March 6, 2020
A loud thud echoed off the gymnasium walls onto the onlookers’ ears as the huge wrestling mat was rolled out. Atholton senior Leela Derstine was filled with anticipation as she walked out and took her stance on the wrestling mat. The crowds in the stands were cheering as she got into position and pinned her opponent down. What makes this wrestling match so special? Two females are now on the Atholton High School Wrestling Team and are dominating the mats with their skills!
In past years, girls have sporadically joined the team, but only one person at a time. However, initially this year 3 girls joined, and two remain, helping to diversify the wrestling team. “It’s the most we’ve ever had at one time,” stated Atholton’s varsity wrestling coach, Bruce Lindbald. “Previous years before that, we had one girl that stayed with us for four years, which is unusual for a female to stay for the whole four years.”
According to Derstine, “I’ve had a really positive experience on the team this year. I’ve grown stronger physically and mentally and made a bunch of new friends.’’ She added that “I would one hundred percent suggest that everyone should give wrestling a shot.” Sophomore Maya Adams agrees with Derstine, saying wrestling is a great sport to do. She stated that wrestling has been “really fun and it’s cool being in an environment with boys and girls.”
This wrestling season now has two female wrestlers on its team, and they are both completely immersed in the team and loving it. Derstine said she feels as if she is fully a part of the team and that “none of the boys or coaches treat me any differently because of my gender.” Junior and wrestler Nicholas Liang agreed, saying, “nothing about the team changed.” He continued by saying “they were welcomed into the team as just another wrestler,” and that the girls are trained in the exact same way as everyone else.
In comparison to other sports that Derstine has been a part of, wrestling “takes way more hard work,” and “grit,” according to Derstine. Additionally, Adams agreed that it’s very different, stating it is, “more of an individual sport which is different than the other sports I’ve played.”
Regardless of gender, all athletes hold practices and compete in meets together. A typical everyday practice consists of warm-up laps around the wrestling mat, another warm-up, a little bit of cardio, and finally, Coach Billups teaches the team new wrestling moves to practice.
Despite being on a team filled with guys, at the end of the day, the girls still manage to wrestle around and have a good time. Since the team is completely integrated by gender, anyone can join, and be a part of the all-inclusive Atholton Raiders Wrestling team.