MHS starts girls-only wrestling program

Kris Long, Sports Editor

Manhattan High wrestling began recruiting for the school’s first girls-only wrestling program in the 2021-2022 school year last Thursday. They hope to generate enough interest by May to raise funds to hire girls coaches for the next school year.

“The big thing we’re seeing right now is that no one is aware that there’s a girls-only division where they’ll compete girls on girls, and they won’t have to compete with the boys, they won’t have to practice with the boys,” assistant boys wrestling coach Daniel Grater said. “So we’re fighting a little bit right now just getting the knowledge out there.”

After the informational meeting on Thursday, they have around 15-20 girls interested in competing next year and six signed up already and hope to garner more support by presenting to Manhattan High clubs and other wrestling organizations. 

Girls wrestling is still new to the sport in most sanctioned leagues but has become much more common in the last two decades, meaning the first generation of girls who grew up with the opportunity to wrestle are now hitting high school age. Organizations such as Wrestle Like a Girl have also contributed to spreading the popularity of girls wrestling and getting it sanctioned at the high school level.

“In [2004] I believe was the first year there was … Olympics women’s wrestling… that started getting some things going,” Grater said. “You saw more girls do youth wrestling, kids club wrestling, they’ve kind of started their own division there. Then the numbers started rising at the high school level so then we’re like, ‘why don’t we have our own division as a high school level’ so as coaches in the state of Kansas, we helped push for this.”

Kansas High School Activities Association didn’t officially sanction girls wrestling until the 2019-2020 season. The move came after a push from female wrestlers due to unfair competition, largely led by Maya Krezter, a wrestler from McPherson, who petitioned the KSHSAA Board of Directors to sanction the league. 2020-2021 was intended to be the first year of girls league wrestling, but due to COVID-19, much of the progress fell by the wayside this season and MHS didn’t have any girls out for wrestling. 

The coaching staff is working to fund the program and hopes to ask the school board for a budget this May. The teams will be less closely connected than boys and girls track, for example, but will still share a coaching staff. Some meets will be dual boys and girls, others will be in separate locations. 

“Previously, we had an unofficial Girls State Tournament and girls had an unofficial girls division in wrestling. So before, if girls came out for wrestling they were competing against the boys in essentially a contact sport,” Grater said. “They had to practice with the boys, they wore the boys’ uniforms, they competed against boys in meets which, if we’re talking about gender equality, it doesn’t make a lot of sense of why we were having to do that.”

Sophomore Ameerah Alfailakawi started wrestling in middle school and is signed up for wrestling next year. 

“It’s just harder in high school to wrestle guys because they get so much bigger and stronger,” Alfailakawi said. “I think being able to wrestle a girl you feel safer, in a way. For me personally it’s easier to do the moves and stuff and not feel uncomfortable so I think it’s exciting to have more girls interested in stuff like this.”

Another aspect discouraging girls from wrestling in the past is the singlet uniforms, which didn’t often fit girls very well. The girls team at MHS will have their own specifically cut uniform for the first time.

“Having a specific girl’s cut singlet and then we also have the two-piece option that’s a T-shirt top and a short bottom, having those other options as uniforms have also been a big selling point,” Grater said.

Girls are often discouraged from contact sports in schools, there are no school sanctioned girls football teams in Kansas and fewer resources available for girls and women’s sports across the board.

“I think there’s still a stigma, but I think it’s definitely more open and people are just more excited and open to these things now,” Alfailakawi said. “For girls who are looking into wrestling I think they should definitely try it out. A lot of people say it’s aggressive it’s scary, you shouldn’t do it, but nothing is as scary as people make it seem. You just have to give it a shot.”




-history of girls wrestling

-how it will actually work

-trying to get more coaches

-stigma, difficulty of girls wrestling


Mr. Grater


Okay, so, um, how much interest are you seeing in girls wrestling.

Right now,

you know off the ones that we have coming back, that have previously wrestled or tried wrestling. In the last few years obviously with COVID, some of them were able to come out this year. But we’re setting right around that 15 to 20 number. With those coming back plus the new interest we had our goal is that we want to try and hit that, that at least 20 Number, if not more, we want to be 20 plus this year one. So we’re seeing some interest. The big thing we’re seeing right now is that no one is aware that there’s a girls-only division where they’ll compete girls on girls and they won’t have to compete with the boys, they will have to practice with the boys. So we’re fighting a little bit right now just getting the knowledge out there that hey, it’s a girls only division you don’t practice with the boys you don’t compete against the boys. So just spreading that knowledge to let everybody know that that’s a possibility.

And we so can you talk a little bit about the background of girls wrestling I understand the division only started this year.

Yeah, so, in C. 20 trying to think a year. This would have been 2021 2020. So, the state tournament 2020 was the first official Keisha girl state championship, which we had Shay Island Jones that competed in that for us. And then this year was year two of it previously to that, we had an unofficial Girls State Tournament and girls have an official girls division in wrestling. So before that time, if girl. A girl came out for wrestling. They were competing against the boys as essentially a COVID sport.

