Seymour sees growth in girls wrestling participation


Over the past few years, more girls have become involved in high school wrestling across Indiana.

Seymour High School’s program isn’t any exception.

This winter, a record eight female wrestlers make up the Owls’ roster.

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“Girls wrestling is growing. We see it all the time,” Owls head coach Todd Weaver said. “We just saw three girls from Indiana schools go and bring back some kind of medal this year at the senior, junior and cadet levels. All of them are or have wrestled in college on some sort of scholarship.

“It’s a growing sport,” he said. “The numbers are going up all the time. There’s talk that it will be an NCAA sport soon, so there are opportunities out there to wrestle and get an education.”

Two years ago, Indiana High School Girls Wrestling conducted its first state tournament.

This past winter, the state tournament at Lawrence North drew 130 grapplers, which fed in from north and south regional competitions.

Last year, the Owls had one female wrestler on the team, Rachel Hokoana-Yamaguchi. She graduated last year after competing at the girls state tournament in back-to-back seasons.

The state tournament doesn’t have a team competition yet but has individual draws.

Since 1994, the National Wrestling Coaches Association has seen high school girls wrestling grow from 804 to 16,562 participants.

At Seymour, Weaver said he had a callout for anyone interested in wrestling.

“We put it on the announcements saying that if interested, there is a meeting on this day,” he said. “We actually had 14 girls come the first day. We told them to go home and talk to mom and dad and make sure that this is something everyone is on board with. A few came back saying their parents wouldn’t let them, and we eventually got down to eight.”

He was surprised by the number of girls that came that first day.

“I really thought we would have two or three. If it was really good, maybe four,” Weaver said. “You just never know really until you start who is going to stay and who is going to leave.”

Weaver said he has coached five or six different girls over the years.

“I’ve always had one girl at a time,” he said. “They never had a choice to wrestle anyone but boys. This year, we have the luxury of drilling each other. I think it’s good, but they are ready to wrestle anyone.”

Kylee Nowling, a sophomore at Seymour High School, decided to go out for the team when she heard some of her friends were giving it a try.

“I knew my friends from soccer were doing it,” she said, as Seymour girls soccer head coach Greg Musser is an assistant coach for the wrestling team.

“It has been really fun so far and interesting to learn something new every day,” Nowling said. “I was really nervous the first time because I didn’t know what to expect. We like having a lot of girls on the team. We have our own group chat. My goals are to get more pins and to go far in the state tournament.”

She said the support from the boys on the team has been good.

“The boys have been super-nice,” Nowling said. “They have been really helpful in everything. They don’t put us down because we’re girls.”

Ashley Trujillo, a junior, said she is determined to succeed on the mat.

“I had someone come up to me and said I wouldn’t do it. I said ‘Yes, I will. I will prove you wrong,’” she said. “That was my motivation. It has been great. One of my goals is to make it far in the regional and state. I wanted to win just one, and I already have.”

Freshman Rhea Dacayo had always wanted to wrestle and took advantage of the opportunity this winter.

“I have always wanted to wrestle since the sixth grade, but I didn’t really have the courage to do it because usually it’s a boys sport,” she said. “I really got the courage from my cousins, my mom, who was in wrestling, and my dad. I want to improve more. I want to be faster and stronger and win a couple matches.

“I have learned a lot, especially with mental strength,” Dacayo said. “I didn’t really have that when I started this sport. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not just for boys. It’s for everyone who wants to do it. I encourage a lot of girls to do it because it’s amazing.”

At the beginning of December, the wrestlers went to an all-girls tournament at Maconaquah. Some of the wrestlers picked up their first wins at the event.

Weaver said when they got back from the tourney, the girls made it a point that they wanted to wrestle against the boys.

“They talked to those other girls and have seen that other girls are wrestling boys day in and out,” he said. “I think our girls get more aggressive when they wrestle boys. It’s surprising for me. If you can bring that out of them, it will help them on the mat.”

Participation numbers at the high school level are up because of growing opportunities post-graduation.

Women’s wrestling was added to the summer Olympic games in 2004 and is growing at the collegiate level at a rapid pace.

This past April, the NAIA granted invitational status to women’s wrestling. The NAIA added women’s wrestling beginning this academic school year, unanimously being approved by the national administrative council.

Invitational status officially puts women’s wrestling under NAIA purview, meaning the sport will begin competing and developing the protocols and framework needed for championship status.

Once a sport has 40 teams and has completed two years at invitational status, it may apply for championship status.

A national women’s wrestling invitational will be hosted annually.

“The NAIA is proud to be the first intercollegiate athletics association to officially recognize women’s wrestling,” NAIA President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Carr said in a news release. “This is a great opportunity to empower female student-athletes both athletically and academically. The recent growth of the sport indicates it will have a strong future with our association.”

The NAIA has more member institutions sponsoring women’s wrestling than any other intercollegiate athletics association, according to the news release. This year, 19 schools offered women’s wrestling, and it’s anticipated that the 2018-19 academic year will have 25 teams.

It hasn’t been sanctioned as an official NCAA sport yet, but the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association is governing multiple programs at NCAA institutions.

The WCWA is standardizing rules until the NCAA recognizes it as an emerging sport. There are currently more than 30 schools that participate in the WCWA, which has had national championships since 2004.

“An emerging sport is a women’s sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to help schools provide more athletics opportunities for women and more sport sponsorship options for the institutions and also help that sport achieve NCAA championship status,” according to

Weaver said many other coaches are seeing more female participation in a sport that had a stipulation for only being for boys.

“I’m not the only coach that feels this way,” he said. “I think within 10 years, you could see IHSAA girls wrestling. It is just growing so fast. I don’t know why. I think it is one of those things that broke out of that norm that it’s only a boys sport.”

To Weaver’s knowledge, there is only one Indiana high school team that has more girls wrestlers than Seymour: Penn.

Weaver said his boys don’t view the girls differently.

“It’s just accepted. You don’t go out and say, ‘You’re wrestling a girl,’” Weaver said. “They have headgear, wrestling shoes and a singlet on. It’s time to wrestle. That’s the way we think of it, and I think that’s the way a lot of other people are starting to think of it.”

Weaver said he feels having more girls on the team has helped the program.

“Honestly, I think it has helped our team chemistry,” he said. “That’s one thing we have gotten on our team about in the past. We want to see everyone cheering for their teammates. I think there’s a lot of that with the girls, and it has spilled over to the boys.”

None of the eight female wrestlers are seniors, so the Owls could be in for record numbers again next winter.

Postseason events for IHSGW will be in January.

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