Women’s Wrestling: Building Community and Encouraging Growth


Autumn McClain, News Editor

Professors and coaches at Buena Vista University (BVU), are teaming up to build a supportive community for female wrestlers in Storm Lake. Sean White, Assistant Wrestling Coach at BVU, is excited for the future of women in wrestling, but with it comes many challenges.

“There has been talk around BV about establishing a women’s wrestling program. President Merchant has brought it up to our coaching staff in the past. I do think it is something that is going to happen, or could happen, at BVU in the near future… It’s an exciting thing,” said White.

Women’s Wrestling is currently not a nationally sanctioned sport. Safety concerns are motivating coaches and wrestlers nationwide to push for formal regulation at state and national levels. Professor Jason Shepherd, former wrestler and one of the coaches for the new girls wrestling club in Storm Lake, stresses the importance of sanctioning Women’s Wrestling at state and national levels.

“Right now, there is a big push in the state of Iowa to sanction girls wrestling. One of the challenges of doing that is Iowa is the only state in the US that has two separate governing bodies for high school sports. We have a Boys Athletic Association and a Girls Union… Up until recently the Girls Union didn’t have a process for establishing a new sport,” said Shepherd.

He went on to explain specific challenges wrestlers can experience at a young age.

“The problem in high school wrestling, girls wrestling boys, at that age there tends to be a pretty significant strength difference due to hormone differences… That becomes a safety issue.”

Jason Shepherd along with experienced wrestling coach Troy Greder are leading the way for female wrestlers in Storm Lake and surrounding areas by establishing a new all-female wrestling club.

“Troy and I have been involved in assembling girls wrestling teams for several years now, mostly at the youth level,” said Shepherd.

They have organized a club where girls have the opportunity to wrestle other girls. Building a team of women who support one another as Women’s Wrestling continues to grow. The first practice was held on Oct, 20 at 2pm in the BVU wrestling room. Future practices will be held every Sunday at the same time and location. Approximately 27 girls from Storm Lake and surrounding areas attended the first practice. The club is open to girls of all ages and skill levels.

“We wanted the first practice to be open to all girls of all levels including those who have never wrestled before all the way up to those who have been wrestling in state and national tournaments,” said Shepherd. “It gives girls the opportunity to come together and learn about the sport while getting the support they need to be successful.”

Keagan King, an 18-year-old wrestler at Grand View University, is using her experience and expertise to help guide young girls at practices.

King has suffered several serious injuries from the dangers of unsanctioned women’s wrestling.

“It’s heartbreaking… I, personally, have had 4 major surgeries because I have had to wrestle guys. I’ve had my shoulders torn out of place; my hip torn out of place…,” said King. “I want to see Women’s Wrestling become sanctioned here in Iowa and in all 50 states.”

Shepherd noted that there has been a reoccurring trend among female wrestlers.

“Some girls are interested in wrestling, but as soon as you sanction it and say, ‘you don’t have to wrestle boys anymore, you can just wrestle other girls,’ participation explodes,” said Shepherd.

However, he explains some female wrestlers benefit from the challenge, and will likely continue to wrestle the opposite sex out of choice.

“There’s still going to be girls that want to wrestle boys. My daughter, Tatum, is a pretty good wrestler. She is going to continue to probably wrestle boys anyway because she knows it’s going to make her better.”

Overall, Shepherd is looking forward to seeing wrestling grow.

“In general, I just want to see wrestling grow… it’s such an amazing sport. To only allow one half of the population access to that experience is unfair. I want to see girls and women have the opportunity to experience wrestling in a safe environment,” said Shepherd.

As the fight for gender equality within the sport of wrestling continues, girls are encouraged to get involved and participate in local clubs and organizations to help build a better sense of community and to spread awareness about issues on and off the mat.