She's a winner
Gender isn't an issue for Pembroke wrestler
Betsy Blevins has captured the gold medal in her weight class four times in five years.
By AARON McFARLING
THE ROANOKE TIMES 5/26/02
PEMBROKE - OK, so she's a girl. Does it matter?
Betsy Blevins wrestles. She's 12 years old and she's been doing it five years. She wins consistently. Now does it matter?
Occasionally it does on the New River Valley Youth Wrestling circuit. Not often, but every now and then. Occasionally the boy she's about to wrestle will get teased by his teammates ("You've got to wrestle a girl!") and a touch of anger will leak into Betsy's body and coalesce with pre-match adrenaline.
Then she'll beat that boy. Goodbye teasing, hello shock.
"When I first started out, everybody was just like, 'Oh, she's a girl. You're going to beat her,'" said Betsy, a sixth-grader at Eastern Elementary/Middle School. "Now it's like everybody knows that I'm going to win. Everybody gathers around."
Last month, Betsy wrapped up another successful campaign with a 12-1 record and a fourth gold medal at the annual season-ending tournament in Christiansburg. The only female on the 22-member Narrows team, Betsy has never had a losing season in the league.
"Every year your competition gets tougher, the older you get," said Jerry Hagerman, who, along with Kristie Harmon, Shannon Harmon and Brad Walkup, coaches Betsy. "She's progressed with the competition, maybe a step ahead."
Betsy remembers that day her second-grade gym teacher showed the class a wrestling video to introduce students to the sport. Betsy was intrigued when she watched the girl on the tape battle back from early struggles and pin the boy.
Maybe she could do that.
Betsy picked up a sign-up sheet at school and brought it home to her parents, Dawes and Connie Blevins. Neither had ever heard of girls wrestling with boys.
Dawes Blevins made some calls. Yes, it was for real, he was told.
The nervous little girl who showed up to practice that first day is history. Five years of working on her skills, both with the team and at home, have forged an appreciable confidence in Betsy.
Before every match, she scouts her opponent, fires herself up mentally and downs a customary teaspoon of honey.
Then she wins.
"A lot of it is her strength, but she also pays great attention in practice," Hagerman said. "She learns the moves I try to get them to learn and she uses them in a match.
"She has her favorites. There's one particular takedown that she loves. She loves to bull 'em down from behind to break them down and get them on their back."
Betsy has captured the gold medal in her weight class four times in five years. The only time she didn't win it all was 2000, when she took second.
The league in which Betsy competes is open to grades K-7, so next year will be her last. She aspires to wrestle in high school, though Giles County schools do not offer the sport.
So perhaps her wrestling career will fade, but not if Hagerman can help it. A Rich Creek resident, he's part of a local group pressing school administrators to add wrestling. After all, Betsy's got talent and she's already developing other interests.
"Broke my heart when I saw her in a cheerleading outfit," Hagerman said, shaking his head and smiling. "I was like, 'NO! She's going to be a girl!'"
Betsy assures us she's been one all along.
So let's ask her. Does it matter?
"I'd say it doesn't matter if you're a girl or not," Betsy said. "You've just got to try to your hardest and don't be scared."
Michigan is making a very strong case for girls
wrestling as an official
sport. They have had many outstanding champions but
California has done as
well or better. California people must become a
positive force to influence
the movement toward an official girls wrestling
program as soon as possible.
California has the more girls participating in
wrestling than any other
state. We dominate the national teams and the College
teams. We won the 2002
USGWA national tournament and the national duals.
Casey Griffin has made a proposal to move in that
direction but the
process is slow and cumbersome. As I talk to many
parents I believe we are
getting to a crisis situation. Parents of girls are
getting very upset. It is
not a healthy and equal competition. As the girls get
better and the pressure
increased on the male to win, someone is going to get
hurt. I don't want it
to be my or anyone else's daughter. Parents see the
frustration on the part
of the males. Some boys have the attitude that if they
can't beat the girl,
they will hurt her.
