Linda Messmer photo
Whitney King, Northview High School freshman varsity wrestler, tries to turn coaching helper Clay Whitman, a senior at ISU, at practice Monday evening.
"It's a sport not many girls do and most people said it was something I couldn't do," Whitney King said when the Northview High School freshman was asked why she joined the wrestling team. "The first time I saw a match was when I went to watch Robby Pasalich wrestle at North Clay in the sixth grade and thought I'd like to try that."
The lanky, 5-foot-8-inch, 15-year-old is willing to sacrifice much of her free time to practice and participate in this mostly boy-oriented sport.
King, who carries a B- grade average in school, holds the varsity 125-pound spot. It's unusual for a freshman to get so much varsity experience. Normally, a weekly wrestle-off with the kids in each weight class determines who will wrestle varsity that week. Coach Don Bryan said there is no one else available at the 125 weight and heĆ*s glad to have King there.
The four wins of her 4-14 record came from forfeits but they added valuable team points which helped secure some team victories. Coach Bryan was asked how he thought having a girl participate affected the team.
"The boys have wrestled with girls before," he said. "There's been at least six girl wrestlers at Northview since I started coaching here about ten years ago.
"It doesn't matter to me. I just want the kids to come to practice, work hard and try to learn. And Whitney stays right with it. She's a hard worker.
"Girls have to wrestle a little different than guys because of a different distribution of muscle groups," Bryan continued. "Girls can be great technique wrestlers. When girls wrestle boys in high school it usually makes them stronger when they compete against girls."
Bryan said the state Free Style Greco-Roman season for women is in March, April and May. Also Team Indiana gives girls an opportunity to wrestle other girls from different states.
Matt "Chico" Valmoja, a North Clay Middle School 8th grader in the 112 pound weight class is one of King's main practice partners. Valmoja wrestled with King last year in middle school.
"I don't think about whether my opponent is a girl or boy when I'm wrestling," Valmoja said. "I just do my thing, work on a move, try to get a pin. I like working with Whitney and I'm glad she's in the program."
Austin Nicosin, Austin Staley and Jeramy Vanarsdale, also spar routinely with King. Vanarsdale, a Northview freshman, said, "She's a good wrestler. I don't mind wrestling a girl."
Staley said, "If she wants to do it, that's cool. If she practices like every other guy, she should be able to do it."
Austin Nicosin added, "It don't really bother me. She's been on the team since I started. She does everything we do and she fits in with us."
When King was asked how she thought the boys felt about her being on the team, she said, "Oh, I think there's a couple who don't like it but they don't say much. They all treat me like one of the guys and that's how I want to be treated here."
What does the grappler's family think of her chosen sport? The daughter of Earl and Vicki King said, "Dad wouldn't let me go out for football because he said it was too dangerous. But he said if I wanted to wrestle he'd let me do it. Mom said, if that's what you want to do, you can do it.
"My brother and sisters think it's cool," King said. "One sister is a junior varsity cheerleader at Northview.
"I was like most girls when I was little. I played with Barbies and once wanted to be a cheerleader but changed my mind. It's not my thing."
The independent young lady who is not allowed to date until she's 16 will earn a varsity letter in wrestling this year. Her coach says that with all this experience, if she sticks with it, in a couple years King should be a real contender.
When asked if she had any advice for other girls who may be considering wrestling, King said, "If that's what you want to do, do it. Don't let anyone tell you any different."