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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Schoenbar girls emerge as a force on the mat

By Matt Hamilton


February 07, 2016
Sunday AM

Practice starts 2:45 pm every day with rolling out the mats and Jr high students buzzing with what they had been up to that day and it ends with me bellowing jogging to signal the start of practice.

This is my 18th year involved with the sport of wrestling and the landscape has not really changed much. Weigh in, warm up, drill the basics, fine tune positions, demonstrate new skills then apply them to drilling, explain grappling ideologies and philosophy and end with a half hour of relentless positional full contact wrestling then do it again tomorrow. Always the same but something has changed this year.

It would be uncontroversial to say that wrestling is a male-dominated sport at almost every level, from participation to consumption. Socially constructed gender differences mean that it has been difficult for girls to become accepted in grappling and it places an overwhelming emphasis on masculinity. Power and speed kills in this sport but timing and technique are the great equalizer and that's where Schoenbars' Nyah Edenshaw, Haylee Stewart, Shaylee Kacena and Cassandra Stout have found their niche in the sport occupied by young men.

These ladies have proven time and time again that they won't be defined as a girl that wrestles but a wrestler that just happens to be a girl. They are removing gender stereotypes from the sport through their performance as athletes. They work hard, ask the right questions and believe that they have a shot to win every time they walk on the mat.

Girls have come through the wrestling room over the years but few have stayed and the ones that stuck around lacked the drive to be seen as a wrestler first and struggled with the outcome of that mindset.

Nyah and Haylee have become such a force that other coaches from southeast have taken notice and are having their girls watch them wrestle to get inspired. I have never seen this before in our sport except for one wrestler by the name of Michaela Hutchison of Skyview High Sky School. I witnessed history on Febuary 4, 2006 when she became the first girl to win a state title in boy's wrestling in U.S. History. I felt like I was a part of something that was so much bigger than myself that night and now I feel that electricity creep in every time practice is closed out or when they have competed in tournaments. It s been a game changer for me and my assistant coach Nick Martin. It gives me hope and inspires me to be a better coach for everyone I work with.

Just recently high school and Jr high girls were given the opportunity to compete in their very own state tournaments in hopes to give the wrestlers equal opportunity to compete in the sport they love. This is a huge step in the right direction to promote the sport of wrestling and further celebrate these amazing people. Schoenbar will be hosting our home tournament Feburary 19th and 20th and if you decide to come to our tournament make sure you don't blink when these ladies step on the mat because you might just miss the beginning of something amazing.

Coach Matt Hamilton
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Matt Hamilton coaches wrestling for Schoenbar

Received February 03, 2016 - Published February 07, 2015


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