When most people think of wrestling, watching a female wrestler isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, believe it or not, female wrestling is now one of the fastest growing sports in high school.
Back in 2000 Florida A&M University professor Thomas White started the wrestling program as part of the National Collegiate Wrestlers Association (NCWA). White and co-head coach Fredrick Simmons have since built the FAMU wrestling program to what it is today.
While there aren’t many opportunities for females to compete at the collegiate level, these barriers aren’t stopping FAMU student Romecia Reath and Florida State student Jazlyn Villalona from wrestling in a club sport.
“I chose wrestling because it is a very tough sport that requires discipline and heart. If you lose you can’t blame your teammates. It’s all on you,” Jacksonville native Villalona said.
“I began with just the intentions on being one of the wrestling managers. I just wanted something to join to become more social and involved in school. My coach somehow convinced me to give it a try and once I did I literally fell in love with the sport,” Reath said.
Though women’s wrestling has been recognized as an Olympic sport since 2004, there is still a push for more females to become involved.
“Women wrestlers are needed, from my years of coaching in the last 10 years, we’ve had several all American females that have come through FAMU but we only get them at one or two at a time,” Simmons said.
These means that during practice, the female wrestlers compete with the males. But when the FAMU team has a meet, females compete against other females.
With the recent push for women to overcome stereotypes in sports, these FAMU wrestlers find it imperative to set the standard.
“It is extremely important for us females to join sports that are dominated by males, not to prove that we could do what guys do but more so for us so we could also express our interest, talents and passion in a sport without being turned away or criticized because it’s a male sport,” Reath said.
“There is a big movement right now about making Division 1 programs for women’s wrestling. It would be awesome to see more females get a chance to earn scholarships and get the hype like the males do,” Villalona said.
In the next coming years, the NCWA plans to continue to recruit female wrestlers. As for Reath and Villalona, they will continue to compete with the guys and break barriers.