For years, high school wrestling was an all-male fraternity, but things began to change about two decades ago when girls began taking to the mats.
Now girls wrestling is enjoying exponential growth and the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association now sanctions girls wrestling. Farragut High School sophomore Hailey Stevenson is among many local girls competing in the sport.
The only female competing for the Admirals, Stevenson wrestles in the 115-pound class.
“I’ve been around the sport my whole life because my dad is a ref,” Stevenson said. “I was around the team here last year but I didn’t wrestle. I have a passion for [wrestling] and I used to do it and I always went to matches when my dad was a ref.”
But Hailey almost didn’t get the chance to compete in high school.
“I love the sport but my mom never really wanted me to wrestle because of the boy factor. My mom didn’t want me to wrestle boys.”
When girls began competing, they had to wrestle boys. Now that there are many female high school wrestlers in the Volunteer State, the girls have their own division and Tennessee has a state championship tour-nament for girls.
And that has changed everything for athletes such as Ste-venson. Girls can no longer wrestle against boys if they want a shot at a state title.
“You can’t even wrestle exhibition matches against guys,” Stevenson said. “If you do, you’re disqualified from the girls’ tournament and you have to qualify for the guys’ tournament.”
About FHS head coach Bobby Hampshire, Stevenson said, “He’s a good coach and he’s worked really hard for us. ... I appreciate everything that he’s done for me and everything that he’s done for us.”
“I will coach anyone who wants to wrestle and she wants to wrestle,” Hampshire said. “It’s truly a pleasure to coach her.
“She gets beat up a lot but she tries her hardest and she loves the sport. She works hard.”