Participation on mat takes off with inclusion of girls' wrestling in Kansas
A competitive winter sport requiring some of the strictest discipline and hours put in to be successful gains a whole new life because of a growing interest from female competitors.
With girls' wrestling now a sport under the Kansas State High School Activities Association, more female athletes can represent their schools and compete for state championships in wrestling.
This season marks the first year that Kansas recognizes girls' wrestling as an official state sport.
"Boys might seem a little quicker, a little stronger, (but) that doesn't mean we can't do it," says Wichita North wrestler Rodah Benji, competing Tuesday night at a Greater Wichita Athletic League tournament. "There's been some girls that have beat up on a lot of boys in our team."
Wichita Heights High School Athletic Director Michael Church says girls competing in wrestling "aren't just out (there) for recreation."
"These girls are tough, and they're competitors, and they want to win," Church says.
From seven Wichita schools, 46 female athletes competed in the first Greater Wichita Athletic League Girls' Wrestling Championship.
"It's amazing. It's empowering to actually finally have something dedicated to us. If it's mixed with boys, we don't really get a chance to shine."
The increased popularity of wrestling among girls has helped the sport across the board, says Wichita North High School Wrestling Coach Quinton Burgess.
"I think we're getting more guys out. I think we're getting more interest in the sport," he says.