West Welcomes Kansas Decision to Make Girls Wrestling an Official Sport


Tyler Roden

Wrestling coach, Lucas Vincent, coaches two athletes during Summer wrestling camp

Caché Goracke

Kansas joined the club. 

On April 26, Kansas voted girls wrestling to be the 23rd official high school sport in Kansas, joining only about 15 other states.

High school girls have wrestled boys across the country for quite some time now, but the difference this year lies in the official state tournament that will be held, where girls will have the opportunity to wrestle opponents of the same gender. 

Practices, however, will remain co-ed. Head coach Tyler Rodden, and assistant coach Mike McLaughlin explained that the wrestling season will be similar to that of cross-country where the girls and boys will practice together and quite possibly wrestle each other as well.

“It will be a little bit of an adjustment,” Rodden said. “But in terms of the competitions, that’s the most exciting part. It’s really difficult from both a male athlete’s standpoint and a female athlete’s standpoint when they have to compete against each other. There’s a lot of drawbacks to that.”

Junior Elli Williams, who is interested in joining girls wrestling this year, gave her thoughts as well.

“I would prefer not too [wrestle a boy] but if I had too it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” Williams said. “I think it will be good exercise, and other than that, I don’t know a lot but I’m interested to learn.” 

For girls like Williams who in the past have considered having to wrestle boys enough to persuade them to opt-out, Kansas decision seems to give them much more motivation to try. In Kansas, any high school without both a boys and girls team must accept any gender who wishes to try out. Regardless of this, there have never been any girl wrestlers at West. With the formation of an all-girls team, however, over 15 girls have already shown interest. 

This trend appeared in the state of Missouri as well when it introduced girls wrestling as an official sport a year before Kansas.

“Missouri is a year ahead of us,” Rodden said. “Their year where girls wrestling was not official, they had about 140 girls. The first year they opened with actual, official girls wrestling it jumped to like 900 and something. So, there was a huge jump. Kansas last year had something around 250 girls that were already wrestling without it being an official sport, so we are expecting hopefully as big of a jump as Missouri saw if not bigger.”

Assistant coach McLaughlin expressed his optimism for the new girls team. 

“Girls have wrestled against guys all over the country and all over Kansas for a long time,” McLaughlin said. “I like the idea of switching to girls vs. girls though because that’s how the Olympics are and college is too.” 

According to McLaughlin, there are roughly 60 NAIA colleges that offer girls wrestling. Integrating girls wrestling in high school will give girls the chance to take the sport seriously and increase the likeliness of them trying it in college. 

The main focus of the season for both of the coaches so far, however, is to simply recruit girls to try out for the team. 

“The other stuff takes care of itself over time, but the first and foremost thing you have to have is a good roster of girls,” Rodden said. 

Good numbers to Rodden are about 15-20 girls, which is around the number of male wrestlers West had at the beginning of it’s opening year in 2017, and is accordingly about the number of girls that have shown interest in it so far.  

According to the coaches, there are immense health benefits to wrestling.

“In terms of your physical health, I’ve never seen a high school kid go through wrestling and their body not change for the better health-wise,” Rodden said. “Whether that’s losing weight, toning up, having more endurance, or better conditioning.” 

Along with the mental strength it constructs over time, McLaughin believes there’s nothing quite like it. 

“You really learn so much about how to persevere through the hard times,” McLaughlin said. “It’s one on one, and nobody else is helping you through that. I think that that is a valuable skill for school and life.”