This school year, a group of Homewood-Flossmoor High School female athletes has coalesced into organized wrestling team, and they are now looking to expand girls wrestling as an official sport.
The H-F wrestling program is co-ed, and last fall Varsity head coach Shannyn Gillespie started an ad campaign to bring more girls into the sport.
The campaign helped Gillespie recruit a couple of female wrestlers. This year things have greatly expanded, with 11 girls on the wrestling squad.
“I knew that if we were able to get enough coaches involved we could create tournaments and opportunities for (the girls) to compete,” Gillespie said.
At H-F’s first ever girls festival on Nov. 21, 2018, 80 female wrestlers from 12 different schools competed. Another tournament H-F hosted on Dec. 29 drew 90 girls from 25 schools.
“That’s crazy. Around one-sixth of the girls were at Homewood-Flossmoor wrestling,” Gillespie said. “So I feel really good about our program and I’m certain we can double the number of participants that come out for the team next year.”
To officially add girls wrestling as an IHSA-sanctioned sport, 10 percent of Illinois schools need to have teams participating in the sport.
“I know if girls get a state tournament in Illinois through the IHSA, then we’ll have a lot of girls going off to college and maybe going to world championships or the Olympics,” Gillespie said.
During an IHSA meeting in April 2017, girls wrestling was called “an emerging sport” and it has proven to be so. One statistic shows girls wrestling has increased by 270 percent over the last eight years.
Junior Abigail Krakar, also a girls varsity cross country team member who wrestled outside of school, describes wrestling as “a hands-on sport and it’s more brutal than most sports. You get injured more often, too. It’s just different,” Krakar said.