While these girls may still look like pioneers at many of their matches, they actually reflect the growing popularity of wrestling as a girls’ sport. Since 1994, the number of girls who wrestle in high school nationwide has grown from just over 800 to almost 11,500.
While it can be a challenge to find regular-season matches for these lightweight girls, all three were able to compete in the Massachusetts Youth Wrestling Association Girls Wrestling Tournament in February, where Ashwini placed second, and Andriana and Clara placed fourth and fifth, respectively. “When they see other girls being successful, that’s really encouraging,” notes wrestling coach Eric Lane.
We sat down with Andriana, Clara, and Ashwini to reflect on their season, what inspired them to join the team, and the challenges of co-ed wrestling.
Why did you decide to sign up for wrestling?
Andriana: At first, I was the only girl signed up for wrestling, so I kind of talked Ashwini and Clara into it.
Clara: We are best friends, so I agreed to give it a go.
Ashwini: I watched this movie called Dangal, which is a true story about two girls who compete in wrestling and are really successful internationally. It really inspired me. Also, my older sister is always so much stronger than me, so I wanted to build up my strength.
How did your parents react when you told them you were signing up for wrestling?
Clara: My mom was shocked. She was like, “Where did you get this idea?!”
Ashwini: My parents were very encouraging. They said I could pick whatever sport I wanted.
Andriana: I like to wrestle with some of my friends outside of school, so I guess my mom wasn’t too surprised.
What was your favorite thing about wrestling?
Andriana: At first, I was worried that we would only be wrestling boys, but it was kind of cool to learn how many girls were actually doing wrestling. We went to an all-girls tournament, and there were a lot of other girls there.
Ashwini: There were two girls at the tournament who were wrestling for the second year, and I beat one of them. It was a great match, and it felt so good to win!
Clara: Practice was really tiring at first, but it became so fun as we got into it. If we made mistakes we would work on it, and we would always teach each other stuff.
How were the boys as teammates?
Ashwini: The boys were pretty nice. My first match was the very first match of the season, and the boys were all yelling, “Go Ashwini!”
Clara: We had to do cartwheels in practice as one of our exercises, and we would show our cartwheels off to the boys. They were like, “How do you do that?”
Andriana: ...Yeah, a lot of the Upper School boys had trouble with those.
What did you learn from your experience this season?
Andriana: I learned that if you stick together, you can accomplish a lot, but at the same time not to be afraid to try things. At first, we felt a little uncomfortable about wrestling the boys and stayed in our little corner wrestling each other, but as we got more comfortable we learned that it’s just what you do in wrestling.
Ashwini: Wrestling takes a lot of determination—the moves, the matches— and there’s a lot of pressure, but I learned that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything.
Will you wrestle next season?
Andriana: I’m not sure who else will be doing it, but most likely I will.
Ashwini: I’m doing it!
Clara: I just hope that next year’s fifth graders enjoy wrestling like we did!