Wausau West continues to grow girls wrestling

This year’s roster of 15 girls represents a growing trend in the sport throughout Wisconsin
Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 8:51 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Last year, the WIAA had its first season of sanctioned girls wrestling, culminating in the first-ever state tournament in La Crosse last January. In total, 224 competitors from around Wisconsin descended on the tournament for the inaugural competition and celebration. Five of those competitors hailed from Wausau West.

“Oh my gosh, it was so nerve-wracking,” said Wausau West junior Anya Mueller, who competed at state last year. “At the same time, it was an amazing experience. Once we got in there, all the lights are beaming on you and you can see all the people looking at you. It was an amazing experience.”

The tournament was a large step for the sport in the state. However, Wausau West has had a tradition of girls wrestling for around a decade now.

“I want to say about ten years, there’s always been a girl in wrestling,” said Mueller. “They’ve kind of just linked along and built up.”

“We’re trying to promote it and grow it at Wausau West,” said Dallas Moe, a member of the Wausau West wrestling staff. “We’ve had a pretty strong tradition of female wrestlers going back the past ten years and we just want to keep encouraging that.”

The growth of the sport for girls is evident. This past weekend, Wausau West hosted the Wisconsin Girls Challenge Series Finals, with 220 girls participating. That number is up from around 80 last year.

Fifteen girls make up the roster for Wausau West this year. Each of them has their own reason for going out for the sport. For freshman Madelynn Lee, it’s a pathway into what she hopes to be her future career.

“When I was younger, me and my cousins would watch a lot of WWE and I got into that,” said Lee. “Then I started Tae Kwon Do and then I slowly began to become a fan of UFC. I always watch it with my dad and then ever since then I’ve dreamt of being an MMA fighter.”

No matter the reason, the more experienced wrestlers on the roster know those that have shown up are there with the right mentality.

“I guess it comes down to the right girls having the right mindset and wanting to be tough,” said senior Ashley Danielson.

Danielson and Mueller both take pride in being leaders on the team. Their goal, aside from becoming champions themselves, is to help the younger wrestlers gain comfort in the sport, and encourage more like them to participate as well.

”I think it helps with upperclassmen who are really dedicated and put out the word to have girls come join,” said Danielson.

“I’ve been able to help the new girls come up and I’ve been able to see them grow,” said Mueller. “Just being able to help the girls and see them work together and see them grow throughout the season is super cool.”

For those younger athletes, the guidance given is appreciated.

”There’s a lot of older classmen that are really opening too and like, help us get into it a lot more like be more comfortable,” said Lee.

This year, the Warriors, along with all other girls wrestlers in the state will have a chance to compete on the grand stage of the Kohl Center for their state tournament, something that’s easy to get excited about.

“I was jaw-dropped like, that we’re actually if we do make it, we can wrestle at the Kohl Center with the guys, which that’s an amazing step up for girls wrestling,” said Mueller. “You can wrestle side-by-side with the boys at the Kohl Center.”

The goal is clear for the Warriors, but it’s more about the culture and memories they’ve made as a part of the team.

“We’re just like a big family,” said Lee. “We always help each other out and stuff and we just have a lot of fun together.”

Lee also has advice for any girl on the fence about trying wrestling themselves.

“I think you should do it because it’s really fun,” said Lee. “At first it’s scary, because of all the boys, it’s only boys, but as you keep doing it more and more, it gets a lot more fun and you can beat them boys sometimes.”