From youth wrestling through high school, every wrestler experiences this fear at least once; the fear of possibly wrestling a girl. At some point in every male wrestlers career, they encounter a female in their bracket, and no one EVER wants to wrestle the girl. There is the fear of losing, with the added “pressure” of the ridicule a male wrestler would receive if they lose to a girl. And if he is to win, he is still teased by his teammates. With wrestling being such a masculine sport, it raises the question, “why would a girl want to wrestle?”
The sport of wrestling has stereotypes for being a macho sport, overwhelmed with male attributes such as testosterone, blood, sweat, bad smells, and physicality. From firsthand experience, I can confirm that most of these
stereotypes are true. Wrestling rooms are almost always smelly, dirty rooms filled with sweaty, smelly boys trying to hurt each other. None of these attributes would seem to appeal to the typical female.
Most would say that no female would ever want to step foot in a wrestling room, let alone be a wrestler. And a few years ago, I might agree. Headed into my freshman year of high school, my thoughts on females wrestling were stereotypical: “wrestling is a sport for hard working men.”
Therefore, when a girl in my grade named Alexandra decided to wrestle I was skeptical. My teammates and I all thought it was unusual and weird that a girl actually wanted to wrestle. We all thought the same thing, “wrestling is a tough sport designed for men, why would a girl want to wrestle?” We also feared that we would lose the masculinity of the wrestling room; most wrestling rooms are dominated by a male atmosphere of cursing, joking, and male egos clashing.
As a whole, we were apprehensive at first. We didn’t know how having Alexandra in the room would change the dynamics of practice and what went on in the wrestling room. But we soon learned that nothing changed; Alex ultimately became just another wrestler. She joked with us like one of the guys, and she trained hard and worked hard in practice like any other wrestler.
After a few weeks, we didn’t notice a gender difference. Instead, we looked at Alex as a wrestler, not a female wrestler. And over the next four years, I became pretty good friends with Alex.
I remember going to a tournament in eighth grade and having a girl in my bracket. I also remember being more worried about wrestling her than the returning state champ (who I beat in the finals). Little did I know that a few years later I would consider a female a teammate and a good friend.
Through four years of wrestling with Alex, I learned that an athlete is an athlete, no matter what their gender is. Male, female, white, black, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim is irrelevant in athletics. If someone is willing to put in the hard work and dedication into being an athlete, they are an athlete.
While I do think that sports should be separated by gender due to biological differences between sexes, I do think in the end athletes are athletes. Female athletes put in the same hours and effort as male athletes. Therefore, it is unfair that female athletics are often put on the back burner to the male equivalent.
This was evident at my high school, where male athletics took precedent over female athletics. This was despite the fact that our female cross-country and track team was a top ten program in the country, and our female basketball and lacrosse teams were amongst the best in the state. This is a prime example of how in society male sports take precedent over female sports.
Through the adoption of title ix, females have equal opportunity to participate in athletics as males do. That includes equal opportunity to participate in sports, equal funding for female sports as male sports, and equal number of male and female athletes at schools (Titleixinfo.org). This is evident at the University of Michigan, where both male and female athletes receive equal benefits for being apart of a sports team. They both can receive equal scholarship, they both receive equal privileges such as food, tutors, academic counseling, etc. Nonetheless, society as a whole doesn’t value women’s sports like male sports.
At the end of our senior wrestling season, I asked Alex why she decided to wrestle. She told me that for whatever reason the sport appealed to her and she liked it when she tried it. She was nervous of being made fun of at first, but she ultimately felt that she was a part of the team and that’s why she stayed with. Ultimately, Alex was just another wrestler, an athlete.
It’s time for society to recognize that athletics are athletics, male or female. Basketball is basketball, soccer is soccer, wrestling is wrestling, sports are sports. Ultimately, Alex taught this to me.