Two wrestlers step onto the mat. Sandy Martinez, a junior, stands on one side, with her team sitting behind her. Tension runs through the air as Sandy makes her first move.
According to Sport One, wrestling is the 8th most watched sport in America, settling in just behind golf and tennis. The school’s wrestling team is one of the more populous teams, partially because it is a no-cut, no tryout sport. Over the past decade, the landscape of the sport has been changing. In high schools across the country, more girls are participating in the sport. Sandy Martinez is the only girl on the school’s JV wrestling team.
“One of the coaches talked about [wrestling] in class, and told me to try it out during Green Day’s… I decided to go, and I really enjoyed it,” Martinez said.
Martinez and the rest of the JV and varsity teams practice every day after school. Martinez is the only girl in the room.
“At first [being the only girl] kind of affected my interest in the sport… but later on I noticed that gender didn’t matter in the sport. The only thing that mattered was who wants it more,” Martinez said.
“The whole sport is just about trying your hardest and never giving up. If you don’t try hard, you can’t be a good wrestler,” Laidhold said. Noah Laidhold is a freshman on the JV team. He has been wrestling for 3 years.
The team has athletes of varying abilities, backgrounds and levels of experience. It is a no cut sport, but that does not mean it is easy. Wrestling is seen as one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Unlike many other sports, losses in wrestling are much more physical. Wrestling is a sport that deals in physically beating someone. Losing is painful, both physically and morally.
“It definitely isn’t an easy sport. We work hard, we get hurt, but everybody helps everyone else,” Henry Bedell, a freshman on the JV team, said..
The team spends almost every day together, including many weekends. The JV team has roughly two meets a month, and the varsity team has closer to one meet a week.
“We all spend so much time together, it feels like a little family kind of. We all watched the name change stream together, on the bus back from a meet,” Bedell said.
The American Journal of Sports Medicine has found that there are roughly 52 injuries per 100 wrestlers each high school wrestling season. Generally, a wrestling injury will cause a wrestler to be unable to wrestle for about three weeks post injury. A wrestler who loses a match is far more likely to get injured, and Martinez says those losses can be very difficult to deal with.
“Never give up on yourself, even if you lose,” Martinez said. “I feel like [wrestling] betters you as a person, because you learn a lot of things mentally, which makes you stronger.”