The atmosphere at the first Ohio High School Wrestling Coaches Association wrestling tournament for girls was different than you typically find at a boys’ tournament, said Bailey Hackett and Miranda Nicholson, who represented Brookfield High School.
“It was louder,” said Miranda, a freshman who wrestled at 116 pounds.
“Yeah, it was a lot louder,” said Bailey, who was unseeded and beat the second and third seeds on her way to being the state runner-up at 170 pounds.
The girls were much more supportive of each other, even their rivals, Miranda said.
“After each match, even if the girl lost, each girl would go and hug each other,” Bailey said. “It was so much more welcoming an atmosphere than what a guys’ tournament would be.”
That doesn’t mean the girls didn’t wrestle to win.
“The girls are sometimes more intense than the boys are,” said Bailey’s dad, Larry Hackett, who coaches the wrestlers with Ben Solomon.
Bailey said it was “awesome” to be able to participate in the first tournament, which was held Feb. 22 and 23.
“We can be, like, role models to little girls who, say, ‘Girls can’t do this,’” Miranda said. “I think they can look up to us.”
Bailey’s runner-up crown was particularly special given the goals she had set for her sophomore year.
As a freshman, Bailey “didn’t really wrestle,” her father said. “She just went out and got some forfeits. Some of her friends were on her, ‘You don’t really wrestle.’ That’s why she set goals this year to go out and make things happen.”
The Brookfield girls team finished 32nd out of 99 teams, a finish that impressed their coaches.
“It’s hard to compete with the teams that have a whole team because they’re getting their points everywhere, but the two girls stepped up,” Larry Hackett said. “It was pretty impressive. I was really impressed with the amount of work and effort they put in. We all didn’t know what to expect going down. They both strapped it on and went.”
Both girls, who have defeated boys in sanctioned matches, come to wrestling through their families.
“I just felt like wrestling was in my blood,” Bailey said. “I’ve been around wrestling since I was born because both my brothers (Zach and Joe) did it when I was young. I enjoyed it and just wanted to be around it.”
Both girls looked at wrestling as a way to condition themselves better for other sports they played, but now see the merits of it in its own right. Wrestling practice is harder than workouts for other sports because there is little down time, and practices are held more frequently.
“You’re doing something all the time,” Bailey said. “You’re always running, you’re always moving. It’s a little draining at some points.”
“You have to push yourself a lot,” Miranda said. “It was so much different compared to other sports I played, especially being a girl. Sometimes, coaches are like, ‘It’s a girl. Let’s take it easy on them.’ No, you can still push them.”
The girls said they have tried to recruit their friends to give wrestling a go.
“I’m trying to be really persistent with it because I want more girls out in the sport,” Bailey said. “I really want to see our school thrive with this team. Girls, I feel, are more scared to do it because they don’t want to get hurt. You don’t really get hurt that much. It’s not as bad as everybody thinks that it is.”
Larry Hackett said wrestling teaches you things beyond technique.
“If you go out there and you’re able to take a defeat and really get beat on and pick yourself up, that’s one of the greatest things about the sport,” he said. “It teaches you dealing with adversity and moving on. Things are handed out too easy nowadays. I actually wanted her to wrestle because, once you do this, everything else is easy.”