So they will have to practically

practice with the boys, they were the boys uniforms they they competed against boys and meats which with gender equality, I mean, it doesn’t make a lot of sense of why we were having to do that. And then you start looking at the Olympic Games, you know, in 20, in 2008 I believe was the first year. Girls, there was girls wrestling in the Olympics, women’s wrestling what they want. And it’s a different style it’s freestyle but that was the first year the sport Well that kind of started pushing some, some things going. You saw more girls do to youth wrestling to give kids club wrestling, they’ve kind of started their own division there. Yeah, which didn’t the numbers started rising at the high school level so then we’re like, why are we not have Why don’t we have our own division as a high school level so as coaches in the state of Kansas. We help push. There’s a organization called wrestle like a girl that really helped push, they’re really helping all these states get girls wrestling shame sanction at the high school level. I want to say what they’re up over 21 said numbers like 28 or 32 Right now, of states in the United States that sanction girls wrestling shows our surrounding states have also adopted girls wrestling and sanctioned a sanctioned it. So that part of it’s really good. But it was a lot of time. Coach,

Coach, Doug

Crutcher at McPherson, and his daughter Maya, which I had the I’ve had the pleasure of coaching in the summer that’s national events and stuff, they were instrumental in adding Kansas or getting Kansas to sanction it. So these girls that are we’re getting now, a lot of credit to those, those two individuals, but it was a lot of work, and they, they did a lot of the work themselves by actually stood up in front of the Kaisha board of directors and gave a very heartfelt speech of, you know, and she, she graduated before she got officially wrestle in the Keisha state tournament, she was a four time unofficial state champ, but she never got wrestling the official tournament. She’s wrestling in college now. But she gave a very heartfelt speech of what it’s like as a girl to compete against boys. When you don’t have your own division. So she was very instrumental in that. And now they have their own division. It’s just going to grow. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the nation. It’s, it’s, at the college level it’s actually easier for girls right now to get college wrestling scholarship than it is our boys. So there’s that aspect of it too. So it’s, it’s a great thing and there’s, there’s a lot a lot of hard work and now, now it’s off and running. And it shouldn’t be nothing but growth.

So, I’m just saying like wrestling’s a difficult sport to have co Ed and I’m sure that meant a lot of girls didn’t go out for it so when you were talking to these girls in the meeting you had was that one of the reasons they gave.

Yeah, so we explained to them.

Coach, Coach Parker over Washburn rule. He’s had great numbers with his program. And they wash minerals to time to fix state champs. But they had over 60 Girls, in the last few years. And so we’ve had some conversations with him, and, and I’ve had some conversations with those, those upper-level girls that I’ve got the chance to coach in the summers at national events, and just ask them, okay, what what are the selling points for you, what, when you’re talking to other girls other female wrestlers, to try and recruit them, what, what, what hits home what what helps you get them on board, and just having those conversations with them and it’s been about the fitness, the self defense aspect of it, not competing against boys getting your practice against, against your own own gender. Those are big, big selling points and then the last one is the uniform, having a specific girl cut singlet and then we also have the two piece option that’s a t shirt top and a short bottom, having those other options as uniforms has also been a big selling point. And the cool thing about wrestling is it’s for every type of body. It’s for at least we say it’s for every body, not in the word everybody but every body type, because you have weight classes for girls that range from 105 to 235. For boys that register 106 to 285. So, it doesn’t matter your body type. You can find a place next aggressively for you.

Okay so, logistically, who would be coaching the girls team secondly you

right now. Obviously we have a head coach vacancy. With Coach Gonzo retiring. So, goal number one is we got to get that head coaching position filled. Coach Bama so I’ve been talking a bunch. We don’t know. Obviously there’s an interview process and all the stuff that’s going to go on with that. But then, talking with, with Mr Marsh, we’re going to go to the school board and in May. He was guessing sometime early May,