The proposal for 03 is that there will be
exhibition matches at the boy's
state. Many of us feel that an exhibition puts our
sport in the category of a
dance team or a cheer routine. After competing all
season long in exciting
and very competitive events against top boys and girls
who may be state or
nationally ranked, an exhibition is hardly a
culminating event. The event
should at least be a North-South dual that would have
I'm glad to see such an outpouring of support for
the Michigan proposal.
But, where are the California supporters in our
struggle with the CIF? If we
don't contact our CIF representatives they will be
content to drag this out
for many more years. Some of us have been putting
pressure on the CIF
representatives for several years. They have
stonewalled and delayed. When is
the CIF going to make a statement about the their
proposal? Lee Allen, Menlo
MI considers girls wrestling
Gabbott@usawrestling.org (Gary Abbott)
The Michigan High School Athletic Association is
considering girls wrestling as a new official sport
The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA)
announced on May 22 that it was considering adding girls wrestling as an
official sport on the high school level in Michigan. The Michigan High
School Athletic Association is the governing body for high school sports in
A press release from the MHSAA included the following
"The MHSAA's plan also commits the association to
starting four new post-season tournaments for girls before adding any
new tournaments for boys. Two new tournaments would be initiated each year for
two years, with the association choosing the four sports that serve its
membership best from the following list of 12 sports: bowling, crew,
equestrian, field hockey, figure skating, ice hockey, indoor track & field, lacrosse,
powerlifting, synchronized swimming, water polo and wrestling."
Women's wrestling is the newest sport in the Summer
Olympic Games, making its debut at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece. There
are two states that already host official high school girls state
wrestling championships, Texas and Hawaii.
"The wrestling community, if it is to be selected as
one of the four new sports from this list, will need to aggressively lobby
the MHSAA to add girls wrestling," said Tricia Saunders, a four-time Women's
World Wrestling Champion who was a high school athlete in Ann Arbor,
Mich. "We have had many Michigan girl wrestlers go on to make the USA National
Team in wrestling. By adding girls wrestling to the high schools, Michigan
could be one of the best girls wrestling states in the entire nation."
Michigan has already been a leader in the development
of youth girls wrestling programs. Interest in girls wrestling in
Michigan goes back more women wrestlers who
attended Michigan high schools are Saunders plus World silver medalist Jackie
Berube, five-time World Team member Lauren Wolf Lamb and college
wrestling star Katrina Betts.
"I'm excited about the possibility of Michigan adding
girls wrestling with the other sports in their program," said USA Wrestling
National Freestyle Coach Kevin Jackson, an Olympic Champion who was a
high school star in East Lansing, Mich. "Now that it is an Olympic sport, more
girls from Michigan could have an opportunity to be Olympians. If women's
wrestling were in the Olympics sooner, Tricia Saunders would have been an
Olympic Champion. We could produce more champions from Michigan like Tricia
if girls wrestling is added in the high schools."
The largest girls wrestling event in the nation, the
USGWA National Championships, is held in Michigan each year. The
USGWA, based in Michigan and directed by Kent Bailo, is a national organization
that has tremendously helped develop girls wrestling.
Four of America's current top high school girl
wrestlers are from Michigan: Brandy Rosenbrock of East Detroit High School,
Alaina Berube of Escanaba High School,
Gina Heinzelman of Heritage High School and
Keristen Labelle of Lapeer West High School.
"We would be very excited if girls wrestling was
added," said Al Kastl of Clinton Twp., Mich., the USA Wrestling State
Chairperson for Michigan. "We have the numbers that merit this. Based upon existing
interest in girls wrestling youth programs, this would be a very logical
addition for Michigan state high schools."
USA Wrestling encourages the wrestling community in
Michigan, as well as those involved in the sport across the nation, to
contact the MHSAA and encourage them to select wrestling as one of the new
girls state championships.
