determination, definitely determination. I had a lot of other things on my mind, but I’m figuring out high school more and more; it’s becoming more transparent; I can figure out things in my life,” Carter said. “School, grades, friendships, all that drama; I’m not going to let that fog my mind up.”
Some of her biggest motivating factors are the girls she mentors and works with through Junior Patriots wrestling. Carter was first brought into the sport through Junior Patriots by middle school physical education teacher Drew Lilledahl, and now she volunteers her time helping the next generation of wrestlers.
“There’s this little girl, she got into wrestling [in the first year she could join], sixth grade. She came, and she wrestled and I taught her some stuff, and she was like, ‘I really look up to you because of this’ and she was the only girl on that middle school team,” Carter said. “And I’m sure she was scared to come, but when she saw me as another girl, she was like, ‘wow, I can do this if she can.’”
“I try to be [a role model], I really do, because nothing makes me happier than seeing girls in a sport that’s full of boys, and then beating the guys,” Carter said.
She pauses once more, collecting her thoughts and returning her focus to the opportunity of the girls state championship lying just ahead of her, to the district tournament tonight and all the discouragement she overcame to get here.
“There are people that told me that I went too hard [last season], and I need to slow down because there’s nothing for me,” Carter said. “But the way I see it, there’s always room for progress, and progress is what kept me going. When I found out I made fourth in state—oh my god. I knew I was good but that just confirmed it and that just gave me more to go off of; it’s huge.”