Girls Who Want to Join the Team Find a Welcome Mat
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Bethesda-Chevy Chase senior Kim Seibert fell in love with wrestling in her middle school gym class. She said she can't throw or catch a ball, so wrestling was a natural fit.
"I'm really just doing it for myself -- seeing how many wins I can get," Seibert said. "When I first signed up, it didn't really occur to me that being a female wrestler was different, that it was against the norm."
Seibert isn't on a crusade. She isn't out to prove that girls are equal to boys. She believes her reasons for wrestling are the same as those of her male teammates. The difference this year? Seibert is one of five girls on the team. Overall, female wrestlers are no longer an oddity at schools across the Washington area.
Arundel's Nicole Woody, Magruder's Helen Maroulis and Robinson's Firen Gassman have shown the competitive heights female wrestlers can reach, and the sport is being changed at its roots.
Most girls don't have winning records or championship aspirations, and most don't wrestle on varsity. But they're coming out in record numbers.
According to the National Federation of State High School Athletics, 297 girls in Maryland (178) and Virginia (119) participated in high school wrestling last season.
According to the statistics, there were no female wrestlers in the District. The number of female participants in the two states has more than doubled the past two seasons.
"It's not a big deal anymore," said Kent Bailo, director of the United States Girls' Wrestling Association. "At one time, there was the 'I want to force the issue and be me' phase. Now I don't think it's as much to be a pioneer, but it's something they just want to do."
The desire to wrestle often starts at home.
Broadneck freshman Ariel Treadway comes from a house of grapplers -- her brother, Colton, has been wrestling since he was 6, and her father wrestled in high school and was a recreational league coach.
Colton started lobbying for Ariel to join the family tradition. After Ariel watched Woody, she realized the concept was anything but absurd.
"From knowing nothing to pinning people is pretty cool," Treadway said. "I played soccer, too, but wrestling is a lot of contact. I just love the physicalness of it."