Girls’ wrestling is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and Eudora High School is benefiting from that growth with 14 girls on the wrestling team this year compared to only four last year.
Assistant coach Carl Springer is in his first season as a coach at EHS and helps head wrestling coach Jotham Andrews coach the boys, but he is the primary coach of the girls’ team.
“I just retired from Lawrence Fire Department, and this is easily the best job I’ve ever had,” Springer said. “These girls make it so much fun. I coach at the middle school as a wrestling coach, and I help with the boys here and I coach the girls here.”
Springer’s motivation to coach and grow the girls’ wrestling program at Eudora came from his daughter, Hayleigh, 15, who died in April. Hayleigh was an accomplished wrestler at Baldwin High School, helping her team win a state championship last year.
“When I retired, part of my biggest goal was to build a girls program here in Eudora and make her proud, and that’s what I’m trying to do, so my focus here at Eudora High School is on the girls' team,” he said.
Springer said some of the new wrestlers knew him from when he coached his daughter and decided to wrestle for the girls’ team when they found out he was the coach.
“They bought into the philosophy of hard work, having fun and being around each other,” he said. “They make it easy on me because they are hard workers and they make this job so much fun.”
Junior co-captain Kyleigh Musick is in her second season with the wrestling team and almost qualified for state last year. Musick said she has been more focused on helping the new wrestlers than worrying about the postseason.
“This season my goal is just to improve with my team,” she said. “I just want my team to get on track. We got a lot of new people, and I’m trying to help them learn. I think my goal is to get at least one pin each match, but that’s pretty much it.”
Musick went 2-1 with 2 pins in Friday night’s mixer at home.
Junior co-captain Kambry Shockley is also in her second season with the team. Shockley participated in wrestling last year and an injury shortened her season, but she’s excited to return healthy and to a bigger team than last year.
“It feels great. It feels great to get out there and pin some people,” she said. “From having four last year now to having 14, I've never been on a team that’s so energetic and loud.”
Shockely went 2-0 with two pins Friday night.
“Last year was really rough for me, so I definitely came out here stronger than usual,” she said. “The full team has definitely improved a lot from the beginning of the season to now.”
Girls high school wrestling participation has grown for 27 straight years, according to the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The National Wrestling Coaches Association shows the number of girls wrestling in high school grew from 804 to over 28,000 between 1994 and 2021.
“We have so many talented girls on our team, it’s amazing,” Musick said. “Now I’m seeing bigger girls' teams everywhere, so this is going to become a cool thing. I’m excited.”
This is the first year that Eudora was able to field a varsity girls’ wrestling team, and they picked up their first team win in a duel against Washburn-Rural on Dec. 3.
“That was our first team win ever in the history of Eudora for girls,” Springer said. “Other girls in high school see the success and then they’re like, ‘I want to be a part of that team,’ and they see the atmosphere with the other girls and they realize that’s something they want in on.”
The University of Iowa announced the decision to offer a women's wrestling team in September, becoming the first Division I school to do so. Springer said other Division I schools are starting to follow, and they are quickly handing out college scholarships to build their programs.
“They got a good future ahead of them,” he said. “A lot of these girls that come through here will have a good chance to wrestle in college, and I am so excited about that.”
Reach sports editor Chris Fortune at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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