For the first time in its history, Fort Campbell High School has an all-girls wrestling team. The team consists of 12 female wrestlers.
Anthony Shingler, coach for the Fort Campbell High School wrestling team, said this is the largest number of female wrestlers he has coached since starting at FCHS in 2009.
“I credit the increase in numbers to the addition of the opportunities for the girls to compete for a state championship,” Shingler said.
The Falcons all-girls team is an extension of the boys wrestling team. The females will continue to participate in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association sanctioned matches while also participating in all-female Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association sanctioned matches.
For the first time the Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association has created and is hosting an all-girls wrestling state championship.
Since the end of the 2018 wrestling season the KYWCA has worked to incorporate an all-girls state tournament in wrestling and to create an all-girls wrestling team, Shingler said.
“We encourage them to keep believing they can be successful and not slack off during practice,” Shingler said.
In its first tournament of the season at Thompson Station, Tennessee, Fort Campbell’s all-girls wrestling team placed sixth out of 28 teams. Jasmine Ward, a FCHS senior, took first place.
Ward, captain of the girls wrestling team, has been wrestling for three years, since being at FCHS.
“I picked it as a backup sport because originally I played basketball. I wanted to do another sport and wrestling was available,” Ward said.
The biggest challenge she has had to overcome is the mentality of being a female competing in a male-dominated sport, she said.
“I think the hardest part is the mentality of ‘can I do this?’ or ‘can I win this match?’ because the physical part is not difficult once you train hard,” Ward said.
Ward said the team has coaches who teach them new moves and techniques that she incorporates into her matches.
“Since we have a small selection of girls I mostly practice with the boys. They are very supportive,” Ward said.
Since joining the team she has learned about sportsmanship and being humble.
Her goal for the season is to place first in the state championship for girls.
A newer member to the wrestling team, September Snyder, eighth grader at Mahaffey Middle School, said she joined the wrestling team because her mother, uncle and grandfather wrestled when they were her age.
“They expect me to win but they are very supportive about it. They are not pressuring me to win,” Snyder said.
The most challenging part about wrestling for her is getting used to wrestling the guys. She did not wrestle a girl until her third match.
After practicing and learning how to defend against the guys, then being matched up against another girl who is the same size and knows all the same moves is challenging, Snyder said.
Wrestling a guy in competition and beating him because he underestimate her is amazing, she said.
“They get angry and shocked all the time when a girl beats them. After a while they are going to get a little bit of respect for all-girls,” Snyder said.
Coaches help the team by correcting mistakes and teaching the wrestlers the most effective ways to pin their opponents, she said.
“They watch you like a hawk and if you make the tiniest mistake they will show you how to do it,” Snyder said.
Wrestling is one of the best sports in which Snyder has participated, she said.
“I think I’ll keep a small goal for now and just try to beat more guys,” Snyder said.
Jordan Wilson, freshman at FCHS and Ella Plumb, sophomore at FCHS, also play other sports.
Jordan Wilson joined wrestling after competing in basketball and volleyball. Her brother, Justin Wilson, FCHS junior, joined the team last year. Jordan saw how well Justin was doing, so she decided to give it a try.
She said it is a hard sport, especially when you go up in weight classes and compete against guys that are very fit.
“It’s draining mentally and physically,” she said.
Since Jordan Wilson stopped trying to overpower her opponents and started using more technique, waiting and staying more defensive she feels like she has improved, she said.
“The coaches are supportive and help everybody on the team. For the girls they seem more motivational because they want to see the girls team built up,” Jordan Wilson said.
Her goal for the season is to make it to state and get at least five pins.
Plumb, joined the team after leaving cheerleading and gymnastics.
Coming from physically demanding sports, Plumb said the fitness aspect of wrestling was not a challenge for her. The matches are the problem, she said.
“Being confident is hard for me,” Plumb said.
During practice she works mainly with the girls and some of the guys who she is comfortable sparring with.
“The ones I train with have wrestled for longer so they are able to give me some tips,” Plumb said.
Annalynn Rakett, a freshman at FCHS, joined the team in May. Rakett has practiced Brazilian Jiu Jitsu since she was 8-years-old.
“Wrestling was something I always wanted to try. When I came here and I saw they had a program I was like ‘I’ll try it,’” she said.
Wrestling is challenging and something you have to push your body physically and mentally, Rakett said.
“I have learned that because it is a male-dominated sport that when girls do it, guys think ‘oh I’m going to beat you’ or guys will be intimidated by you,” she said.
During practice when Rakett works with the guys, she said they know how to push her to make her work harder, which makes her better.
“We have a bunch of different coaches so along with different people you have different styles of wrestling. It is nice to have different options to work with and learn,” she said.
Her goal for the season is to improve overall, work on her aggression and get some wins.
John Cogbill, junior wrestler at FCHS, said the girls having their own team is amazing.
“I think it is great that they now have a league of their own where they can wrestle other girls,” Cogbill said.
Cogbill has been friends with one of the female wrestlers since he started at Fort Campbell and attributes a lot of what he knows about wrestling to her.
“The [girls] are tough as nails to go up against some of the guys they do,” Cogbill said.
He said competition-wise the girls have been very valuable, especially Rakett and Ward.
“I remember Annalynn, she was fighting off her back for a good minute. I couldn’t have done that, it was sheer will power,” Cogbill said.
The girls wrestle each other or practice with the guys. Cogbill said he has heard from the girls that training with the guys helps them when they compete against females in matches.
“Jasmine has been wrestling guys her entire wrestling career. When she went to the girls tournament the other weekend [at Thompson Station, Tennessee], she came back and said it was the easiest tournament she had ever done and she won,” Cogbill said.
Cogbill said the girls should keep doing what they are doing, growing and learning so they can win matches for Fort Campbell High School.
Deontez Jenkins, sophomore at FCHS, usually works with Jordan Wilson during practice. This is his first year on the team and he likes that they all get better as the season progresses.
“I know some of them from the beginning of the year have improved a lot. Some of the girls I know it is their first year they have gotten medals,” Jenkins said.
He said having the girls on the team is not much different from having an all-boys team.
“Some of the girls are hard to beat at times especially when you are tired. They have a killer instinct for it,” Jenkins said.
When it comes to training and competitions Justin Wilson said the girls are doing well.
“Some are definitely better than others, but that is how it is always going to be,” Justin Wilson said.
He said he has not gone against a girl in competition because there are not many girls in the 220-weight class. He has practiced with his sister and Ward, neither were able to beat him.
“To be honest I feel like the only reason I am able to beat Jasmine is because she is a lot lighter than I am and I can literally just pick her up. Otherwise I feel like she’s got me beat sometimes,” Justin Wilson said.
He said the girls should keep doing their best and not to let any losses get them down.
For any females that want to see if wrestling is for them, the Falcons wrestling girls say to at least try it, but it is a lot of work.
“Once you start you will have a lot of supporters, just ignore the haters,” Ward said.