LPS girls wrestling programs see growth in second year

A larger number of Lincoln Public Schools girls used the words takedown, reversal and pin in their everyday conversations this winter.
LPS saw a significant increase in the number of girls who joined wrestling teams this season. A total of 45 girls wrestled during the 2022-23 campaign, which was the first time the school district offered girls wrestling as a separate sport.
That number rose to 76 this winter. All eight LPS high schools had at least one girl take part in wrestling, and four teams – Lincoln High, East, North Star and Southeast – had double-digit-sized rosters.
East juniors Mileena and Carson said they were happy to see their team grow. Both said that was a major reason why the Spartans had a good year both on team and individual levels. Mileena finished second at 105 pounds at the state tournament and Carson placed sixth at 170 pounds. East captured tenth place in the team race with 39 points.
“I have had more practice partners and more people to teach and even learn from,” Mileena said. “This benefits everyone on the team. We get different looks from each other and understand different styles of wrestling. This also just makes the environment even better to be around, including practices, bus rides, going out to eat, competitions or just bonding activities.”
“Wrestling this year was a lot more fun for me, just because I actually understood what I was doing this year, and was getting better in the process with more people to practice with and everyone in my corner supporting me,” Carson said.
Lincoln High had the largest LPS roster this winter with 22 athletes. Sophomores Jazleen and Isabel said they enjoyed the season. Both Links qualified for state and became friends with their new teammates.
“Wrestling was very fun this season,” Jazleen said. “I think it was pretty cool to have a lot more girls this year. The bus rides, meets and practices were entertaining this year because of the amount of people who joined.”
“It was nice knowing we had so many teammates cheering us on and supporting everyone to get better, not just in the (practice) room, but also at the meets,” Isabel said.
Mileena, Carson, Jazleen and Isabel are participating in one of the fastest-growing high school sports in the country. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) said there were 49,127 girls who went out for wrestling in 2022-23. That marked a 55-percent increase – 17,473 students – from the previous year. A total of 1,746 girls wrestled in Nebraska this season.
East Activities Director Zach Limbach said it has been encouraging to see LPS teams follow that national trend. He felt the sport has positively influenced many local students.
“The opportunities provided by adding girls wrestling gives those participating a sense of inclusion and purpose that aligns perfectly with the other educational-based athletics we offer,” Limbach said. “It was very clear from the start, when given the chance, these pioneers of girls high school wrestling are up for the challenge and continue to seize the moment. It has been so fun to watch them compete and grow as student-athletes.”
North Star head coach Tyler Nelson said he was extremely happy with the growth of the school’s program. The team’s roster rose from six to 11 wrestlers over the past year.
“With girls wrestling being so new to the state, and even newer to Lincoln, the majority of our wrestlers are athletes that coaches and peers have influenced to come try for the first time,” Nelson said. “Of our 11 girls, none of them had experience prior to high school. Although this is most likely a common theme around the city and state, it is a testament to their courage and competitive drive to engage in a completely new sport.”
Seven LPS high schools fielded teams in 2022-23. East had ten girls finish the season and Lincoln High had eight complete the campaign. Athletes from Southeast (seven), North Star (six), Southwest (five), Northwest (five) and Northeast (four) also competed on wrestling mats.
Lincoln High (22), East (14), North Star (11) and Southeast (10) had the largest LPS rosters this winter. Southwest (eight), Northeast (six), Northwest (four) and Standing Bear (one) all had girls finish the season.
Mileena said the 14 Spartans helped each other throughout the year. She said a larger team meant a larger amount of encouragement to go around.
“My team has been the best support system I could ask for,” Mileena said. “Anytime I am wrestling I can look up and see my team in my corner yelling and cheering me on. I am super thankful for this team and the way we all support each other. When one of my teammates wins a match, or even the tournament, I am happy for their success.”
Mileena said she and other girls would continue to expand their wrestling vocabularies in years to come.
“I had a ton of fun wrestling this season,” Mileena said. “The more years I wrestle, the more fun I have. Last season was definitely the best by a long shot. I was able to bond with my teammates better than ever. Wrestling is a tough sport and it isn’t made for everyone, so being able to wrestle and have a bunch of fun is something I am happy to experience.”

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Published: April 8, 2024, Updated: April 8, 2024

The number of Lincoln Public Schools students who competed in girls wrestling this season rose from 45 last year to 76 this winter. Students, coaches and activities directors said they were pleased with the increased participation numbers. LPS has offered girls wrestling as a separate sport for the past two seasons.