Liberty athletes wrestle with gender stereotypes

Eowyn Ream, Staff Writer

While waiting on the sidelines and preparing for the upcoming match, a high school girl scans the assembled athletes and can’t help but notice how few of them are girls like her. Although expected, it saddens her nonetheless. She wishes her very presence didn’t defy the expectations of society. She wishes society didn’t deem her sport too “masculine” for her participation. 

Liberty High School’s 2022-23 female wrestlers, Kiona Hill, Mariya Hubarevich, and Alexa Romero go head to head with these societal standards.

As wrestling is perceived as a boy’s sport, girls are often discouraged from participating– if not by their peers, parents, or guardians, then by society. Stereotyped as fragile and weaker than boys, female wrestlers’ confidence and self-esteem take constant hits. 

“There are always people who think that girls can’t do it or do it as well as them, which is challenging because then it’s easy to start thinking that as well,” sophomore Kiona Hill said. 

Although an outdated belief, an article from the University of Michigan News reported that a third of parents and guardians in the United States believe that boys are better at sports than girls.

“Since I’ve been here, people have come to accept it, and it’s a bit more normalized. It’s not as weird to have a girl, or many, on a wrestling team,” Hill said.

The number of female wrestlers is only increasing as time passes. According to an article from Team USA, high schools saw a 27.5% increase in girls’ participation in 2018-2019 compared to the previous year. 

However, despite this increase, the gap is still tremendous. Nationwide, there were 21,124 female wrestlers in 2018-2019 compared to 247,441 male wrestlers– an 8% to 92% difference. At some schools, wrestling isn’t even available to girls because of co-gendered team restrictions.

It’s difficult to be in such a significant minority, but the support of her fellow female wrestlers eases this burden for Hill.

“We really like to just uplift each other. We don’t take losses too personally. We always watch our films and work on our weaknesses to make them our strengths,” Hill said.

Despite the stereotypes and taboos around girls in wrestling, Hill joined the middle school wrestling team in seventh grade, and she continues to be thankful for her decision.

“Wrestling is important to me because it’s a very, very physical sport. It’s also very mentally challenging. Having a sport that challenges me both physically and mentally helps me in every other aspect of my life,” Hill said.

Like many others, Hill found wrestling to be empowering and uplifting.

“Even though it’s a team sport, at the end of the day, in your match, it’s just one-on-one. It’s either your win, or it’s your loss,” Hill said.