Women wrestlers take to the mat


Photo courtesy of Samantha Child

Wakefield women’s wrestlers Rohama Gebremichael and Olivia Sadowy warm up before a match.

Millie Monahan and Erin Sockolof

As the first season of Wakefield’s first women’s wrestling season comes to a close, the team takes time to reflect on their achievements and places for growth. While there is technically no sanctioned women’s wrestling team, the women and men who wrestle for Wakefield High School work hard together to win tournaments.

A sanctioned team is a part of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA), and though the men’s team is sanctioned, the women’s team is technically not. But this year, there were women’s tournaments created so female wrestlers could go and compete by themselves. Combined with the men’s team, Wakefield went 18-3, with freshman wrestler Rohama Gabrimicheal advancing to states.

“This is my first year on the team, and I don’t have any previous martial arts experience,” Gabrimicheal said. “My favorite part has been proving to [the team] that I’m just as good as them.”

Although Gabrimicheal joined a few months into the season, she was able to catch up to the rest of the girls quickly, pinning her opponents left and right.

All the wrestlers are coached by science teacher Russell Williams. Williams wrestled in high school and continues to participate in martial arts today, along with coaching. The training he puts them through is very similar to the men’s team, with the girls and boys often wrestling together due to the lack of women. Training is a lot of self-discipline, grappling, and mental preparation. Williams focuses highly on not giving exceptions to either side and works to give both sides the best training.

“Wrestling is a ton of hard work,” Williams said. “But when the women and the men wrestle, they learn off of each other, and get stronger and more experienced in the act.”

Williams has them wrestle together because each athlete brings different assets to the mat, and when they learn to face different types of opponents, they are more prepared for tournaments.

Coach Williams helps Junior Samantha Child secure her headgear for her first tournament. (Photo courtesy of Samantha Child)

Lily Alexander is a junior and another one of the female wrestlers on the team.

“It’s a great team and a great place to be around,” Alexander said. “There are good people and the coaches are great. They’re there not just for the sport, but to lead kids in the right direction.”

While the team itself is a supportive and open environment, some Wakefield students haven’t been as supportive. Team member Samantha “Rae” Child has been the subject of negative commentary.

“I was kind of laughed at because I’m skinny, I’m tall and I look like a stick,” Child said. “People would make fun of me. They’d say [things like] you’re a stick, why are you on the wrestling team.”

Child doesn’t let these comments get to her though. She is still able to see how incredible this opportunity is for her and the other women who want to try wrestling.

“I’m not amazing at wrestling but it’s definitely taught me stuff and it makes me think that I’m a female wrestler and that’s the best thing in the world,” Child said.

While this team is just starting up, they have big plans for the future and hope that more women decide to check out the team.

“It’s definitely a work in progress, but it’s just starting,” Alexander said. “I think anyone should try it.”