First, an article from USAW about one of my long time idols Trish Saunders.
She was a thrill to watch, my parents began driving me to Arizona at 8 years old to watch the Sunkist Open where I finally had a chance to see women wrestle and it occurred to me for the first time that I was not alone. I would watch Trish Saunders and Vickie Zummo, and Shannon Williams (Yancey) I was in awe of them and now I had women to look up to. My mom searched for a poster of the women to hang on my wall but there was none so we got Zeke Jones poster and had the women sign it and that hung in my room for many, many years.
Facebook started to trend toward the Women’s Wrestling Week and an old friend and photographer Danielle Hobeika posted some pictures she had taken during my era of wrestling. The mood of the week shifted toward a walk down memory lane. I can say without a doubt wrestling has molded me and built the character I have today.
Yesterday morning I woke up to an article from the UFC featuring Sara McMann, Adeline Gray and Helen Maroulis.
After reading the article I began to realize that this week is about more than just a look back, more than memories with good friends, more than USA Wreslting and the UFC. It means the sport has earned the respect of the people inside the wrestling community and now has earned the respect of outsiders. It means now more than ever women’s wrestling possess the support needed to flourish.
Women are now being welcomed into wrestling rooms and treated as another athlete wanting to learn the skills and lifestyle of a wrestler. USA Wrestling has invited these women into the wrestling room, offering a week of free membership. Girls no longer have to be the athlete in the back of the room searching for a partner to practice with or begging for a coach to walk over and help them understand the new skill. We are now invited in!!
The growth of the sport is without question phenomenal and I believe that if my 3 month old daughter chooses to wrestle at some point she will not be the last person choose for a partner, because she will enter a wrestling room of all girls with a coach who doesn’t say “your wrestling like a girl” in a insulting way.
This week mean’s the sacrifices made by Trish Saunders, Shannon Williams-Yancey, Sara McMann and many others were not taken for granted but have created opportunities for the women following in their footsteps.
By no means are we done yet in many places girls are still going through the struggle to earn their place in a wrestling room, but there is light at the end of the tunnel now. The opportunities for women in the sport continue to grow, women can now wrestling for a college team with an athletic scholarship, they can compete in an all women’s state championship, they can attend an all women’s wrestling camp.
We are a strong bunch and we were never going away, but it sure is nice to see people join in and support. For the sport of wrestling the future is bright as it invites half the world’s population to participate.