On Feb. 1, the Beavercreek High School wrestling team competed at the Benjamin Logan Raider Invitational. Just up the road in Bellefontaine, the Lady Chieftain Invitational was taking place. It was the last all-girls tournament before this weekend’s girls state championship meet.
For Beavercreek senior Kaileigh Nuessgen the choice was obvious.
“She looks at herself as a varsity wrestler,” Beavercreek coach Gary Wise said. “She’s that type of person.”
Nuessgen stayed with the boys varsity team and competed at Ben Logan to face tougher competition. That’s no knock on the talent at Bellefontaine. She just wanted to wrestle the best in an attempt to be the best.
Nuessgen – and the rest of the state’s high school wrestlers – get that opportunity this weekend. The inaugural high school girls state wrestling championships toe the line Saturday and Sunday at Hilliard Davidson High School. The meet, sponsored by the Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association, has nearly 250 individuals from 97 teams competing.
“It’s really cool to have this opportunity to go out and compete against girls,” said Nuessgen, seeded No. 3 in the 131-pound weight class.
“I usually do the boys meets. It’s a cool to have a new opportunity to help the sport grow.”
And growing it is. Twenty states hold sanctioned high school girls state championships, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association. The Ohio High School Athletic Association is working to make it 21.
From 1994 to 2019, the number of females wrestling in high school has soared from 804 to 21,124. There are more than 70 women’s varsity programs in college. And on March 6-7, the first national collegiate women’s wrestling NCAA championships will be hosted by Michigan’s Adrian College.
“We’re definitely getting respect but we’re not done yet,” said Miami East junior Olivia Shore, who is seeded No. 1 at 111 pounds. “We’re putting our heads down because we want to keep going.”
Last season Shore became the second female to qualify for the OHSAA individual state championships. She made history as the first female to win a match in the championship round.
The 17-member strong Vikings join Columbus Olentangy Orange and Marysville as favorites to win the team title. On Dec. 18, East hosted Orange in Ohio’s first-ever scored dual match for girls wrestling. It was just the third one the nation.
Other wrestlers to watch at the state meet include Sidney freshman Josie Davis (No. 1 at 126), Miamisburg freshman Cassia Zammit (No. 1 at 131), Miami East junior Erin Hamby (No. 3 at 170), Miami East junior Sydney Preston (No. 3 at 235) and Sidney sophomore Jadah McMillen (No. 4 at 106).
As for Nuessgen, she started wrestling in the first grade. She wanted to play football but her parents said no.
“I just fell in love with it right from the go,” Nuessgen said. “It’s different. You don’t have to be the strongest to compete. Obviously I’m not as strong as most people I wrestle, but you can work other technique to overcome it.”
Nuessgen won a state championship with the Beavers’ girls soccer team in 2018. She’s also on the lacrosse team and signed a national letter of intent to play for Detroit Mercy.
“I’m ready to go,” Nuessgen said. “Push through, get to the finals and hopefully get that title.”
“I give her a fair shot at it,” Wise said. “She’s just tough. She’s not going to back down. She doesn’t back down from the guys.”
And this weekend, the girls.
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