This year, South Dakota became the 25th state in the nation to approve sanctioning girls wrestling. After hearing the news, nearly 30 girls in Pierre tried out for the team.
Gianna Stangeland is a sophomore at T. F. Riggs High School in Pierre. After playing basketball since the 4th grade, she chose to quit the sport to pursue wrestling.
“I decided that wrestling was something new and exciting and that you could go a lot of places with it. It was really hard to decide but in the end I’m really glad I chose wrestling,” Stangeland said.
Stangeland says her main goal for this season is to improve. Being that this is her first year in wrestling and not basketball, she hopes to learn a lot.
“There’s such a difference between team sports and individual sports. I’d say you get more nervous for the individual sports because it’s all you but that also gives you the reason to get better because you know you can fix it and you don’t have to rely on other people,” Stangeland said.
Stangeland says her time with the sport has been well worth it.
“You kind of become a better person too. Like mentally it’s tough and physically. So overall it’s a great experience,” Stangeland said.
Sophomore Hattie Baldwin tried out wrestling this year because its a great way to stay in shape.
“It really has pushed me a lot and honestly it makes me better physically, I feel stronger, and I just really like the people too,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin says wrestling has already taught her valuable lessons.
“I don’t want to go into a match and lose. I’d rather lose over, just that person was better than me. I don’t want to be tired. I don’t want to just give up. I definitely want to push myself to do well,” Baldwin said.
Sixth grader Abbigail Lewis, wrestled on the boys team in elementary school.
“I feel like all of us have been pretty good so far. None of us have been struggling that much and we’ve all been doing pretty good at our tournaments,” A. Lewis said.
With her dad as coach, Lewis says she appreciates that the coaches run similar, if not the exact same drills as with the boys’ team.
“I just wanted to try something new instead of just regular boys practice,” A. Lewis said.
Coach Shawn Lewis, says when the South Dakota High School Activities Association approved the sanctioning of girls wrestling, he became head coach of the girls and boys.
“Since I’ve been in Pierre, we’ve never even had a girl try out for the wrestling team. We’ve had some in our youth program but never had any in our middle school program or our high school program so this year with the inception, it really blew up here,” Shawn Lewis, head wrestling coach, said.
At the beginning of the season, 27 girls tried out for the wrestling team. Currently, there are 22 girls that stuck with it, including middle schoolers and high schoolers.
Not only is the sport new to some of the girls, but coaching girl’s wrestling is also a new experience for Lewis.
“Honestly, if it works for the boys, it works for the girls. Some of your coaching techniques for boys is going to be different for girls but for the most part if you can make the sport fun and just get them to enjoy it which I think they have so far. That’s ‘Coaching 101’ for us,” Coach Lewis said.
Coach Lewis says he sees a lot of potential in the girls.
“They’ve come in with a positive attitude and they’ve really worked hard. They’ve tried to learn and earn their spot. Here in Governor wrestling, it’s a pretty big deal and a pretty long tradition so right away, they just wanted to earn respect of people and I think they’ve more than done that,” Coach Lewis said.
“I think I’ll stick with wrestling, I don’t think I’ll go back,” Stangeland said.
The girls wrestle in one classification, instead of Class A and B, with four weight classes. For the Girl’s State Tournament, the top eight wrestlers in each weight class will qualify.