If Geneva senior Heidi Stamper has learned anything from being a female competing in the male-dominated sport of wrestling, it would be that it’s OK to be a little emotional at times.
“Obviously, everyone knows girls cry more,” Stamper said with a laugh. “It was never something I wanted to do in front of the boys, but I even put it in my senior quote, ‘It’s okay to cry.’ I cried a lot at practice, I couldn’t help it. The guys never judged me for it though, they’d just ask if I was OK.”
For Stamper, along with Lakeside’s
Adriana Hutson, it may have been a different type of crying this weekend.
The duo finished
off their high school mat careers during the Ohio Girls State Wrestling Tournament at Hilliard Davidson High School.
“It was a bittersweet moment,” Hutson said. “As soon as I lost my second match and I knew I was going home, it didn’t really hit me. Then I saw my coach, Kelly Prine tearing up a little bit and ...”
Neither girl placed at the tournament now in its second year.
What they have meant to their programs, though, is something that may be looked back on for years to come.
Both began wrestling about the time they were in fourth grade.
That was at a time when the idea of a girls-only wrestling tournament was pretty much unheard of.
Taking in the environment this weekend, both seniors surely had to consider what their careers might have been having opportunities like this one come along sooner.
“Honestly, I never really thought about that,” Stamper said. “But, thinking back on it, definitely yes. It would have been a lot more beneficial to have those opportunities in the years past.”
Stamper is surrounded by wrestling in her family.
Her dad, Chris
Stamper, is the varsity coach for Geneva
and three of four of
her brothers also wrestled.
Like his daughter, Chris Stamper would have loved to see an all-girls format happen sooner.
“It would have been nice if it could have started a little earlier,” he said. “But, I’m just glad to see that it’s happening. It’s nice to see we’re getting more girls in the sport and they’re being recognized and that we have enough to have a state tournament.”
The state tournament was in its second year, but unlike last year, there were enough girls wrestling across the state to mandate a qualifying district tournament
to determine which girls advanced this season.
Last year, anyone who wanted to go was invited.
Like Stamper, Hutson also had tough times also, but she never backed away from a challenge.
A year ago, the Dragons hosted Geneva for a dual match.
Hutson went went Johnny Wayslaw, the Eagles 132-pound representative who was in line for his 100th win.
Lakeside had two participants in that weight class, including Hutson and another wrestler who didn’t want a part of Wayslaw.
“I’ll go out there,” she told her coach. “It was funny. Everybody was like ‘No, give him a forfeit.’ I was like ‘I’ll wrestle him, what do I have to lose?’”
Hutson did not beat Wayslaw that evening, but the experience from wrestling is something she says she will value for years to come.
“Wrestling has shaped my life,” she said. “I wish more girls would do it. There’s definitely no other sport out there like wrestling. It gives you confidence, you might not notice it right away, but I gained more confidence in my ability.
“You learn self-discipline, you have to be really hard on yourself. There’s no opponent tougher than the one you face in the mirror and you have to work to get better.”
And what both Stamper and Lakeside coach Andrew Horvath would love to see is other girls follow the path Hutson and Heidi Stamper have paved for them.
“Now that she did do it, and she did do well, I hope it encourages more girls to try it also,” Stamper said of Heidi. “If we could get more girls out, we could actually start an all-girls team and get more all-girl competition.”
Horvath hopes for the same and said that Hutson will always be remembered as the one who set the example for other girls to follow.
“She’s going to be missed,” the Lakeside coach said. “She’s as much Lakeside wrestling as Ethan Wannett or Kyle Conel. She paved the way for other girls in the district that want to do what she is doing.”