The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

The student-run news site of Lawrence Free State High School

Free Press Online

FEATURE: Freshmen Fueling Girls Wrestling

Girls wrestling sees significant growth from incoming freshman
Elinor Russo
Taking hold of an opponent, junior Daijah Preston begins to wrestle. As one of the Girls Wrestling captains, Preston played a large role in motivating the team.

While the girl’s wrestling team has struggled with numbers in previous years, the team has doubled in size since the 2022-2023 season climbing, from six to 13 wrestlers. Nationwide, girls wrestling has seen similar increases to Free State’s program.

Freshman Iya Vail has seen success this season with a record of 14-6. She plans to continue her wrestling career throughout high school and recruit new girls in hopes of progressing the growth of the program.

“The larger team is better. You get a lot more people and you can see who you fit in with and test yourself,” Vail said.

The 2023-2024 season is among the first years where female athletes have wrestling experience before high school, Vail is one of these wrestlers. Head coach Carl Springer feels the rise in middle school girls wrestling in Lawrence over recent years has elicited the growth of Free State’s numbers along with amplifying the competition of the sport.

“Last year we didn’t have any girls that wrestled in junior high,” Springer said. “We have five or six this year, and next year we’ll have almost 10 coming.”

Most wrestlers agree that across the nation, girl’s wrestling is becoming increasingly accepted as more girls feel comfortable participating in the sport; however, it has not reached the level of acceptance that other girl’s sports have received.

“A lot of girls don’t know wrestling is something that they can do or they think they should try,” Springer said. “It’s always a hard conversation with some parents that don’t think their daughters should wrestle.”

Nearing the end of a match, coaches Cameron Young-Leggett, Melle Dye and Carl Springer encourage a wrestler. As the new head coach, Springer aimed to send as many wrestlers to State as possible. “Our goal remains the same as always: work hard, be good people and win the right matches,” Springer said.
(Elinor Russo )

Out of seven new wrestlers, five are freshmen making strong leadership essential for the young team. Returning wrestler, junior Daijah Preston says she has stepped into this role for younger wrestlers.

“My freshman year I had a leader for me, so I took how she helped me and let me grow, and I try to help the younger girls grow,” Preston said. “They’re the future of the program.”

The benefits of a larger team are agreed upon by many of the returning wrestlers. Preston attributes the team’s first win in a duel against Shawnee Mission Northwest to the larger team along with the extra work the wrestlers put in.

“It’s great to have a bigger team because it’s more people cheering you on,” Preston said. “When you’re stuck in tough positions, it’s nice to hear your teammates and more people cheering you on and rooting for you.”

The team anticipates similar trends of incoming freshmen in the coming years. The program as a whole has high hopes for growth on the foundation they’ve built.

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