Girls’ Wrestling Makes an Emphatic Statement in Its First Season

Brooke Hale, Contributing Writer

I had heard a few rumors floating around about establishing Oak Forest’s first-ever Girls Wrestling team early this year, and, after some serious deliberation, I decided to join. Now, no one really knew what to expect for the team. Coach Forst, the head coach of the wrestling teams, had been trying to rally girls to join, but there wasn’t much interest expressed, and it was beginning to seem that this inaugural girls’ team might fall flat. However, as the season started, everyone soon realized that this could be bigger than anyone had anticipated. Personally, I didn’t expect more than ten girls to join, but in the first week, we had double that, and now we have one of the biggest girl’s teams in the state. It was a good sign for what was a very new experience for everyone involved.

All of that made for a great start to the season, but we certainly had a lot to learn. Most of us had never wrestled before and knew very little about it. Thankfully, our coach, John Sebek, was very experienced in coaching —specifically in coaching girls, with his own daughter being ranked second in the nation— and he, along with our other coach, Coach Nowicki, made learning the ropes simple. A lot of our time was spent learning the basics, with a lot of demonstrations and drills, but our coaches were sure to throw plenty of conditioning into the mix as well because wrestling requires endurance, and they wanted us ready to wrestle for 6 minutes straight without a problem.

However, we definitely weren’t the only ones dealing with a learning curve; starting an all-girls team in a very male-dominated sport has its challenges. For one, we needed singlets. The ones given to us at the beginning of the season were, quite simply, not made for women. At the beginning of the season, Coach Forst gave us the same singlets he gave the boys, but as we were trying them on, it was clear that those weren’t going to work. They simply weren’t made to fit us. So Forst quickly ordered new women’s singlets, and we had our own brand-new singlets by our second meet. And besides that, there were no issues; we were treated just like any other team, and we even got our own Bengal hair ties to wear.

But the best part of it all was the precedent we set. As the first girls’ team at the school, we’ve experienced first-hand the inspiration that it’s given. We saw the excitement of the referee at our first meet, we heard the energy of the announcer introducing Illinois’ first girls’ sectionals tournament, and, best of all, we could smile at the little girls sitting mat-side watching with wide eyes. Now, as the season comes to an end, we have four state qualifiers, a team that is closer than anyone could have anticipated, and a promising future for not just each individual on the team but also the team itself.