Girls have been able to wrestle for some time, but just last year Pattonville got their own girls’ wrestling team. Senior Camilla Wilkerson started wrestling her freshman year. She has four years of experience under her belt; sophomore year Camilla got to compete at a coed JV conference and she got third place in an all boy bracket. She loves the new team and how supportive they are.
Camilla talks about her experiences when she first joined the majority boys’ wrestling team and how she had to build her confidence on her own. Now that there’s a group of girls, she says it’s easier for them to support and build that courage in each other. “I see that confidence growing in them, and it’s really great,” Camilla says.
Camilla decided to join wrestling after a friend from another school told her about how at his school they have some girl wrestlers. Most of Camilla’s male teammates supported a girl wrestling, but a few of the guys didn’t agree with her joining. Camilla says “Some guys didn’t agree with going outside the ‘status quo.’” She chose to ignore the few that didn’t support her and focus on the majority of her teammates that did support her.
Since the team was created last year, they have 25 girl wrestlers, and that number is steadily growing. Just last year the girls’ team sent Autumn Otis to state — the first girl Pattonville has ever sent to state. At tournaments girls don’t face discrimination, but when some guys see they are facing a girl, Camilla says she can definitely see the shock on their faces.
When talking about her third place award at the JV conference, she said, “It proved to me that I was capable of staying up there with the boys and I wasn’t lesser than them.”
After high school, Camilla doesn’t know if she is going to continue wrestling. She would like to, but most of her top schools don’t offer women’s wrestling because of how few women participate in the sport. As time goes on, some colleges have begun offering scholarships in hopes to increase participation. About 792 scholarships for Division 1 women’s wrestling are given out per year. Hopefully this trend will continue, and more women will realize that wrestling isn’t just for the guys.