Contact information for the MHSAA follows: Michigan
High School Athletic
Association, 1661 Ramblewood, East Lansing, MI
517-332-5046, FAX 517-332-4071. Emails should be sent
to John Johnson at
email@example.com or Executive Director Jack Roberts
The proposal for the new state championships for
women's sports was included in a plan submitted to a Federal District Court that
would also change the scheduling of its tournaments in three sports. This
plan is part of the MHSAA's response to a Title IX lawsuit filed against
According to the release, the proposed changes are
dependent upon the approval of the U.S. District Court in Kalamazoo later
this summer. The MHSAA indicated that none of the changes will occur if the
MHSAA's appeal of the District Court's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals
"We have gone beyond the Court's Order to demonstrate
further the intent of this organization and its member schools to promote
opportunities for girls in athletics," said MHSAA Executive Director John E.
"Jack" Roberts. "Decades ago, schools scheduled sports seasons for girls in
order to facilitate the fastest growth possible in girls' athletic
opportunities, and their efforts have proven successful. In every one of the sports at
issue in this case, Michigan's girls high school sports participation
rates are better than its eighth rank nationally in population for high school
MHSAA plan suggests adding new sports
By Jane Bos 5/23/02
The Grand Rapids Press
The Michigan High School Athletic Association submitted what the court ordered -- a compliance plan -- but it did a little more, too.
Last December, the U.S. District Court ruled that the MHSAA discriminated against females in the scheduling of six sports and mandated that it offer a plan to fix that.
The plan, submitted Wednesday afternoon in Kalamazoo, included swapping the seasons in which three boys and girls sports postseason tournaments -- golf, tennis, and swimming and diving -- are scheduled.
The MHSAA also committed to starting postseason tournaments in four new girls sports before adding any for boys.
The MHSAA suggested 12 possibilities for the four new girls sports: bowling, crew, equestrian, field hockey, figure skating, ice hockey, indoor track and field, lacrosse, powerlifting, synchronized swimming, water polo and wrestling.
Presently, the MHSAA sponsors state tournaments in 12 sports each for boys and girls.
"We would be excited about adding these sports," said East Grand Rapids principal Pat Cwayna. "Some of them have great potential. It would be an easy transition for us to add them right away.
"My thoughts on the whole plan are that this would be easy for all of us. I don't see this as anything that could not be accomplished quickly."
The plan means that boys golf, currently held in the fall, would flop with girls golf in the spring. Girls swimming and diving in the fall would move to the winter, changing places with the boys. Girls tennis in the fall would switch with boys tennis in the spring.
see PLAN, B12
District Judge Richard A. Enslen is scheduled to rule on the plan at a July 18 hearing.
The plan, originally scheduled to take effect in 2003-04 if approved, would not be put in place until after the appeals process is completed because of a stay granted May 9 by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
None of these changes will occur if the appeal is successful.
Plaintiffs have two weeks to respond to the plan, after which the MHSAA has two weeks to reply.
"We have gone beyond the court's order to demonstrate further the intent of this organization and its member schools to promote opportunities for girls in athletics," said Jack Roberts, the MHSAA's executive director.
Roberts added that this plan was devised from the membership survey sent out last month. The survey asked schools which sports they least wanted moved, as well as which plan they most wanted.
Of the 649 schools which responded, 42.1 percent of them supported this plan.
The surveys also showed basketball as the sport the schools least wanted moved for either gender, as well as the sport they least want combined into the same season.
Kristen Galles, the plaintiff's attorney, said she was not happy with the compliance plan. She feels that the MHSAA should've worked toward finding a way to put girls volleyball in the fall and girls basketball in the winter, just like almost every other state does, because to leave it the same hurts girls.
"It can be done and is being done in other states, so let's find a way to do what is best for the kids -- no matter how initially inconvenient it may be for MHSAA or school administrators," Galles said. "The plaintiffs would rather see the MHSAA focus on finding a way to schedule both boys and girls in all sports in the seasons most advantageous to their sports.
"(Then), although playing in the wrong season is harmful to any athlete in any sport, it is even more harmful to athletes in 'team' sports who need teammates to practice effectively.
"The MHSAA's plan moves three boys' individual sports (golf, tennis, swimming) to the wrong season but keeps three girls' team sports (volleyball, basketball, soccer) in the wrong season," she added.
The MHSAA insists it is responding to what its members want.
