Girls wrestling team has historic first season


Kris Long

Senior Dache Island-Jones wrestles her Marysville opponent on senior night on Feb. 3. Island-Jones won her match while the team lost 6-18.

Kris Long, Print Editor-in-Chief

The girls wrestling team may not have won state this year, but they did make history. This season yielded the first girls State, Regional and Centennial League Champion and first girls-only team ever at Manhattan High. 

“I love it,” head coach Shawn Bammes said, referring to the girls program. “The good thing with this group is that for the most part, we have a lot of young kids, a lot of sophomores, a lot of freshmen that are coming back next year,… you can see that excitement in their eyes now that they’ve gotten a taste for it, they’re ready to do some things in the offseason and get ready come back for next year.”

The Kansas High School Activities Association mandated an official girls wrestling league starting this year, with the 2020-21 being a watershed season where KSHSAA offered a girls State and Regional tournament but did not require schools to set up girls-only competitions. Prior to the official girls league, wrestling was considered a co-ed sport, meaning girls were allowed on the team but required to compete against boys. The new rules mean girls can not be asked to wrestle boys in competition, forcing schools to set up girls-only tournaments and attracting more female athletes to the sport. 

Senior Dache Island-Jones is the founding member of the girls wrestling team, having competed before the new gender-inclusive rules were put in place. 

“It’s really an honor,” senior Dache Island-Jones said. “I’ve seen these girls start just like me, back-to-back losing and then just coming back and winning and doing their best and giving everything they can without shedding a tear, which is good to me because my first year I cried every time I lost. They’re putting in a lot of work and it’s showing for sure. And it’s going to pay off.”

The team started with 18 girls on the roster, which dwindled to 10 by the end of the year, but that seemingly small number is a huge improvement on previous year’s participation before the girl’s only league when MHS was consistently wrestling only one or two girls.

“My favorite memory is when I saw more than one girl join the team,” Island-Jones said. “When I saw all those names and I saw all those people show up it made me feel really good because at first it was just me and a couple others and then it ended up just being me, but now it’s progressing to be a bigger and better thing for everyone. Now it’s not just for the boys, because the girls are going to take over one day.”

Despite enthusiasm for the new program, the girls team has a long way to go before establishing itself alongside the boys at MHS. They took ninth at Regionals compared to the boys fourth and only qualified one athlete to State: freshman Sage Rosario, who transferred to MHS from out of state at semester. Like many other girls wrestling teams, they have struggled to fill their roster. The team is also still looking for a girls coach, but haven’t found a female applicant to fill the role and lags behind some 6A schools that have offered girls wrestling for years before the KSHSAA requirements. However, the team is young and inexperienced. They hope the success they claim from this year — namely Rosario’s State Championship — will encourage greater participation in the future. 

“I hope and wish that me going to State … is going to influence more girls to come in and not be scared of what everybody else says,” Rosario said. “I just hope more girls come to this sport because it’s really amazing.”