The weekly commentary of Sports Editor Matt Cole.
Thirty-nine years ago I began my freshman year in high school, a shy, awkward kid who loved sports more than anything in the world. I grew up playing football, baseball, basketball and even volleyball. But the one sport I had never tried, until that year, was wrestling.
Wow, what an experience that was. One-on-one, three-three minute periods, your brute strength and finesse against the other guys and may the best man win. Unless of course you had to wrestle...a girl! I remember the first time we went to a match and I saw a girl on the other team. I prayed I would not have to face her. Why? It certainly wasn't because I was afraid of her per se but no guy wanted to have to face the prospect of losing to a girl.
Come to find out, no girl really wanted to wrestle a guy either. It truly was a lose-lose situation for both. If the girl won, the guy got teased for losing to the girl and the girl got teased for being to manly. If the girl lost well, she was supposed to lose so the guy got teased for beating the girl because what guy couldn't and the girl got teased for thinking she could ever beat a guy. Thank goodness that was 39 years ago and with all of the equal rights amendments and movements, here we are in 2017 and things have changed drastically since then. Or have they?
Did you realize in the State of Kansas, even going into this school year, with few exceptions, if girls want to participate in high school wrestling they face the high likelihood they will have to wrestle a boy. That's right, other than a few tournaments and the occasional lucky draw, you will still see girls wrestling against boys on most every wrestling night. So what's the big deal you may be saying, if they want to wrestle why shouldn't they have to compete against boys?
Well, let's put that in perspective for you using McPherson High School athletics. I think we can all agree that Taylor Robertson is one of the most talented basketball players in the state, if not the country. She certainly could hold her own in a shooting contest against both boys and girls. But what if she had to compete night in and night out against the likes of Ben Pyle, Jake Alexander and Jace Kinnamon and other very talented boys? It certainly wouldn't take away how great a basketball player she is but it wouldn't take long before people started saying that is just isn't fair to Taylor to have to do that; she should be able to compete against just other girls.
Bullpups girls' soccer is another great example. By all measures it is a pretty talented group of young ladies who compete at a very high level each game. But the difference in the speed of the game and the level of athlete becomes obvious when you watch the boys' team play. How long would parents, coaches, administrators and KSHSAA sit back and make no changes if soccer were a coed sport? Not very long I can assure you.
It's time for all the aforementioned to get behind the Kansas Wrestling Coaches Association plan to give girl wrestlers in Kansas what they deserve, their own wrestling classes with their own state tournament. KWCA presented a proposal to KSHSAA a couple of weeks ago that was the first step toward making that happen. It was an information presentation that included a question and answer period to help everyone in attendance better understand exactly what KWCA is asking for and what it would mean for Kansas. Bullpups wrestling coach Doug Kretzer made the presentation and said he felt good about how well received it was by KSHSAA's board.
So what next? The ball is in KSHSAA's court now, other than some follow up information that needs to be forwarded to them. But that alone is not going to be enough in my opinion. KSHSAA needs to hear from you! So, I encourage, no I implore each and every person who reads this to do three things: 1) Go to kansaswrestling.org and read the proposal that is at the top of the page so you understand what KCWA is asking for; 2) Tell every parent and sports fan you know to do the same thing; and 3) Call or write KSHSAA and tell them you think it is time for Kansas to be supportive of girls' rights, to be treated equally and to have the same opportunity that every other high school sport in Kansas affords girls, which is to compete against athletes of their own gender for a state championship.
I never would have thought 39 years after I first witnessed girls wrestling boys we would still see that happening night after night. Now is the time to change that and we are the people to get behind Kretzer and KWCA to encourage KSHSAA to make it happen sooner rather than later. Who knows, once we make progress on giving females equal rights in high school wrestling we might find we start having female doctors and lawyers and business owners and editors and even assistant principals and principals at our local schools? Oh wait, that's right, we already do!
Contact Matt Cole by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MacSentinel.