Participation by females in the sport of high school wrestling is on the rise nationally as well as in Cumberland County.
A check with Cumberland County Schools athletic directors revealed there are 15 female wrestlers competing on varsity teams in the county this year with only E.E. Smith and South View reporting no females on their wrestling teams.
The schools with the biggest turnout of females this season are Pine Forest with four and Jack Britt with three.
Coaches Byron Sigmon of Jack Britt and Charles Daniels of Pine Forest both encourage females to take part in the sport at their schools.
“I’m recruiting everybody, especially now that women’s wrestling has taken off in North Carolina,’’ Daniels said.
Last year, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association held its first state wrestling championship tournament solely for female wrestlers. The second one is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 8, at Carolina Courts in Concord.
Sigmon, who sometimes tries to recruit female wrestlers from his weightlifting class, said he’s noticed an increase in participation in the sport by females from the upper weight classes.
Last year, a Jack Britt wrestler, Madajah Trapier, won the 152-pound state title in the first NCHSAA women’s wrestling tournament. The school awarded her a state championship ring.
“That kind of opened the eyes of a good many girls on our team and in our school,’’ Sigmon said.
Talking to the various girls from Cumberland County who are involved in wrestling, it’s clear they have a variety of reasons for giving the
sport a try.
Andrea Moore is a 113-pound sophomore in her second year with the Buccaneers. She doesn’t want boys to think the sport is just for males. “It’s for anybody,’’ she said.
Adria Bell, a 138-pound sophomore at Britt, is the sister of former Buccaneer star Erick Martinez.
She said a lot of older women come up to her at matches and tell her they wish they had had the opportunity to try wrestling when they were in high school.
“Whenever I get on the mat, I’m nervous,’’ she said. “It’s teammates supporting and motivating you that helps. We can all relate to it more.’’
Diandra Tejada brings an unusual skill set to the wrestling mat. She’s in the lowest weight class, 106 pounds. The Jack Britt newcomer just moved in from Texas and is a cheerleader, dancer and singer. She also runs track and competes in weightlifting.
One of the things that strikes her most is how small the wrestling community is, probably because the sport is so challenging.
“The physical part has been extremely demanding and a lot different from anything I’ve ever done,’’ she said. “I make sure I’m eating right and taking care of myself mentally and physically.’’
Her goals whenever she gets on the mat are simple. “I just do my best to wrestle as hard as I can, so I can step off the mat and be proud of myself,’’ she said.
At Pine Forest, Anamaria Bailey is the veteran among the female contingent. A senior in the 170 pound class, this is her fourth year on the Trojan wrestling team. She comes from a unique athletic background, participating in rugby before she switched to wrestling.
She admits it was awkward when she started wrestling as a freshman, being the only female on the team.
“There was always a stigma and there’s always going to be one regardless of the changing times,’’ she said. “There were always people asking questions and making weird faces. I never let it bother me.’’
Bailey understands the natural curiosity but she’s glad the sport is becoming more inclusive.
“I’m happy to have my girl teammates, just as much as I am for the boys to be here,’’ she said.
Like Bailey, teammate Jewel Arrowsmith, a 126-pound sophomore, brings an interesting background to the sport. She’s a gymnast, who took up wrestling after her brother became a member of the team.
Like most of the females, Arrowsmith said she has to overcome a lack of strength against most male opponents by emphasizing technique. “Day by day I get better,’’ she said. “I would definitely like to place in the women’s state tournament. I look forward to having a medal.’’
Another Pine Forest wrestler, Kahala Bandmann, a 138-pound junior, also followed her brother into the sport. A soccer player, she’s convinced her work in wrestling will help her to be in excellent shape when soccer season for girls starts in the spring.
She said she tries to overcome any shortcomings with strength by outthinking her opponents, but admits that can be hard. “You get carried away when you’re in the moment,’’ she said. “You have to stay focused.’’
That focus includes not being caught up in the fact she’s facing a male opponent on the mat most of the time. “Your goal is just to beat them,’’ she said. “You’re not thinking about how close you are to a guy or anything else that goes through your head.’’
Hailie Misplay, a 132-pound freshman, plays softball and feels wrestling is helping her get stronger and improve her power at the plate.
She knows most of the males she faces will be stronger than she is, but that’s not something that she worries about. “I have to be smarter, quicker and out-technique them to beat them,’’ she said.
As for the future of the sport, most of the girls feel that participation by females is only going
“If they see more girls are going out to wrestle, it’s like a trend,’’ Bell said. “One starts, then more come. It’s a domino effect.’’
Top picture from L-R: Anamaria Bailey, Jewel Arrowsmith, Kahala Bandmann and Hailie Misplay.
Bottom picture from L-R L-R Adria Bell, Diandra Tejada, Andrea Moore.