We had three female wrestlers get to compete at the Iowa Wrestling Coaches and Officials Association Girls State Tournament last weekend. At the top of my list this week are a few reflections from speaking with them over Zoom after the tournament.
I’ve always said that one of my deepest regrets is that I turned down a guy who wanted to coach me in high school in wheelchair track.
When I was covering sports later, I had the joy of watching several athletes having fun, competing in the state track meet’s wheelchair division which has several events, including most of the sprint distances and a few field events.
The fact of the matter is that participation was much lower in wheelchair track and field than it is now when I was in high school.
Mike Larson was the teacher and coach’s name who wanted to guide me in the sport. He had been my elementary school physical education teacher. He was one teacher most all of us loved. He made learning and exercise fun for students that age.
Larson died a few years back. He took his own life. That hit me kind of hard and I had barely kept up with the guy after I was out of school.
Larson was built like a Mack truck and had some success in high school in track and field, particularly in field events, I believe. My problem with trying it out — I used a wheelchair much more back then — was there were only about four kids in the whole state doing wheelchair track. My thought was that if I was going to be racing against the clock with everyone watching me at regular season meets becuase there was no competition, I wasn’t interested.
Looking back, I’m confident that I would’ve gotten much more than I ever imagined if I would’ve followed through with that season. I could have made a lot of friends with my teammates along the way. You live and learn.
Interviewing these female wrestlers this week, I learned even more that girls wrestling is growing in Iowa. These girls love having a chance to compete on the mat like the boys. Wheelchair competitors in track and field aren’t the majority, but they’re increasing. Female wrestlers might not be in the majority, but there are more and more all the time. You can find the story on the front of this week’s Adair County Free Press and see for yourself.
I think it’s a good thing we’re offering girls wrestling and the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union should take notice. These girls, from what I could tell, felt empowered and uplifted by being at the state tournament with other girls competing, the referees, the crowd, and yes, even wrestling legend Dan Gable.
The moral of the story for me is that if you have an opportunity to go for something you really want to do, do it. Don’t let it slip by.
One of these female wrestlers I talked with is a senior and seemed glad she tried wrestling out. Another is a junior, had wanted to wrestle for awhile and is glad she did. The third is a freshman and wants to be Nodaway Valley’s first four-year female wrestler.
Wrestlers, clear the mats. These girls are coming and they’re good.