What About The Girls? Girls Wrestling is Not Gaining The Recognition it Deserves.


Ali Parkhurst

In a sport that has been ran by men for as long as anyone can remember, girls do not get the respect they deserve for joining in. At West High, across the state and all throughout the country, female wrestlers are struggling to gain the attention they deserve for the history they are making.

Ali Parkhurst, Reporter

The weekend of Feb. 3 and 4, Xtream Arena in Coralville, Iowa hosted Iowa’s first sanctioned High School Girls Wrestling State Tournament. In an arena that only seats 5,100 people, tickets for seats were sold out within less than an hour during the first day of the tournament, leaving hundreds of spectators without the opportunity to watch the tournament live. 

In 2022, roughly 1,000 girls wrestled at the state tournament, that number more than doubled for the 2023 tournament. This brings forth the question, why was the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union (IGHSAU) not prepared for the first state tournament after girls became sanctioned? 

The state tournament for boys wrestling, planned by the Iowa High School Athletic Association (ISHAA) has been regularly hosted at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, which seats 17,000 people. Holding more than three times what Xtream holds. 

Three year wrestler and team captain junior Lydia Parkhurst, shares that though it caused a bump during the tournament, selling out at state made her feel seen. “It made me feel pride in what I do, made me feel like people actually care about women’s wrestling.” As a junior, Parkhurst has struggled with the lack of support for the entirety of her wrestling career. 

On top of this state tournament issue, girls wrestling has been brushed under the rug for its entire existence, being taken seriously by very few. These girls are breaking stigmas and making history, but not seeing the support they deserve in doing so. 

Outside of the lack of recognition statewide, the Wahawk girls are facing the lack of support within their own school. Parkhurst shares how even small obstacles such as lack of cheerleaders is detrimental to the team. “I feel that we don’t get the same opportunities as guys and I know that some of the cheerleaders really want to cheer for the girls,” Parkhurst shares. Throughout the season she has expressed her frustration that the girls have not had cheerleaders like the boys team has.  

Head Coach for the girls, Josef Kadlec has also noticed the missing support from Wahawk cheerleaders this season. “I think it’s important for the girls to be treated and be viewed as a varsity-sanctioned sport that traditionally has cheerleaders involved in the events. I have always understood that cheerleaders may not be at multiple events at once, but even when events were split, we only had cheerleaders at events that the boys were at,” he shares. Kadlec also said that even community members have asked where the cheerleaders were, giving the impression to spectators that the girls wrestling team was an afterthought. 

As a cheerleader myself, I, as well as the entirety of my team, are disappointed that we do not get to cheer for our girls as much as we would hope to. We have only been given the opportunity to cheer for the girls at big events such as the Battle of Waterloo. Even then, it was a last minute attempt, not planned out like it is for the boys team. 

Parkhurst noted how even within her own school, her team was given mens singlets that often did not fit properly. She shares how she feels that the boys have always, and will always, been taken more seriously than the girls are. In the past, girl wrestlers such as Clare Braun, a 2021 graduate, wrestled in t-shirts and shorts as they were never provided with singlets at all. The lack of properly fitting uniforms is another example of a small issue that is so harmful to the team. 

Head Coach Josef Kadlec and wrestlers Lydia Parkhurst (left) and Lizzy Roberts (right) pose together after the girls qualified to move onto state. (Kori Parkhurst )

While the boys wrestling team does not always have the packed stands we see at football or basketball games, there are even fewer spectators for the girls team. 

Attending a school that has made it to state multiple times for a variety of sports, watching the student body travel across the state for girls basketball is normal at West High. However, we did not see this same pattern for the girls wrestling team as two of our girls made it all the way to state this year. 

Parkhurst shares how she wishes womens wrestling saw more support than it does now. “Since I’ve been working at this for three years and trying to get more people interested, it makes me feel that my efforts aren’t seen. The fact that we had eight girls come out this year made me feel that people do realize what girls wrestling is,” she says. Parkhurst noted that there are already around ten girls interested in going out for wrestling at West High next year, so far.

Agreeing with Parkhurst, Kadlec notes that he and his athletes have received a great amount of love this season. “We have received LOTS of comments from staff members about how excited they are for the girls now that wrestling is sanctioned and how much they want to see them do well and asking how they can help support the program as it is starting up.” Kadlec says he plans to push for the girls program to be more visible within the school and community next season. 

According to Kadlec, Xtream arena has hosted the girls state tournament and not sold out in previous years. He believes that being the first year girls wrestling was sanctioned, IGHSAU was not prepared for the overwhelming participation or number of spectators state wrestling would attract. 

When seeing the effort the girls put into their sport, you can’t help but feel pride. Knowing that these girls are in the process of making history at West High, in Iowa and in the country, is a win for women as a whole.

In a predominantly male sport, Kadlec has the hopes of shining a light on the girls team. “I hope that in the near future, the girls team and the experience of watching them starts to pull even more people into the sport. It’s already starting to happen, and lots of women and girls are ecstatic to watch our team perform because they can finally see themselves as able to participate in a sport that has long been dominated by boys,” he shares. 

If you are interested in joining the girls wrestling team for the 2023-24 school year, reach out to coach Kadlec at [email protected].