The progression of the girls’ wrestling team

This year West High started the first girls’ wrestling team. With varying levels of experience and a brand new program, all eyes were on this team as they made their way through the season.

Maddy Smith, Photographer, Yearbook Student Life editor

The addition of the girls’ team to the wrestling program had been in the air for a while, with student polls being sent out throughout the 2018-19 school year. It was questionable whether it would happen or not, due to lack of response and how new the idea was. On Dec. 3, 2019, history was made at West’s very first girls’ wrestling practice.

On the first day of practice, the girls went over the basics. They started by sitting down and meeting coaches Justin Koethe, Elijah Sullivan and Luke Eustice before going straight into warmups which included jogging, side-shuffling and somersaulting. Coach Koethe instructed the new wrestlers on a proper stance, with all the coaches going around and adjusting.  The team really hit the ground running by practicing shooting and other movements before they were halfway into practice. 

With the first meet came wins and losses. There were plenty of nerves as the girls looked for their bracket and adjusted their headgear.

“I’m a bit nervous since we’ve only had six practices and I’m absolutely brand new to the sport,” Emma Dunlap ’22 said before her matches at City High. “It’s exciting because it’s brand new. It’s a  learning experience.” Dunlap tried the sport for fun because it was something new and different for her. 

It’s exciting because it’s brand new. It’s a  learning experience.”

— Emma Dunlap '22

Coach Koethe went in just like the girls, anxious and excited.

“I’m just more excited than anything. Excited to see what happens.”

Koethe was giving pep-talks, adjusting headgear, and cheering the whole night. 

Mattie Harms ‘22 became the first girl to win a match for West High by pinning an Anamosa wrestler. Harms had another win by decision later in the night. 

Not everyone recorded a win, but every wrestler kept their heads up, happy to have simply competed.

“I didn’t win but I feel pretty confident about my next one,” Rawan Guzouli ‘22 said about her first match.

Guzouli had high spirits the whole meet and cheered her teammates on during their matches. 

The girls only improved from there. With the season progressing, standout performers are beginning to rise to the top as legitimate competitors for the Iowa high school girls state wrestling tournament at Waverly-Shell Rock on Jan. 25.

“I think it’s going quite well, I won my overall tournament, so I am very happy with that,” Mayowa Dokun ’22 said. “I wish our season started earlier so that we would have had time to go to more tournaments. But I think it’s going really well, we have amazing coaches and the bond between us girls is [great], we get along really well.”

Dokun is excited about the future of the school, and the changes that are taking place.

“The way West is going, it should continue to go in this way with incorporating sports that are mainly dominated by the other sex,” she said.

Amelia Stevens ’23 wrestled in seventh grade and was excited to wrestle with other girls as their own team.

“The first practice was really fun. Especially at the beginning of the season, [the coaches] took it easy and less serious so we could kind of get a feel for it. They focused on us having fun in practice more than [skill].” said Stevens.

Stevens was unable to compete at City High, but saw the change in the other girls after competing for the first time. 

“As the season has progressed, a lot of the girls have gotten more serious about it and we want to learn a lot more. So the practices have gotten more serious, there’s more conditioning as we prepare for state, and also gotten longer,” said Stevens.

I think [West] should continue on this path because adding girls’ wrestling, at least for me personally, has helped me meet a lot of people and made me feel more included in the community”

— Amelia Stevens '23

Like Dokun, Stevens found her place with the girls, forming a bond.

“I think [West] should continue on this path because adding girls’ wrestling, at least for me personally, has helped me meet a lot of people and made me feel more included in the community,” she said.

Katie Hoefer ‘21 was surprised by the intensity of the sport. She was taken out of cross country season due to a stress fracture and was looking for a new team to be apart of. Hoefer found what she was looking for in the very first girls wrestling team. 

“I think wrestling really forces you to go out and make things happen,” Hoefer said.  “Symbolically, this season has been a lot about breaking barriers, but it’s made me realize that barriers and stereotypes aren’t overcome by attendance. We had already made history when twenty-some girls showed up the first day, but it’s the work and commitment that cement these girls’ place in the wrestling world.”

As these girls face the challenge of learning a new sport, they also tackle something much larger. For years, wrestling has been dominated by men. History was made this season with the emergence of the girls wrestling team, and the slow but growing march to a more inclusive school. 

The attitude has been overwhelmingly positive.”

— Katie Hoefer '21

Hoefer is proud of West for making this inclusive change. “The attitude has been overwhelmingly positive. The guy’s team has been supportive, and all my friends and teachers have been very interested and excited to see this change.”

It is clear there are varying levels of commitment to the sport. Some of these new wrestlers are looking for a state title, and are open to wrestling collegiately. 

Wrestling isn’t for everyone, you may have that idea before going into it but it is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life.”

— Mayowa Dokun

The consensus from these wrestlers is that if you are looking for a new sport, go for wrestling.

“If you’re unsure, nervous, or don’t know anything, that’s fine-most of us were in the same boat,” says Hoefer.

Dokun agrees, adding that while wrestling is not for everyone and requires a lot of physical endurance, it is one of the most fun things she has done.

“Go for it. Wrestling isn’t for everyone, you may have that idea before going into it but it is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life. Especially getting to know the girls on the team, and how we interact with each other is really nice, so I would definitely say join,” Dokun said. 

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