Normally at this time of year, high school gyms across Kansas are jockeying for the new wrestling season. Chanute High School isn’t any different, except that this year is the first time in school history that girls have been practicing wrestling, too.
In April 2019, the Kansas State High School Activities Association decided that girls could have their own postseason wrestling tournament. Some of the schools that sparked this movement were McPherson and Paola High Schools, and it is no coincidence that those schools have formidable wrestlers on their girls team. As a result, the schools had the first non-sanctioned state tournament, which only grew in numbers.
Because of athletic directors in the state approving girls wrestling, this will be the first year CHS will compete in KSHSAA girls state championships in wrestling.
Monday was the first day Chanute got in on the upheaval, as 33 CHS girls were learning the basic wrestling skills like penetration and level changes, amongst other basic skills, in preparation for the start of the 2019-2020 wrestling season.
Head coach Andy Albright, with the help of Bradley Campbell, Rusty Emling and Clete Frazell, said the girls are eager to show what they can do.
“These young ladies are hungry to learn to fight and battle, and this room teaches that,” Albright said.
Albright, who has experience in coaching wrestling at CHS since 2003, said this first week of girls wrestling was an effort to show how fun the sport can be.
“(We) just wanted to teach them how fun wrestling really is,” Albright continued. “We want to give them the basic skills and do all that. You can enjoy the sport and keep on coming back every day.”
The girls here have wanted wrestling for quite some time, as interest in the sport has been brewing over the past few years because of the actions of KSHSAA and other high schools, wrestling in general, and just the sheer desire to have an activity in which to participate during the winter, other than basketball.
Enthusiasm for the sport was at such a high that CHS administrators organized a meeting weeks ago to see exactly how much interest there was. The meeting included the administrators and 25 student-athletes interested in signing up for the girls team.
A day later, CHS held another meeting to focus on the specifics, and 17 girls attended that meeting.
All those who attended the meetings have been in full swing of the wrestling season in the CHS wrestling room starting this week.
“They’re here, through all the obstacles they’re here, and we got a good core group of girls who are ready to work hard and get good this year,” Albright said.
Not mincing her words, senior Caysia Crellin said she wanted to show her grit, desire and commitment to wrestling.
“I want to show the administration how we deserve a girls team and girls coach because they won’t buy one because they think we are going to quit,” Crellin asserted. “I want to show them that we are stronger than they think we are. It’s awesome because I wouldn’t have wrestled if it had to be with the boys.”
Her running mate, senior Haley Angleton, said she was just as motivated to prove folks wrong.
“I wanted to show perseverance, because this really seems to be something to a lot of people that we would give up at, and I’m not ready to give up quite yet,” Angleton said. “It’s so good because when you are with people of the same gender, it feels like you can be closer, and it feels like more of a family. I feel like if we were a part of the boys team, we would have that, but not as close as we are now.”
The first meet will be in Cherryvale on Dec. 21 at 9 am.