- Associated Press - Saturday, January 21, 2017

GRANT PARK, Ill. (AP) - Illinois high school sports officials say they’re seeing fewer boys but more girls in competitive wrestling.

Data from the Illinois High School Association show that 394 girls have appeared on wrestling rosters this season, an 11 percent increase over the 355 girls who wrestled last year.

“Girls are keeping the sport afloat,” said Tony Clarke, an IHSA wrestling official, adding that the number of male competitors has dropped.

Kylie Miller, a freshman at Grant Park High School, told the Daily Journal (https://bit.ly/2jwN85U) that her first career win was against a male opponent, proving that girls can compete in a male-dominated sport. Her sister, Angie, also competes.

Another Grant Park student, Jaymie Pratl, said she thought wrestling would challenge her physically. She has practiced karate since age 5 and is also a boxer.

“I decided I wanted to play a sport, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. … I figured wrestling was the most challenging sport the school had to offer,” Pratl said.

That was the case for Shyanne Griffiths, a junior at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School, who started wrestling this year.

“At first, I was afraid the boys wouldn’t accept me,” Griffiths said. “Then, I proved to them that I’m not here to mess around. They respect and support me.”

Savannah Morrison, a freshman at Reed-Custer High School in Braidwood, said she uses snide remarks that come with being a female wrestler as motivation.

“The hardest part is dealing with all the comments the boys make,” she said. “Some say: ‘You’re not supposed to be here. Clean the mat. Be a stat girl.’ I’ve heard it all my life, so it doesn’t bother me.

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Information from: The Daily Journal, https://www.daily-journal.com

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