As an eight-grade wrestler, September Snyder learned to lose by giving her opponents a hug.
A year later, most of those hugs were to offer comfort to her opponents as the 15-year-old Fort Campbell High School freshman won matches throughout the season and made it to the medal podium at the second Kentucky girls state wrestling tournament.
The tournament, sponsored by the Kentucky Wrestling Coaches Association, was recently hosted at Tates Creek High School in Louisville and 11 girls from Fort Campbell competed, said Falcons Wrestling Coach Anthony Shingler.
Together, the team finished fourth in Kentucky, out of 52 teams. Snyder took a silver medal in her 103-pound weight class and junior Destiney Solis, 16, took home second in the heavyweight class.
“The girls have stepped up huge for us this season,” Shingler said. “We had a group with very little experience to start the year. We have been really working on the fundamentals and each time the girls wrestled, they improved. The standard was put together a team that could compete for a state championship this season. We were able to do that and held a lead at one point, which we did not do last year.”
Kennedi Turner placed third in her weight class, Katie Guevara and Kathryn Chappell placed fifth in their weight classes and Natalie Britton and Rhiannon Greenwell had sixth place finishes, he said.
“A lot of the girls started last school year in conditioning and really have worked hard to learn the sport, to be competitive,” Shingler said. “Our schedule is about as tough as you can get and I feel our 4th place finish is a direct reflection of how hard we have worked this season. The girls had 11 entered into state and eight of them were first year wrestlers. I could not be more proud of how hard they worked this year.”
Snyder has only been wrestling two seasons but the sport has long interested her.
“My mom wrestled for a year in high school,” Synder said. “My uncles wrestled. My grandpa wrestled. It’s in my blood.”
She took to the mat while still in eighth grade and made it to the state finals last year, but placed sixth after she had to forfeit a match because she had wrestled so many times she was required by law to stop.
She doesn’t know her overall record because she said she doesn’t want to get cocky when she does well.
“I’ve only lost to female wrestlers this entire season,” she said. “I lost maybe five times this season, but it’s to these two same girls.”
She said the sport gives her discipline and confidence. In return, she tries to bring as much sportsmanship as she can to each match.
“I get everything out of it,” Snyder said. “I get confidence. I get a little bit of street cred, because you know, a lot of girls are afraid of doing it and a lot of guys respect you a little bit if you do it. I feel like I get respect for myself more and I get respect for other people. I’ve never seen as much sportsmanship from another sport.”
She said she often gave hugs after her matches last year and at the state tournament she saw a lot of other girls doing that too. That made her feel good.
The sport has helped push her too, even when she thought about giving up.
“I was in a down spot for awhile,” Snyder said. “I didn’t feel like I wanted to wrestle anymore because I didn’t feel like I was good, but my coach pulled me out of that, my mom pulled me out of that and my family pulled me out of that and I just came back and I pinned almost everyone this year.”
Although she has wrestled boys, she prefers the camaraderie of the girls.
“With girls, it’s more like ‘I’m here, we’re doing this and we’re both trying to win,’” she said. “So, whether or not we win or lose, it’s just the gratification of being there and getting to do that and being that tough female, going out and wrestling each other and getting on the mat and winning. That’s what I get out of it.”
She said that although wrestling is an individual sport, the team works together to push one another and cheer each other on.
“Part of the reason I lost a lot last year, probably all of it, was because I didn’t believe in myself to win,” she said. “If you’re down on yourself, you’re not going to do well.”
Guevara, a senior, placed fifth at state last year and again this year in the 112 pound weight class.
She said she loves the sport because it’s mentally challenging.
“I think wrestling is more of a mental game than anything,” she said. “You can’t go out there with the mentality of you’re going to lose or you’re going to get pinned. Some part of it is muscle and technique but I feel like it’s mostly mental. You can’t beat yourself up mentally and expect to win.”
Wrestling may help her with other mental pursuits as well. She is visiting two colleges, one in Ohio and one in Colorado, where she is thinking about joining women’s wrestling programs and she may have scholarship money. She hasn’t decided where she will go, but wants to continue the sport.
“It’s given me confidence in the person I am today just because I feel like once you wrestle, you can do anything,” Guevara said. “You’ve gone out there and beat someone and you look at the world differently.”
She had 17 wins and four losses before the state tournament.
Solis, a 16-year-old junior, wrestled for the first time this season after her siblings convinced her to try the sport.
“I actually loved it,” Solis said. “I got second in state.”
She bumped up to the highest weight class, which is 285, although she could have competed in the 220 weight class.
She only wrestled two girls at state because there are not as many girls to compete in that weight class.
“I had to beat my first girl since I only had five in my bracket, then I went on to the finals,” she said. “She pinned me.”
Solis is planning to wrestle again during her senior year and said the sport gives her mental strength.
“I don’t think the sport necessarily teaches you anything,” she said. “It’s mostly the coaches telling you, ‘You win some, you lose some.’ There will always be another chance.”
She also credits her teammates and opponents.
“Those girls I wrestled taught me how to not be afraid, to just keep going,” Solis said. “Even though we were going against one another, it was just like a whole big Family.”