If you told Mike Stanley he’d be spending his weekend at a girls’ wrestling tournament when he was younger, he might have chuckled. 

Then again, that wasn’t the norm. 

“Yeah, I wouldn’t have anticipated until a few years ago,” said Stanley. “I wrestled from the age of four through college and I was never on a team with a girl and I don’t recall ever wrestling a girl in competitions.”

After a historic season that featured Charleston’s first female state qualifier in school history, the program took a leap forward this year with four female wrestlers. That is going to set up a busy Friday night at Pontiac Township High School where an all-girls tournament will take place. 

Charleston will be headlined by Alyania Bryant, younger sister of 2022 state qualifier Maddie Bryant, who is viewed as one of the best female wrestlers in the state. Mackensie Williams is a returnee as well. Sophomore Racheale Colman will look to pick up a win, while freshman Morgan Smallhorn owns a win this season in her first year. 

“Year by year though, it has become more normalized and more expected to the point now that even at our mixed duals I anticipate that we will be able to match at least some of our girls up to wrestle other girls,” said Stanley. “Many times, we will need to wrestle up or down a weight class to make the match but it’s more advantageous to the girls to have to do so in most cases rather than to give up the natural strength that they have to in many cases to the boys, especially at the upper middle and heavier weights.”

After this year, it might start to sink in that the popularity of the sport is growing among the female population.

Stanley said that there are 375 entries for the upcoming Pontiac Tournament and the brackets are filling up to a full 16-bracket. 

“It’s awesome that girl’s wrestling is growing enough to give the opportunity for these dual matchups and especially for all-girls tournaments,” said Stanley. “You just have to have the numbers to do it and they are definitely rising and becoming easier and easier to make happen. They were anticipating letting us bring extra wrestlers at the same weight brackets but they are now holding off on this due to the numbers coming in. This is a strong testament to where the sport is headed with the girls. Many colleges, including colleges with prestigious wrestling histories, including the Iowa Hawkeyes, are adding women’s programs. This is also a huge motivater for girls at the younger levels, as it gives them more serious and life-changing goals to work towards.”

Meanwhile, Mattoon’s Logan Crist became the first female wrestler in school history to pick up a win this season. Had she not been surrounded by such a strong team, she might not have been overshadowed.

All around, this Green Wave team is looking like one of the best wrestling programs in Central Illinois. 

Mattoon is coming off a team championship at the Steve Bradley Tournament at Bethalto Civic Memorial. Eleven Mattoon wrestlers competed in place matches and two wrestlers picked up individual championships. 

Korbin Bateman and Leo Meyer each won their respective weight class, while Aidan Blackburn and Logan Blackburn finished runner-up. Ben Capitosti and Tristan Porter each finished in third place. Then, the team followed that up with a 75-0 sweep over Olney on Tuesday. 

“Winning the 20-team Steve Bradley Invitational at Bethalto Civic Memorial was great for the kids,” said Mattoon coach Brett Porter. “We have six or seven individuals experience their first High School tournament and it was fun to see them come together as a team.  They have been working very hard, and it is great to be rewarded so early in the season.”

Mattoon has a busy week this week – four team matches.

Along with their home match last night again Olney, the team returns to action tonight at Urbana with Danville and Normal University. Then, the team returns home to wrestler Orgenta Oreana. On Saturday, the team wraps up with a meet at Bloomington High School with Pekin in a Super Dual. 

“Coach Patterson and I have been pushing the pace at practices,” said Porter. “The thin line between enough and too much at practice is basically controlled by our captains.  The leadership in the room stands out, and it shows at events.  We still have a long way to go. The team is facing 11 duals in a week.  It would be great to see as many people as possible at our home events cheering on the Greenwave wrestlers.”