Two female wrestlers join historically male wrestling squad

Aaron Lyons

Once they arrive by shuttle at the upper school campus from over the hill, Lena Kadogawa ’18 and Abbie Howell ’18 head to the wrestling room to begin the usual stretching and calisthenics.

In practice, they usually partner up, but when the other isn’t there, either girl partners up with one of the boys on the team.

The two freshman girls joined the Wolverine junior varsity wrestling team this year, even though the team has historically been all-male.

“Sometimes the seniors will teach me things, or occasionally I will drill with some of the boys who are closer to my weight,” Kadogawa said. “After [drills] we wrestle live, where we compete against each other instead of just practicing moves. I’ll usually wrestle against Abbie, but again, sometimes I will wrestle against boys closer to my weight.”

The two had gotten to know many of the boys on the team prior to joining.

Their familiarity with and trust in each other has helped the team come together and blend, they said.

“We have never had a girl on the team, but it is not much different than when any other new freshman comes out to try wrestling for the first time,” teammate Ryan Ruiz ’16 said. “They have been working really hard and had some exciting matches at our first duel against Chaminade, in which they both won. I am looking forward to seeing how they do throughout the season.”

The two wrestled against and won their first matches against female competitors in their first meet against Chaminade Dec. 12.

It is possible that they will wrestle against male competitors in their respective weight classes in the future.

“The team and the coach [Gary Bairos] are amazing, and that’s why I really enjoy it.” Kadogawa said. “I feel really comfortable with everyone. Everyone has been really welcoming, and it’s natural. Nothing at all seems off or unusual about it. I have been able to integrate into the team really well.”

Both girls are relatively new to sport but are drawn to the challenge and difficulty it presents.

“I started in seventh grade during P.E., and I liked it, so I decided to try out and do it as a sport,” Howell said. “I really like the sport itself. It pushes you to the limit physically and mentally, and it’s really challenging, but it’s also fun.”

Kadogawa says she appreciates the fact that wrestling is one of the classic Olympic sports.

“I just started wrestling in September,” Kadogawa said. “Before, I played volleyball and a little bit of basketball. I liked the sports, but it didn’t feel like they were something I could call my sport. I wasn’t completely absorbed in them, but now that I’ve found wrestling, I’ve found something that I really enjoy and can now call my sport.”