MCPHERSON, Kan.--- More than 200 girls competed at the Girls West Regional Wrestling tournament today in McPherson. Its the first year as a high school sanctioned sport and a lot of people have been waiting a long time for this, including two former wrestlers.
In a sea of male coaches and referees, there are two female coaches sitting mat side cheering on their girl wrestlers, in the first ever West Regional tournament as a high school sanctioned sport.
McPherson wrestling assistant. coach, Chandra Engle said, “Beth and I had wrestled together in high school.”
Holcomb wrestling coach, Beth Johnson said. “I’ve known her since I was nine or ten years old. I’ve known her for a long time, ten years and we’ve wrestled longer than that.”
Johnson and Engle were both on the 2008 Kansas USA Wrestling team.
“She ended up finishing first at nationals my senior year, I got fourth that year," said Engle. "So it was a really neat team to be on. It was the biggest team that we’d had yet for Kansas. Probably the first time we started having a team go to Fargo was me and Beth.”
More than ten years later, both still find themselves in the wrestling world but in a different role.
“We’re just passing the flame pretty much," said Johnson. "Our coaches passed it to us and now we’re passing it to the kids whenever they get older. Hopefully they continue wrestling as well.”
Engle said, “The first time I saw her, I was surprised, I didn’t know she was coaching. It was at another tournament and we ran into each other in the locker room, it was a big hug fest. It’s neat to see her and be like where you coaching, how many girls you got?”
Engle and Johnson say they aren’t surprised with the turnout of girl wrestlers.
“Man is this neat or what?! It’s very touching to be able to see where it’s at now. Finally,” said Engle.
“I’m not surprised, I knew it was going to happen eventually and every year it’s going to get more and more,” said Johnson.
“It helps that I can connect with the girls that I’ve had experience coming up. I came up in a time when there was very little opportunity for us to get to see other girls wrestle. This opportunity, it didn’t used to exist,” said Engle.
These two coaches hope they can continue to guide young girls wrestlers and grow the sport they love.