BLOOMDALE — Supporters of girls wrestling at Elmwood Local Schools want the board of education to sanction it as a sport.
Misty Bechstein said she has two daughters who want to participate, and now that it is a sanctioned sport in Ohio, it should be added at Elmwood.
After a unanimous vote, the Ohio High School Athletic Association decided to add girls wrestling for the 2022-23 season.
Bechstein and nearly a dozen other people spoke at the February school board meeting in support of having a girls wrestling team.
One of her daughters is uncomfortable wrestling with boys, which shouldn’t hinder her participation, Bechstein said.
She asked that all the parents in attendance who supported girls wrestling to stand. A dozen did so.
“I would love that to happen,” said student Angeleigh Bechstein about girls wrestling. “We don’t like to wrestle with the guys, they’re stronger than us.”
The girls would love to have their own team because it would give them a better chance on the mat, Angeleigh Bechstein said.
At the January board meeting, Elmwood wrestling coach David Lee said that 15 years ago, he did not like the idea of female wrestling, but he has changed his mind.
Lee is a volunteer middle school assistant wrestling coach. He was head wrestling coach for the district for more than 30 years.
“Some people might not like it at first,” Lee said. “Then we ended up becoming co-ed and I changed my mind.”
He said there is a need for girls wrestling at Elmwood.
“Wrestling is good for everybody and hopefully they’ll be good for wrestling,” Lee said.
Elmwood has the facilities and the staff and “the interest to make this a successful sport,” he said.
Lee has since offered to coach the girls team with no compensation. Fundraisers can be held to raise money to purchase uniforms.
“If someone came up with some reason it wouldn’t work, I could blow it out of the water,” he said.
Elmwood head wrestling coach Nick Davis said for this year, the rules will allow the girls to compete with the boys at co-ed matches
Next year, that may change, he said, and co-ed matches may be gone.
“That is a proposal they’re talking about, there won’t be any co-ed wrestling allowed,” Davis said.
Board member Debbie Reynolds said it was a priority to have a policy in place to make all sports equal and fair.
She said referees and busing need to be addressed, along with a coach and facility.
Superintendent Tony Borton said his goal is to make a decision by the end of this school year.
“Right now, we’re still investigating,” he said.
Lee said in January that Rossford, Liberty-Benton and Gibsonburg have successful programs.
Last year, there were 743 female wrestlers; this year the number was almost 1,600, he said.
“Girls wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports there is right now,” said community member Dan Hobbs at the February meeting.
The girls build confidence when they compete and win and show what they’re made of, he said.
“They are more than likely tougher than the guys that are out there,” Hobbs said.
Scholarships are being awarded, which gives a lot of kids the opportunity to go to college and compete in this sport, he said.
“I feel like this could be good,” said student Trinity Bechstein. “I’ve been wrestling for a while, and I’ve wrestled with the boys and then with the girls, and I’m more comfortable wrestling with the girls.”
Teammate Libbie Tyson agreed and said a lot of girls may not compete if they have to wrestle boys.
Parent John Sander invited the board to attend an all-girls wrestling meet. The atmosphere is totally different, he said.
“I think there is support and I think there is interest,” Sander said. “I think it would be a good thing for the community.”
Parent Brian Endicott added that the girls support each other and cheer on opposing players.
“It’s awesome to see and it’s almost like they can sense they’re on the ground level of something that can grow into something special,” he said.
Girls wrestling promotes physical fitness and mental and physical toughness, Endicott said.
At the junior high and high school level, girls wrestling guys can become awkward, he said.
“There’s a spot for everyone,” whether tall, short, big or small, Endicott said.