JCHS establish first varsity girls wrestling team
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By Steven Spencer
Jersey County Journal
The Jersey Panthers have officially started a new girls wrestling team this season.
The Illinois High School Association sanctioned and held the first girls wrestling state series during the 21-22 season, and now the Lady Panthers are hitting the mat with their first two girl wrestlers who will have a chance to compete in the IHSA state tournament, Aliyah Brooks and Kierstyn Bizailion.
“This is not the first year we’ve had girls go out for wrestling,” Panthers wresteling coach Frank Speidel said while noting that girls have typically competed with boys and still practice with them. “Now they’re kind of doing a little bit of both. I’ve been taking the girls to dual meets with the boys and then putting them in girls tournaments as much as I possibly can. The trick is finding the girls tournaments. There’s just not a ton of them out there yet.”
Since girls wrestling is new within the IHSA, there still isn’t a lot of opportunity to compete just yet due to the number of wrestlers. Numbers are still low, while Jersey has two girls, schools with higher enrollment like Edwardsville are sending around eight wrestlers to matches.
“I want more girls out there of course. If in a year or two we could have a dozen girls out for wrestling, enough to fill out and go to dual meets,” he said. ”You can’t have a dual meet with two wrestlers and lot of schools are in the same boat I am. Let’s pick a school at random, let’s say Roxana, if Roxana only has two girls. What are the odds that my two girls are in the same weight class? It’s probably slim to none, but I’d love to be at the point where we can have a dual and have most of the girls on both teams get to compete.”
Speidel said there seems to be a growing interest in girls wrestling nationally also. Schools with higher enrollments are seeing more girl wrestlers and college programs are growing as well.
“Women’s programs are picking up all the time in colleges too,” he said. “McKendree has one, Lindenwood has one, Iowa has one, so there’s the opportunity for girls to wrestle after high school.”
Speidel added that while the Panthers have “won a few and lost few,” he’s more interested in growing the program and the athletes growing as people while competing.
“I don’t like defining success in terms of wins and losses,” he said. “I like to define it in terms that we’re improving. The boys team, the jv team, the girls team, they’re always improving, they’re learning new things, they’re getting better at the sport and they’re growing as people. I’m proud of the wrestlers I have on my team, they’re a good group of kids, they’re always improving.”
While the Lady Panthers wrestling team continues to grow Coach Speidel spoke proudly of the two girls wrestlers that are competing this season.
“This isn’t just some kind of fly by night team,” Coach Speidel said. “The girls that go out and wrestle, they’re serious about it. It’s not amateur hour for them, they want to compete and they want to do well.”