to produce a budget for girls wrestling, and then set a number of coaches that would be hired to help both the girls wrestling. But right now with Coach bombsight we’ve talked, you know, kind of the way our practice room runs, you know, all of our coaches will be involved with our girls program. The idea would be after talking to the school board if they allow us to hire one or two depending on the numbers of interests we have those, those coaches would be their main coaches. But then we would also, you know, Coach Bama So work with myself would work with a coach Chris would work with them as well. So that’s just kind of how we run our boys program right now. There’ll be days that I run practice there’ll be days to coach boneless runs practice knows that there’s a group that Coach Chris works with every day. So when we kind of just move around so they get all of our different coaching aspects, we’re all really good at different areas. So we want to make sure that we would do the same thing for our girls because the end goal, you know, for our boys ultimate goals win state, state championships team state titles and it’s going to be no different for the for the girls program. You know the ultimate goal would be to win a boys and girls state title every, every year and then do it the same. That’s the ultimate goal so we don’t accomplish that if, if we’re having a young coach, maybe inexperienced, you know, whoever we hire, having them just do it by themselves, you know, so we want to make sure that we’re there giving them the knowledge, helping them along the way, as well as helping our girls get to become a pro level and then you know some of our girls that have been around the program they have certain coaches on our staff already that they, they feel more comfortable with. So we don’t want to take that away from either. Each individual athlete, you know, even on our boys side there’s, there’s certain coaches that they want the corner, just, they feel more comfortable that way. And that’s, that’s key and making them, helping them to compete at a very high level. So, our girls program will be ran very similar to that, and that’s, that’s part of the reason we need to get this to support this as well is to be able to have the funds to hire those extra coaches because, you know, if we if we, if we look at our numbers for the upcoming season. We’re gonna have 60 Around 60 Boys, if we have 20 Girls, that’s, that’s 80 bucks 80 bodies in the wrestling room. And currently, right now if we, if we hire fulfill the head position and assistant positions, we’d have four coaches for 80 athletes Yeah, we can’t get, We can’t get around to all them and give them the knowledge that they need so you know that’s where we can start adding those assistance, those other assistance in that then we can rotate around and make sure every, every athlete, whether it be boy or girl gets the knowledge and the assistance they need to compete at a high level,

would you be going to the same tournament and then having a girls and the boys division within the tournament or would it be completely different.

So both.

So some tournaments have have both divisions. It just depends on the tournament we go to. Right now we’re working on developing that girl schedule. Nothing’s official on that yet. But, for example, we go to the Dodge City tournament right after Christmas. For the boys side of things, it’s a duel tournament for the boys. God city has a big gymnasium, and then they have a Fieldhouse, where they run their boys tournament. They also have an auxilary gym, that they can lay three mats out in. And this year, what they did is they ran their boys tournament in the Fieldhouse. And then in their gym they ran the girls tournament. So they ran at the same location to different venues essentially in the same building that boys tournament going on at a girls tournament going on. So that would be an option that we were looking at of trying to take our girls with us we’re already going there. There’s also other tournaments. Washburn rural hold of big girls standalone tournament. Rock Creek holds a tournament that we send our JV to separately and they hold a girls tournament, so those that we could do a compare up and take both teams to would be very would be very helpful, but it’s not, we’re not gonna be able to do that for everything. Girls regionals, for example is a standalone tournament. Girls State is a standalone tournament. So there are certain tournaments where our girls would go compete and they would be the only ones that go compete. That determines where they go with the varsity boys. There could be tournaments where they go, you know, Korea, runs a JV tournament the first weekend of the year and they have a girls varsity tournament that they run with it. So that would be a mix of both of those things where they’d go to some on their own, they go to some with, with one of the other boys teams as well I

guess my last question was Do you think there’s a lot of stigma against girls doing things like context, what do you think that’s affecting your numbers.

I don’t know that there’s a stigma about it I think there’s an unknown, like, people are uncomfortable about it because they don’t understand it. And there’s, there’s not enough knowledge on it yet. If you go, if you get outside of your comfort zone and you start looking at like girls wrestling on the national level. It’s, it’s growing fast, and, and that, but you’re around people who understand what that contact sport is like, you know, it’s it’s it’s girls wrestling has grown at the high level it’s growing it currently at the D two level, and now you have the one programs like the one powerhouse wrestling programs are talking about adding wrestling like Iowa University Oklahoma State University, and they’re those coaches are well renowned and they’re the ones that are talking about we’re adding a women’s program, in the next five years. So it’s vastly growing and when those D one programs start adding it it’s gonna go even while it’s gonna go even more crazy. So it’s something that we want to get on board with. And we want to do whatever we got to do to promote it and make people feel more comfortable about it. And that’s kind of our idea right now with with having these, these girls restaurant meeting exhibitors only meetings. We’ve created a little, little film with some of our girls that have wrestled in the past that we’ve been sharing with him there and those meetings. I’ve made plans to. We’re going to try and go and like meet an individual clubs that will allow us to come present to them. So any of the clubs that you know FFA band, choir. Gay Straight Alliance. Black Student Union Hispanic Student Union any of those groups that want us to come present, you know we’re sending, we’re gonna be sending out an email to set those times up and, you know, one of us coaches will go present and talk, because the more knowledge we can put out there about about what’s going on, the better. So like we said here having this conversation with you that you’re going to go write an article like this is, this is the promotion stuff we need so this is, it’s just awesome. It’s an exciting time. It’s a chance for girls to make Manhattan high history but also make Kansas history, you know, this is all a year or two for Kansas girls wrestling so you know it’s it’s young it’s in its infancy stage, and we want to get on board and we want to make history.

Is there anyone else I should talk to anything, any of the girls that I’ve coached.

Obviously, if you can make it down there but gosh Shay if you can catch her, with her being around a mirror

on your last name.

I don’t know how to say her last name is Allison. Can I can spell. Sorry. Maddie Neff, she’s watching this year. Christine Craddick is coming out she was a manager for us this year, and she’s gonna try wrestling with this next you

got Shay, say Lee Williams