Girls wrestling creates their own team

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Olivia Bradshaw

As the spectators on the side look on, junior Faith Woodall attempts to get the upper hand on her female opponent. Woodall is a first-year wrestler, joining after the girls wrestling team began to gain traction. “I really like it because they support each other in their endeavors and the team is just really close,” Woodall said.

With new additions to the team and approval from the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) to separate the former co-ed sport, girls wrestling has formed their own team in hopes of growing a female presence in the sport at the high school level.

MSHSAA has proposed a two-year transition phase to divide boys and girls into their own conferences. This is the second year in that phase.

“The girls wrestling program came about because girls wrestling started a few years ago where it was always meant to be a boy’s sport, but girls started showing up,” assistant coach Hope Miller said. “The girls wrestling has definitely developed this year where [sophomore] Paige Wehrmiester and [junior] Emma Carter really developed getting girls involved in the program. So next year, 100%, it will only be girls who can wrestle girls.”

After Wehrmeister’s freshman season, she, with the help of Carter, recruited other girls to join by word of mouth.

“I would tell a lot of other girls around the school ‘hey, you should wrestle,’ and 99% of them [would say] ‘no’ because they had another sport or they just didn’t want to wrestle,” Wehrmeister said. “In the off-season, we strived to recruit girls for the team this year. It worked out because we were able to get some girls, but what really made it a team was that we can bond well together.”

Wehrmeister was initially unsure about the transition to a girls team but adjusted to the new environment.

“It was kind of mixed [feeling] because I was really excited that we would have a girls team and there would be other girls, but at the same time, I knew it would feel really different. It was a weird change because I missed going to the tournament with the guys last year,” Wehrmeister said. “This year, I did a lot more tournaments with the girls which was still really fun because I like our team and wrestling other girls.”

Junior Faith Woodall acknowledges her belief of the transition promoting girls to higher levels.

“I believe next year, there’s going to be more separate tournaments, and girls are going to have more opportunities to compete at higher levels,” Woodall said. “I feel like this means that girls will get more recognition, and they’ll be able to go further. So rather than competing with the same weight in boys and losing all the time, girls will be elevated more.”

Miller feels that the transition has been difficult, but is hopeful that a turnaround comes soon.

“It was a little bit hard for them to organize it all because it was like ‘what schools actually have girl wrestlers or girls teams?’” Miller said. “They would have one girl or some schools had a full roster, so it was hard to differentiate all of the teams; this year is getting more organized, and it really seems like it’s going to be a great district.”

Miller is excited about the developments to come for girls wrestling in high school and in higher levels of competition.

“I was just overjoyed. I am so excited for the opportunity for female wrestlers to be able to get more chances to develop their own wrestling and also just enjoy the sport. All the differences in boys and girls wrestling, the physical abilities and the way that boys and girls wrestle is a bit different,” Miller said. “I’m just excited for the girls to get all these opportunities because in college wrestling, they approved scholarships and teams to develop for girls wrestling, so it actually gives these ladies wrestling in high school an opportunity to get their college paid for and the opportunity to go to more places than high school for it.”

Capitalizing on this new opportunity, Wehrmeister qualified for the Missouri state championship again and took the entire district as district champion out of 50 schools on Feb. 8. Wehrmeister believes she was able to accomplish this feat due to her work ethic in the off-season.

“I did Crossfit a couple days a week, I did Gateway, which is a wrestling club, I did Valkyrie, which is a girls wrestling club, then I also ended up doing Purler, which is where a lot of good people train,” Wehrmeister said. “I went to a lot of off-season tournaments, and I participated with Lafayette’s tournament over the summer and Fargo [wrestling Tournament], which was definitely helpful.”

Wehrmeister credits her success and the team’s to her coaches to perform at the top of her conference.

“They keep our team organized and moving, and they just keep the team running, literally and figuratively. But I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from my coaches is to always have respect and to give your hundred percent and go for it,” Wehrmeister said. “They always want us to go in, practice as hard as we can and do our best, and as long as we are giving as much as we can give you, then that’s what you can do.”