Fort Campbell High School’s all-girls wrestling team of 14 female wrestlers is having a great deal of success as they take on their second official season.
Anthony Shingler, coach for the Fort Campbell High School wrestling team, said while the girls wrestling program isn’t exactly new, the program has finally developed to a group of formidable competitors.
Female wrestlers have been part of the Fort Campbell High School wrestling team since the group started competing about 11 years ago, Shingler said.
“We are trying to run a program that strives for excellence in the classroom and on the mat,” he said. “Three years ago, we sent our first female group to a tournament where they did very well. Last September the Kentucky Coaches Association decided to host the first girls state championship to help grow the sport in the state. We decided we would push to build the sport at Fort Campbell.”
The girls team finished as the state runner up last year, and one female wrestler signed to continue wrestling in college. The Seventh Annual Fort Campbell High School Wrestling Tournament was hosted in December during which the Lady Falcons finished in fifth place. FCHS wrestlers, Katie Guevara and Natalie Britton won the tournament. Individual placing winners were Ella Plumb and September Snyder in second place and Sharon Ajas in sixth place.
“We have more than one major strength,” Shingler said. “The girls work just as hard as the guys. The expectation is we will continue to improve each time we practice and compete. They have bought into the philosophy and work extremely hard. They are a very tightknit group that want to see each other be successful.”
Katie Guevara, FCHS senior, turned to wrestling to cope with her mother’s deployment. Guevara said she found a strength and resiliency within herself to continue with the sport.
“One of my old friends invited me to come out and try it when we lived at Fort Carson, [Colorado],” Guevara said. “I know my first week, I didn’t know what I was doing and they sent me to a tournament where I got beat up. My mom was deployed for my entire sophomore school year and it was a very hard time. Wrestling became a way for me to take my mind off of things, it takes up a lot of your time, and you have to dedicate yourself to it.”
Wrestling taught Guevara how to control her emotions and carry herself in difficult situations, she said.
“I always tell the younger girls to never act out of anger,” Guevara said. “You have to be in the right mindset. Wrestling has made me more mature and taught me how to take things slow and be more responsible for my actions and how you react to things.”
September Snyder, FCHS freshman, joined the wrestling team because her mother, uncle and grandfather wrestled when they were her age.
“I started wrestling last year as a middle schooler,” Snyder said. “I’ve always wanted to be in wrestling and knowing my Family wrestled growing up, it gave me an extra boost to want to wrestle and I gave it a shot and I ended up loving it.”
Wrestling has taught her to respect winning and losing in all areas of life, Snyder said.
“There has to be a winner and loser and you have to learn how to not be hard on yourself if you lose,” she said. “It’s a learning opportunity to take what you did and look at how you can improve to come back stronger for next time. Being in wrestling has definitely made me feel a lot stronger and more confident, especially in knowing I can stand up for myself.”
Ella Plumb, FCHS junior, found an outlet for dealing with the loss of her father and a way to feel close to him as well.
“My friend, Coach Shingler, my dad and brother convinced me to try wrestling last year,” Shingler said. “I was actually going to quit because I was having a hard time picking up the skills, but then my dad passed away. I kept with it, and now I wrestle for my dad. My dad didn’t pass away in war, he had a heart attack, and I use wrestling to get out my feelings about it.”
She found an outlet for her grief, but also found a community of supporters within her team and coaching staff.
“It’s helped me a lot,” Plumb said. “Coach Shingler was there for me a lot last year, and the entire team has helped me through the anniversaries, my birthday and all of the holidays. The entire team has been there for me and my Family. I want to stick with wrestling for as long as possible, and I want to try to wrestle in college.”
All three girls plan to continue wrestling and encourage other girls to participate. However, many girls still face the problem of not having access to wrestling programs universally.
“I want to continue wrestling as long as there are places that have it,” Snyder said. “I recently found out I may have to move and the place we are going doesn’t have girls wrestling. It’s still kind of frustrating girls aren’t able to compete in the same sports boys can. Being able to wrestle here, it’s an impact on everyone, it shows we have strong girls around here who have what it takes and can be strong and do it too. It’s not just a guy thing, and it’s being noticed by younger girls.”
The three girls agreed they have an influence on younger wrestlers and understand what their example as female athletes does for future generations of female wrestlers.
“Girls, and everyone, automatically assumes wrestling is a male sport,” Plumb said. “We are redefining what sports are, it’s not a male sport, it’s just male-dominated. It teaches you many things, like responsibility and owning up to your actions, you have to be accountable, and I think it’s a great thing to participate in.”
Guevara encourages all girls who may be interested in wrestling to come out and give it a try while keeping an open mind.
“I would encourage girls to try it out, because they could be good,” she said. “Don’t knock it until you try it, and you may regret not giving yourself the chance to do it."