‘No longer just for boys’: The struggle for girls who struggle in high school


CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, more than 28,000 girls participated in high school wrestling across the country in 2020.

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This is an increase from just 5,000 girls nationwide in 2005.

In Virginia, however, girls’ wrestling is not a high school-sanctioned sport, so girls must compete against boys. Local coaches hope that will soon change.

At first glance, the wrestling practice at Grassfield High School in Chesapeake seems typical until you notice a few slightly different athletes.

“I immediately fell in love with the sport,” sophomore Samantha Jurgens told 10 On Your Side. “The competitiveness, the ability to be able to throw people and stuff like that, but I love everything about this sport. The team, the coaches, the athleticism that we win and everything that goes into it.

There are three girls on Grassfield’s wrestling team, which usually raises a lot of questions.

“Usually they’re shocked and they’re like, oh so you fight boys?” says Jürgens. “I’m the usual, yeah, but sometimes I struggle with girls.”

The coaches believe that girls competing against other girls is key to the growth of the sport.

“It’s hard for girls to come in and fight guys and want to keep playing the sport,” head coach Patrick Shuler said. “Some are still having a lot of success, but it takes time.”

One girl who has had this success is her daughter, Charlee.

“If you look at Charlee, one of our wrestlers, she was a three-time state champion, twice in folkstyle, once in freestyle. She’s a rookie wrestler here in Grassfield at 106,” added assistant coach Chris Buckner. “She is ready to move forward for next year.”

“I love the community and the feeling of being on the mat; it’s just fun,” Charlee Shuler said. “Honestly, I like competing against guys because it’s less pressure for me. The guys have a totally different style of wrestling than the girls, so it’s cool to learn from them.

Even with his successes, more girls in the sport means an equal wrestling stack.

“It’s not just for boys anymore,” Buckner said. “It’s also a growing women’s sport, and you’re more than welcome to the team.”

The only problem is girl wrestling isn’t allowed in Virginia.

“34 states have sanctioned it, so we’re one of the few that don’t,” Shuler said. “The VHSL (Virginia High School League) really needs to step up and sanction the sport.”

A VHSL spokesperson said they fully support women’s wrestling as a championship sport. The staff shared this statement with 10 on Your Side:

League staff have offered the girls to wrestle under our current schedule in accordance with VHSL guidelines and policies based on being able to maintain sufficient attendance numbers since 2018-19. Additionally, the League has sanctioned five events in three of the last four wrestling seasons to determine the number of female entries and the ability to maintain an all-girls wrestling championship. The only year we didn’t have sanctioned events was in 2020-21 due to COVID.

We currently have schools interested in adding women’s wrestling as an emerging sport, which is the next step in the process of becoming a full-fledged VHSL championship sport. We are awaiting a legislative proposal from these schools to present to the VHSL Executive Committee and full members.

Buckner added that “a lot of girls wanted to get into the sport but didn’t because they constantly have to wrestle boys, but now that they’re able to wrestle other women and other women, I think it’s starting to grow a lot more.”

“It would give a lot of girls more confidence,” Charlee pointed out. “And opportunities to start wrestling.”

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