Wrestling team expansion provides new opportunities for girls

Senior Celeste Nunez and sophomore Jaila Coleman prepare for their meet.
(Photo by Livi Tuber)

Standing on the wrestling mat with beads of sweat dripping down your face and the sound of cheers echoing in your ears can be an exhilarating experience for wrestlers. They chase the feeling of having their hand raised by the referee at the end of a match, and now more girls are working toward this moment of glory.

With more girls joining wrestling, the sport is beginning to change and opportunities for female wrestlers are expanding.

Girls wrestling became an Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA)-sanctioned sport this year, head wrestling coach Chris Bragg said. Prior to this, he explained, girls wrestling was a club sport. Bragg said this has given the team extra funding from the school and allowed for the creation of a state tournament for girls wrestling.

The high school wrestling team currently has three female wrestlers, two of whom have no prior wrestling experience, Bragg said. All three wrestlers have improved immensely in their short time on the team because of their coachability and eagerness to learn more about the sport, he added.

Junior Mckenzie Holderby wrestled when she was younger, but she joined the wrestling team this year after women’s wrestling became a OHSAA-sanctioned sport because this would allow her to wrestle other girls, she said. Even though the girl wrestlers at Bexley wrestle other girls, Holderby said it’s up to the individual if they want to compete with boys or girls.

She said it was awkward at first being one of the few girls on the team, but over time being on the wrestling team became a positive experience for her.

“Once the team all comes together after a couple weeks, it feels like an actual family,” Holderby said.

Senior Celeste Nunez explained that the team dynamic between the girls and boys is very productive and supportive, and it feels like everyone is focused on the same goal.

“The boys treat us just like any other teammate—they help us out, and they support us during our meets,” Nunez said. “I’ve been more appreciated and supported by the boys than any other girls team I’ve ever been on.”

Wrestling is the fastest growing girls sport, so it has become more common for other school teams to have female wrestlers to compete against, Bragg said.

“Trying to survive in wrestling when it’s…mainly males around is hard for a female, and now that’s changing,” he added.

Bragg said when girls first joined the team, he talked with other girls coaches to get a better understanding of how to be successful. Additionally, he said he had to educate himself a bit about the anatomical differences between girls and boys in terms of wrestling.

“There are differences, but I do my best to try to treat them all the same,” Bragg said.

Bragg said coaching girls wrestling has made him a better coach overall and changed his perspective on coaching.

“It’s been challenging, but I would never want to change that,” he explained. “I’m proud to have them be a part of it, and I think we’re making history.”


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Cece Bowling
Cece Bowling is a senior at Bexley High School and an in-depth editor for the Torch student newspaper. Outside of the Torch, she plays soccer for the high school, participates in theater productions and sings in the Bexley Vocal Ensemble.