Girls' Wrestling Gaining Interest
This school year Parkview High School has had a girl wrestling on the team, making the school one of just a few to have female students participating in this traditionally male sport.
When Christina Kruger steps on the mat, she tries to forget the obvious -- that she's the only girl around.
But, it's not exactly something that she can avoid. She's a trailblazer, albeit a reluctant one.
In the 2012-2013 school year, Christina has been the only female wrestler on the Parkview High team. Like other girls across the nation, she found her way to what has been a traditionally male sport.
"Once you're out on the mat it's just like you're so focused on what you're trying to do that you don't really even think about," Christina said about being a female wrestler. "You're just wrestling."
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In Georgia, just 60 schools and 130 girls participated in wrestling during the 2011-2012 school year, according to a survey by The National Federation of State High School Associations.
At Parkview High, Coach Joshua Porter's said there's only been four girls to try wrestling during his two years at the school. He believes the team loses the few girls who are interested after they see how intense the team trains.
Also, Porter said some girls simply do not feel comfortable wrestling boys. This is partly why he thinks boys and girls high school wrestling should be separate.
"Right now we do not have the numbers to make that happen, but as women's wrestling continues to grow we will," Porter said.
Several states, including Texas, already have a separate competition for girls and boys. In addition, there are a number of colleges adding women's teams that compete with each other, Porter said.
Female wrestling is also a popular Olympic sport.
Thanks to Title IX, a 1972 federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education, more and more barriers are being torn down for girls to participate in high school sports.
"I think that girls wrestling is great for the sport," Porter said. "With Title IX being what it is, it is important for wrestling to get girls involved in the sport."
According to a survey by The National Federation of State High School Associations, high school girls' wrestling is growing in popularity. Over the past three years, for example, the number of girls participating in the sport has grown 34 percent -- from 6,134 to 8,235.
That's barely a dent, however, in the overall interest in the sport on a high school level. In just this past school year, some 272,149 boys participated -- greatly outnumbering girls.
"I've always been kind of like a tomboy," Christina said of her reasons for trying high school wrestling. "For me, I know that you're going to get the best team with the people that work the hardest."
She added: "I like how nothing is just handed to you. You have to work for it."
Any girls who want to participate in the Parkview High team are welcome, but don't expect special treatment. Porter said he hasn't given Christina any advice for techniques hat he wouldn't have given any other wrestlers.
Christina, who's sitting out this semester to concentrate on her classes, wants to continue wrestling into college, and possibly beyond. She knows she needs to get stronger to stand up against her competition.
Her parents, Dave and Kathy Kruger, just hope she continues to do what makes her happy -- without getting hurt too much.
"We're really behind her, whatever she does, any sport at all," Dave Kruger said.