By Connor Mirabella || Staff Writer
Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in human history. Since the first olympics, wrestling has been a challenging and developing art held in high regard by many. Socrates is known for having said “I swear it upon Zeus an outstanding runner cannot be the equal of an average wrestler.” Wrestling has a powerful legacy in the United States, where folkstyle wrestling (the style of wrestling seen at NCAAs) originated. Pennsylvania has been long-known as one of, if not the most competitive states to wrestle in, particularly at the high school level.
Since there are no professional leagues of folkstyle and freestyle wrestling, the pinnacle of performance can most often be found at the Olympics where the US has garnered significant respect for its performance in both men’s and women’s freestyle wrestling. Helen Maroulis became the first American woman to win a gold medal for the US in 2016 with a dominant performance in her final match. Her story mirrors the story of every other woman on the US team: Helen never had a girls team until she had reached high level international competition. Growing up, she and all the other women representing our country had no other choice but to wrestle boys in order to earn their chances at competition.
Wrestling is a sport divided by weight classes, where it is in the wrestlers’ best interest to have the most possible muscle mass at any given weight. This puts women at a distinct disadvantage because their bodies are different. The lowest possible body fat percentage that a boy can healthily have and compete with is less than half of the healthy percentage of body fat that women must have. Because of this, a woman wrestling a man that weighs the same as her is almost guaranteed to have less muscle mass than her opponent. Still, brilliant female wrestlers like Maroulis have overpowered, outworked and outwitted their male opponents consistently enough to make the US women’s wrestling team one that cannot be taken lightly in global competition.
Right here in Lancaster, McCaskey High School has made history under its athletic director, Jon Mitchell, by becoming the first school in the country to be approved for a women’s varsity wrestling team. Not only does allowing women to compete with one another create more fairness for the competitors, but this also helps to remove the stigma that has prevented many interested young girls from joining the sport. Jon Mitchell’s actions will change the course of history in women’s wrestling because he has gotten the ball rolling on something that has been long overdue. The crime of not being male has limited the creation of female wrestling programs. This can be seen in Jon Mitchell’s efforts — he had to generate a plan that would create this program at no cost to the school. This is the first program and major step in what will one day become commonplace, but it does not stop here. In order for the PIAA to approve of women’s wrestling and create a state run league, 100 schools need to commit to creating women’s wrestling teams. Fortunately, there is a lot of excitement and confidence that many other schools will follow suit. Mitchell has helped other schools in different districts propose programs and begin the process of getting approval for women’s varsity teams.
The sport of wrestling is well-loved among certain sects of Americans and in certain regions, but had been losing overall popularity by the early 2000’s. The rise of MMA brought more attention not only to the value of wrestling itself, but also to the brilliant athleticism and competition that can be found among women’s combat sports in general. In some cases, women UFC fighters have out-earned their male counterparts because of their popularity, skill and performance (this is more of an exception than a rule, however). Mitchell has broken ground on what will become a fantastic opportunity for female athletes. Supporters will also have more opportunities to see how much we’re missing out on by not giving more women opportunities to wrestle. We continuously deprive ourselves as a society and as individual athletes by limiting the opportunities for women. McCaskey may be the catalyst that other schools with women on their men’s wrestling roster have needed to kick start their own full on programs in what is undeniably one the most athletic and intense sports known to man, and now, women.
Junior Connor Mirabella is a staff writer. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.