Even if it’s only six minutes, these girls will put their all into their matches, their effort and determination evident in the way they push themselves. Welcome to one of this school year’s new opportunities: girls wrestling. Students participating in the contact sport are eager to learn and win.
Female high school student athletes have only been able to wrestle on teams in recent years, with more state high school championships being established for females. This number has increased from six last year to at least 15 this school year in order to accommodate the increased interest of female athletes across the nation.
The girls wrestling team at Orange will exist as one of the teams under the entire wrestling program. It is not yet recognized as a varsity sport, but English teacher and assistant wrestling coach Brian Nicola will coach the sport. “I wrestled in high school and college, then coached my entire adult life. I was the head coach at Orange from 2008-2015,” Nicola said.
Nicola explained that state-sponsored opportunities opened for female students this year. “The Ohio High School Coaches Association partnered with OHSAA this past spring to add a girls state tournament in February 2020,” Nicola said. This choice sparked the idea of starting a girls team for the high school.
Female participation is on the rise.“It’s the fastest growing high school sport in the country. It’s not even close: from 2017-18 to 2018-19, girls participation jumped from 16,000 to 22,000,” Nicola said.
Junior Noel Frye joined girls wrestling this year. She didn’t have much experience, but was motivated to try the sport. “I joined girls wrestling because I thought it would be a really cool way to challenge myself to get out of my comfort zone.” There are workouts every Sunday night from 6:30- 8 p.m., so all interested students should visit for a general understanding of the basics.
For junior Taryn Martin, a Folkstyle national runner up, Fargo runner up and Pan American Cadet World Team member, this will be her sixth year wrestling. She has always wrestled boys and wrestled girls only recently. “I love being around so many different types of people because it all plays a role in my wrestling . You can learn something for anyone you meet and it can help you out in the future,” Martin said.
There are no tryouts, so experience is not required. “The only requirement is wanting to work hard and be part of a team,” Nicola said. Vanessa Oswald, a former member of the women’s U.S National team, international wrestler and current Mount Vernon boys wrestling assistant coach, will be helping the girls team a few times.
In terms of stereotypes, they exist for everyone. “People might think it’s just for meatheads or that the uniform is odd. But just like any sport, it draws from a wide range or athletes, of all body types and social groups,” Nicola said. He has one question for those who believe stereotypes on females.
“If we really believe a sport can help shape and form a young person’s ideals, why limit it to half the population?”
With the creation of the girls wrestling team, stereotypes will be broken as more opportunities emerge. The mission of the team is to encourage the growth of wrestling in female students in the school and across the state, including rival schools such as Alliance, Lutheran West, Miami East, Bellefontaine and Marysville. With their enthusiasm for learning and desire for victory, the girls team is starting off strong.