What do you think of when you think of wrestling? I think of the World According to Garp or Vision Quest, the WWE guys screaming OR sweaty (male) teenagers in a high school gym.
I didn’t think of girls, but apparently, I should. The number of women who wrestle in high school has grown from 804 in 1994 to 21,124 as of 2019. The 2019 number was an increase of 4,562 athletes, up 27.5%, from the year before.
The number of schools with girls wrestling climbed to 2,890, an increase of 539 schools. This marks a 22.9% increase from the previous year.
Girl’s high school wrestling has climbed to the #17 most popular high school sport for girls. Currently, 18 state high school associations have developed or announced official girls high school wrestling championships, increasing from just six two seasons ago. Since 2004, women’s wrestling has been an Olympic sport.
Meet Aynslee Hester the only female wrestler this year at Mt Si. High School.
She is a quiet young lady who early on exhibited obvious physical talents. Still, Annette, Aynslee’s mom, says even though “her P.E. teacher would beg me to get her into sports, I was a single mom working terrible shifts and had no way to make that happen for her.”
So Aynslee made do with piano and other musical instruments until her mom got remarried 5 years ago, and they moved from Auburn, where she’d lived from the age of 2 to North Bend. Here she finally got onto a track team, and she was part of the relay team that set a Twin Falls Middle School record in the 4×4.
Then in her freshman year, she came home from P.E. and told her mom she wanted to start wrestling. Her teacher, Tony Schlotfeldt, was the wrestling coach, and he suggested giving it a try. Annette thought she was teasing until she asked again a few days later if she’d signed her up yet. She was the only girl on the team.
Former Mt. Si wrestlers, David Moses and Thomas Marum, helped coach her and Aynslee found she liked it a lot. Unfortunately, at first, she liked it better than studying, and when her grades did not improve halfway through the season, her mom told her she could no longer wrestle.
She tried other sports, but when winter sports came around again, she totally focused on wrestling. Assistant coach David Moses again took her under his wing and focused on her for most of the high school season. Another female student Eleanor Gil signed up but unfortunately was injured for most of the season.
Since Aynslee was often the only girl on the team, she and sometimes Eleanor attended girls-only tournaments. Annette would drive her to tournaments in cities different from the boys’ tournaments, so she frequently went without a coach.
Thankfully, the South Whidbey Island High School coaches also had only one wrestler, so they helped and were a huge blessing to the pair. Going into that first girl’s tournament, she’d never won a match before, and she ended up taking 3rd place in JV. That was the first time she knew she could win. After that, they were able to make connections with other schools and nearly every weekend that wrestling season, she went to a girl’s tournament.
Aynslee went on placing in Districts and Regionals and then onto State. Even though she was lighter in weight, the previous Mt Si High female wrestler, Kinsey Steskal, would occasionally come by, help her and was in her corner for State. Aynslee went 1-2, but it was a great accomplishment.
Despite Covid, Aynslee did not give up her dream of increasing her wrestling skills and flew out of state for national level tournaments placing in nearly every one. This month in Everett, she won 1st place in the state freestyle and 2nd in Greco Roman competitions. She was 3rd in the high school tournament as the only girl in the boy’s division.
This High School season, there was one tournament, and it was held at Skyline High School. Aynslee’s first match was against a boy from Hazen High School. She pinned him in 14 seconds. His reaction was, “What the f*$@?!?”
For a high school to have a designated girl wrestling team with a coach and transportation, they have to have a minimum number of girls. With less than the minimum means that the girls wrestle boys in practice every day. Aynslee didn’t even get a girl’s cut singlet until part of the way through her sophomore year. Until then, she had to wear an ill-fitting boy uniform. When the team has a high school match, since the other school does not necessarily have a girl on their team, Aynslee can find herself wrestling a boy. Sometimes she will wrestle a girl in a different weight class to give the girls an opportunity to wrestle. Girl tournaments are a wonderful way for a girl such as Aynslee, who is a minority on the mat at their school to have a team feeling and camaraderie.
Aynslee says wrestling is unlike any other sport, and there is always something you can work on. It pushes you mentally and physically, and the reward always pays off. You can’t blame anyone else if you win or lose because you are the only one out on the mat. She is currently training to attend nationals in Fargo, ND, hopes to wrestle in college and be a firefighter after High School.