Female wrestlers add diversity to Red Cloud team

Article courtesy of Tom Casey, Lakota Country Times

posted on February 14, 2012

When the Red Cloud wrestling team participates in the District 7B tournament in Philip on Saturday, nine wrestlers will hit the mats to try and qualify for the Region 4B tournament in Mobridge on Feb. 18. A third of the team will be girls.

“In previous seasons, I've had a couple of girls come out. One lasted a couple of practices, while the other made it to the first meet and that was it,” said Clay Leonard, longtime Red Cloud wrestling coach. “But this year is different. We have had three girls come out and they have competed all season. Amanda Standing Bear is a junior and wrestles at 113 pounds. She wants to prove to herself and everyone else she can do it. Janis Emery is a freshman wrestling at 106 pounds. She’s a spitfire, she wants to be as good as she can be, and she's 5-32 with three actual wins. Eileen Stover is another freshman wrestling at 195. She is a really hard worker, and if her opponent hesitates at all, she will beat them. For both freshmen, it’s their first year in wrestling. They really want to do well; want to compete against boys and be wrestlers.”

Leonard says there are probably 1,500 girls wrestling around the country, but few competing in the events his team participated in this season. He saw a girl at 106 competing for Gettysburg, three wrestling for Mitchell High School in Nebraska, and that was it.

“South Dakota was the last state in the country that had a bylaw in its constitution forbidding gender-mixed teams, but 12-13 years ago it was rescinded. We now see a few girls playing football or wrestling. As an activities association, we are neutral on the issue; we don't really encourage or discourage girls participation in boys sports,” said Bob Lowrie, assistant executive director of the S.D. High School Activities Association in Pierre, “I think there are two states – Washington and Hawaii – who have a girl's state tournament for wrestling, but that's it. We probably have six to eight girls, at the most, wrestling in South Dakota. We've had girls wrestle in the regions, but have never had a girl qualify for state.”

“My dad joined wrestling, so I thought I'd try it out and keep the family tradition going,” said Janis Emery, a 5'1”, 95-pound freshman in her first year in wrestling. “When you wrestle boys, they can overpower you. I try my hardest, and sometimes I feel I have more skill than they do. I won my first match of the year at LNI; it was great. And I beat a wrestler from Hill City last weekend. I'm going to work hard this summer; I will lift weights when I'm at Upward Bound at USD. I'm already looking forward to next year.”

“Everyone's mind is set, but my mind is open to something different,” said Eileen Stover, who is also in her first year of wrestling. “It’s been hard. I'm 0-25; officially 4-25, but those wins were forfeits. The hardest thing is getting back on my feet after I get beat. I look at all those people who say I can't do it, that I'm not strong enough, not capable. It’s about proving them wrong.”

“Yeah, a lot of people said that they don't think girls should wrestle, that it wasn't appropriate, but I wanted to try something new and maybe even prove that sometimes girls can be stronger than boys,” said Amanda Standing Bear. “My grandmother didn't like it at first, but she's okay with it now. And my mother doesn't like it at all. I don't have a win yet, but against a Bennett County wrestler I stayed in the match longer than any other one. I feel I'm improving and I want to work hard this summer so I can come back next year stronger.”

The wrestling season is hitting the home stretch over the next two weeks, as the district B tournaments are Saturday, with regions for A and B scheduled for Feb. 18. This year will be the last year for B districts, after this year they will be eliminated and will just hold a region meet like in the A division.

In addition to the girls, Red Cloud's team competing in the 7B in Philip on Saturday includes junior Yuichi Kakowa, 17-22 at 120; freshman Josh Twiss, 7-17 at 126; senior Sylas Running Eagle, 11-19 at 138; junior John Jung, 20-26 at 170; senior Tyrell O'Donnell, 22-19 at 182; and sophomore Scott Two Bulls, 13-19. The top four wrestlers in each weight class qualify for the Region 4B in Mobridge on Feb. 18. In the A division, Pine Ridge and Little Wound will compete in the Region 4A at RC Central on Feb. 18, while Cheyenne-Eagle Butte and Todd County will be at the 3A region in Mitchell.

“Its great to have a support system, having two other girls on the team to help cheer you on and support you when it gets tough,” said Standing Bear. “I've made it through the whole season. I didn't quit and I'm still working hard.”

“Sometimes the crowd is the hardest thing about wrestling; they hoot and holler, yelling at my opponent to beat me easily,” said Stover, “But I keep working hard. I plan to work hard this summer and my goal is to move down to the 160 weight division, I have my work cut out for me.”

“It’s just an awesome sport,” said Emery. “Both my parents are happy that I'm doing this. Sure, they worry about me getting injured, but its such a great feeling when you do well.”