Imagine walking into a school for a game and not being able to use the same locker room as the rest of the team. Imagine every time your team hit the floor for warm-ups, you were suddenly thered stain on the white carpet. Imagine being the only girls on all boy team in a predominately male sport. Imagine doing all this your freshman year of high school, when you are still trying to learn the ropes.
For female wrestlers Malia Guy and Alise Terhune and twin sister Autumn, their high school athletic careers have been all but ordinary.
“I remember my very first wrestling meets,” Guy said. “The whole team would walk in and then all of a sudden we became the red spill on the white T-shirt. Everyone would look at me and the other girls and couldn’t believe what they saw. At first, even the atmosphere of me being in the wrestling room was weird and awkward.”
Guy began wrestling this year, her sophomore season, and describes it as the next big adventure she wanted to tackle. However, for Alise, her love for the sport began in middle school.
“I was in gym class, and I was talking to my gym teacher who so happened to be the wrestling coach,” Alise said. “He asked me what I thought about the sport and asked if I’d be willing to join the team. I hurried to the office to call my mother for permission to stay and that’s where it started.”
Although Guy and the Terhunes are embarking on a historic journey, the road has not been easy for them. They have had to overcome a great deal of adversity on and off the mat.
Guy shares the lows of her season with her fellow female teammates. With the girls essentially being a league of their own, there were more times than not they were the outcasts in the wrestling room.
“Through the season me and the girls were always the outcast whether it be having to wait last to be weighed in at meets or not having a locker room at the beginning of season and having to change in the school’s bathrooms,” Guy said. “I was not only underestimated because it my first year wrestling but because I was a girl.”
And with the struggles with the other boys on the team, there came more struggles with making the lineup for meets.
“At the very beginning of the season, I would hope my coach would put me on the lineup for a home meet but he didn’t,” Guy said. “I could understand that he maybe wasn’t putting me out there because he knew I wasn’t ready or good enough, but all I wanted was a chance. I just didn’t want to be on the team. I wanted to wrestle.”
However, to credit the wrestling team and its coaching staff, despite the initial shock of having girls on the team, throughout the season, it has become the norm for their group and the girls are finding their own with the boys.
“All I can say is, if it was easy, everyone would do it,” Alise said. “It’s not easy and there are always obstacles; you just have to get past them. I love how everyone for the most part accepted us almost immediately! They didn’t really seem to care that I was a female. In fact they treat me like family just like the others boys. Instead I’m called ‘sis’ or ‘sister’ instead of ‘brother.’”
Although the team and the coaches have been accepting of the girls being on the team, it is definitely a bigger challenge than many may expect. When they travel to other schools to compete, the girls are forced to dress in separate locker rooms, and more times than not it is just a bathroom within the facility.
“Honestly, you can see that most guys from other school aren’t used to it. You can see the awkward looks that they give. But it doesn’t really bother me.”
However, despite the minor challenges the girls face overall the wrestling community as a whole has worked to embrace the female athletes with the IHSAA recently endorsing a separate State tournament specifically for the girls. Also, within Warren Township they allow girls to compete not only at the high school level but at the middle school level as well.
In time, girls wrestling will be flourishing across the country and Guy, Alise and Autumn can all proudly say they helped grow the game at its earliest of stages.
Despite how challenging finding acceptance within this male dominate sport, the girls are in complete agreement that with perseverance, hard work, and tough skin, it is worth the challenges they face and they are learning valuable lessons that can carry with them after high school.
“At first it was hard fitting in wrestling,” Guy said. “The boys won’t be so keen on getting to know you and from time to time I would get discouraged and listen to the negative things people around me would say. But in the end you just have to keep pushing and keep fighting for what you want.”
FRESHMAN ALISE TERHUNE attempts to wrestle out of a potential pin in a regular season match against Greenfield Central. Terhune is one of the few girls that wrestles alongside the boys on the wrestling team. Photo by Kam Clemons