"It's based on the research they've done, and the MHSAA did a pretty thorough job of that," said Grand Rapids Baptist athletic director Beth Redford. "These changes will be easier for scheduling, the easiest for schools to do. From a smaller school standpoint, it's not a whole lot different, and that's a good thing."
Rockford athletic director Keith Vree said that the Rams are ready to make any changes they need to in order to be in compliance.
"As for adding new sports, crew and water polo are already varsity sports anyway," he added, noting that bowling, equestrian and lacrosse were club sports at Rockford.
Across the state, 264 schools already sport unisex equestrian teams, which includes 1,780 riders.
And girls high school bowling just completed its fourth season as a club sport. There are 30 high school girls teams in the West Michigan area.
Fifty schools in the state of Michigan recognize bowling as a varsity sport, while 160 schools recognize it as a club sport. About 4,500 athletes compete in bowling across the state.
"To do something like this to even out the girls sports would be an ideal thing," said Rockford girls bowling coach Carl Doornbos said. "It's not like we'd be just getting started. Everything is already in place with districts, regionals and the state tournament. It's a very minimal cost to the schools and I think it would help improve the sport as a whole."
Girls water polo currently has 11 area teams and there are 26 throughout the state.
Jenison coach Pete Hewett sees adding water polo as an MHSAA-sponsored sport as a positive.
"This is something we're been working for since water polo was incepted back in the 80s," he said. "I think the biggest thing it would do for the girls is give them credibility and the recognition that they deserve. I would give the MHSAA a lot of credit if they do bring on these sports because it's showing proactive decision making on their part and that's pretty good."
Church youth group offers a built-in social life for teens like Jennifer Teschler (left) and Reyna Cooke
WITHER GUARANTEED COOLNESS?
In my day, there was only one guarantee of coolness: cheerleading, or cheer, as it was called then. As freshmen, my friends and I gazed at the varsity cheerleaders as if they were movie stars. We knew all their names and dreamed of achieving some of that orange polyester pleated-skirt glamour for ourselves. Today, Jen Teschler competes on one of the schools four girls water-polo teams, the varsity swim team and the new varsity girls golf team. Shes also a peer facilitator (teaching tolerance in the classroom) and the news editor for the school paper, the Saga. Reyna Cooke, another gamma who is 15 and a freshman, placed fifth in the state in girls wrestling five months after taking up the sport. If she can collect more competitors, shell found a girls team at Valhalla. A gammas parents can be found not only cheering from the sidelines, but out on the field, closer to the action. Parents today are much more deeply sincere about wanting to put enormous effort into raising good kids, says Rosenfeld. Jen barely catches her breath after a swim race before she talks excitedly about her Friday-evening plans: dinner out with her dad. Freshman Emily Waldrons dad has coached her soccer team since she was 5 just so they could have that time together. A teacher at Valhalla, he gives his 15-year-old a lift to and from school, and three days a week they work out together at the gym before school.
The rest of the story..
GIRLS WRESTLER OF THE YEAR Suekoilya Shelly
The Dallas Morning News
Suekoilya Shelly's two goals for the season became one almost by
accident. The junior pledged to help gain more recognition for Hurst L.D. Bell' s
young wrestling program.
Her personal goals would be secondary.
A 19-0 start quickly surpassed her personal goals and brought more
awareness to the program. Shelly put her name, and that of her team, at the
forefront of area girls wrestling when she won her first six tournaments. She had
qualified for state as a freshman while attending South Grand Prairie,
and took fourth last year after transferring to Bell. Yet the focus of
girls wrestling still rested in Arlington until this season.
"This team wanted to be the ones that got L.D. Bell noticed," said
Shelly, The News' Girls Wrestler of the Year. "It started last year, but we
weren't able to have the type of season we wanted. You hear about the Arlington
schools in girls wrestling all the time. We wanted to be just as good
as they were."
Shelly said the highlight of her season, ironically, came in her only
loss, against Katy's Linse Meadows in the state semifinals.
"I knew she was my primary competition. I was confident I could beat
everyone else there except for her," Shelly said. "The thrill was the
feelings going into the match and being pumped about wrestling the
best." Suekoilya Shelly