Wrestling with gender inequality

Maddie Meyers, features writer

With a punch, her opponent threw her to the ground. As blood gushed from her mouth, Emma Schreiber, freshman, got up even stronger. She did a roll, pinning her opponent on the mat. The match was hers. As the only female member of the KHS wrestling team, Emma looks forward to overcoming obstacles like these.

“The ref called her out on it because you are not supposed to punch somebody in the face,” Emma said. “I won that match because I was really aggravated that she kept getting away with trying to play dirty.”

At Nipher Middle School, Emma’s passion for wrestling grew when she started participating in the wrestling intramural. Craig Dickinson, head wrestling coach, said that because there are no high school female wrestling teams in Missouri, Emma is one of two female wrestlers at KHS in the last 10 years.

“I mainly started wrestling because my mom always influenced me to do things differently and to challenge myself,” Emma said. “I saw some female wrestlers on TV and they inspired me to wrestle.”

Since wrestlers must check their weight regularly, Dickinson said the only difference Emma faces is that she weighs in separately from her male teammates because they weigh themselves in only underwear. He said the biggest challenge for Emma is probably when some opponents refuse to wrestle her because she is a girl.

“Some boys are not comfortable competing against a girl,” Dickinson said. “I have seen situations in the past where a kid has just said, ‘I’m not going to wrestle her.’ Looking from the other perspective, I always tell my guys that it is not a male or female thing, it is a wrestler thing. You go out and you wrestle no matter who steps out on the mat.”

When someone refuses to wrestle Emma, she said her philosophy is to not let it get to her, and move on because it is their loss. At a wrestling camp, Emma was paired with a strong male opponent, but Emma thought he would only make her better.

“I went over to wrestle him, and he said ‘No,’” Emma said. “My coach said, ‘Come on, do not be rude. She is good and you will get a good work out in,’ and the guy said ‘No, I do not want to hurt her.’ We were confused [and I thought] ‘You are not going to hurt me. It is just like you are wrestling anybody else.’ But he said ‘No,’ so I just went on to wrestle someone else and show him that I could do it.”

Jake Hibbard, senior and a wrestling team captain, said people should not judge someone based on their gender because that does not matter in wrestling. He believes a person’s dedication and work ethic in practice determine their success. Hibbard said since female wrestlers are rare, everyone on the team welcomes Emma.

“People on other teams might see [Emma] and not know how hard she works,” Hibbard said. “They might say, ‘She is not going to do very well because she is a girl,’ but we know how she does in practice, so we know she is a good wrestler.”

Dickinson said Emma is an important part of the team because of her experience in middle school and her perseverance. He had some females interested in wrestling in the past, but usually they have a hard time sticking with it and end up leaving the program.

“Emma has been doing this for a while,” Dickinson said. “She made this commitment before she got to high school. She knew what to expect, so I think she was prepared mentally for the challenge. She is a really tough kid.”

Emma said she had a practice meet in eighth grade where she lost one match, but also won one. She said it did not matter that she lost because she learned from losing, and winning showed her that she was not just wrestling because she wanted to, but because she could grow as an athlete.

“I really like how [wrestling] challenges you,” Emma said. “You have to think on the spot. It is not something you can just run play-by-play because you have to go by what the other person does.”

In the future, Dickinson hopes wrestling can take a turn to having female wrestling at the high school level because it would get more girls involved in the sport. Emma hopes to continue wrestling in college and possibly become a women’s wrestling coach to encourage others to do what she did.

“For someone like Emma,” Dickinson said, “she is going to face the challenges of competing against boys for the next four years. But when she gets to college, she is going to have a lot of opportunities for scholarships and to compete at the next level.”

Emma’s twin, Isabella Schreiber, freshman, said she is proud of everything Emma has accomplished with wrestling because she does not think that everyone could do it. Isabella said that Emma uses the fact that she is the only female wrestler to drive her to be better.

“It is pretty empowering to other people who might have second thoughts about doing something because they might be the only [girl],” Isabella said. “But for Emma to be confident enough to do that, is really cool.”