SportsHigh School


'Girls can do this too': Local student-athletes work to make girls wrestling an official IHSAA sport

Growing number of girls are creating wrestling teams statewide
Posted at 9:54 AM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-08 09:54:06-05

FRANKLIN — Hundreds of girls will be seen as trailblazers when history tells their story of how they changed the face of high school sports in Indiana.

The interest in creating girl wrestling is so intense that the Indiana High School Athletic Association has deemed it an "emerging sport" with the possibility of becoming an official sport within the next two years.

Boys volleyball is also on a similar track consider an "emerging sport."

Lily Bridges and Ayla Stevenson are sophomores at Franklin Community High School. Both are inaugural members of their school's wrestling team this fall 2022. Stevenson in previous years competed against boys and is now on the girls team.

Bridges is also on the team after helping as the manager of the boys team.

Bridges and Stevenson are focused on their training and the significance of this moment for girls in elementary and middle schools.

"Yes, it matters because we are sending a message that girls can do this too -- it doesn't have to be just a guy sport," Stevenson said.

"To be one of the first is a big thing for us and me," Bridges said.

The girls make up a roster of more than 10 players on the Grizzly Cub roster. Currently, 177 schools in Indiana have at least one female wrestler.

The Franklin girls wrestling coach is Tina Tonte. She's also in her first year.

Her biggest challenge initially was getting girls to see that wrestling is an option with the benefits of good health and learning life skills.

"You know it takes a lot of courage to step out of your comfort zone and not look at what other people are doing and do something different," Tina Tonte said. "You learn how to endure through stress, how to deal with losses, I think the sport has a lot to offer."

Since the beginning of fall 2022, the girls have competed in dozens of matches including well attended tournaments.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association says more than 800 girls are participating in the emerging sport.

Jim Tonte is the head wrestling coach at Franklin with 36 boys and about 14 girls on the teams.

"It's a good thing because it gives an opportunity just like men of girls of different sizes to be successful," Jim Tonte said. "I believe this sport has something for everybody. "