A Female Inspiration to High School Wrestling

Mackenzie Bisdorf, The Flash Staff Reporter

Paige Dunham joined the wrestling team her freshman year at Fraser High School. She is currently playing again as a sophomore. The team mainly consists of boys. Dunham and one other female are the only girls currently on the team.

In 1972 there was a federal law passed referred to as Title XI. This law was the ninth title of the education amendments created in that year. Title XI prevents gender discrimination under any school program that is accepting funds from the government. Dunham’s mom informed her of the law when she chose to join the wrestling team.

“Title nine is a law that basically says if there isn’t a girls’ team and a boys’ team, then the opposite gender has to be allowed on the team. If it’s a cut sport, go ahead and see if they’re good enough, but they have to be given a chance,” Dunham said.

There is no specific wrestling team for girls but based upon federal law, Dunham has the right to play on the team. Although this is the case for all girls, not many take advantage of the law. According to statista.com, in the 2016/17 school year only about 5.6% of all the high school wrestling teams in the U.S. consisted of girls. This year the number rose to about 6.3%.

Shown through the statistics, when girls like Dunham step out of their comfort zone to join sports like wrestling, they encourage and inspire other girls to do the same.

Dunham didn’t join the team in an attempt to inspire others, however. She’s just partaking in a sport that she enjoys.

“I didn’t join the team to make a statement,” Dunham said.

Although she’s not attempting to make a statement, her actions do encourage and inspire others. For example, some freshman like Jena Whisman would be more willing to join the team if other girls joined.

“If more girls were on the team, then yeah I would do it,” Whisman said.

Coach, Austin Sellers, also appreciates when girls join the team. He agrees that Dunham’s involvement in the sport can help inspire other girls to do the same.

“It’s great having girls on the team. It shows other girls that they’re not limited. They can join the team. It’s not just a guy’s sport,” Sellers said.

Dunham actually decided to join the wrestling team because her mom wanted her to participate in at least one sport for the year. She tried track, but it wasn’t enjoyable for her. She eventually decided to pick the wrestling team.

“Track just wasn’t fun for me. In ninth grade I had no clue what to do, and I heard about wrestling. I already kind of do that anyway because I got two younger siblings and a whole bunch of cousins,” Dunham said.

Dunham wasn’t scared of being judged by the boys. Her main concern wasn’t her gender. She was just focused on improving her skills and becoming a better wrestler. As a freshman, Dunham had to work hard alongside many other new comers.

“I practiced with the people who were nervous anyways because it was their first year playing. So I was more focused on it being my first-year wresting than being a girl on the team,” Dunham said.

The team atmosphere is warm and welcoming which made it that much easier for Dunham to become further involved in the sport. The sociable team atmosphere allowed Dunham to forget about gender differences. When she is wrestling, she doesn’t even pay attention to the fact that she is a female.

“I just feel like a part of the team. The team is small enough that it feels like a family,” Dunham said.

Dunham doesn’t let her gender affect her in anyway. She is a hard worker and pushes herself to achieve her athletic goals. Every day at practice she works hard and puts in the effort. She knows that she’s only going to improve if she puts in the work.

“Paige likes to get in with the better wrestlers because it does make you better. She realizes that, and she wants to get better,” Sellers said.

Wrestler, PJ Chabi, has no trouble looking past the gender of the two girls on the team. He respects the hard work and effort they bring to practice.

“Having a girl on the team is no different from having a guy on the team. It’s just because we don’t let it be different,” Chabi said.

At the beginning of the season some comments were made to Dunham, but she was able to look past them and keep her head up.

“I think those people quit the team within the first week. So that clearly says something about that,” Dunham said.

Dunham makes sure that no one she wrestles purposely lets her win. She wants to improve and learn from her opponents.

“We don’t treat them as girls. We don’t go easy on them. They get mad at us if we go easy on them. So they are really just another wrestler,” Chabi said.

Being a female on the team is nothing of a concern to Dunham, and it shouldn’t be to other females.

“When it comes down to wrestling, they’re an opponent. That’s all they are. You wrestle against them just as hard as you would anyone else,” Chabi said.