Girl’s wrestling is one of the fastest growing high school sports in the U.S. right now, and the Berkeley High School team is no exception. Last year, the team had seven girls who competed on the wrestling team, and this year there will be even more joining. “It’s looking somewhere in the 11-13 range. So it’s been growing slowly. It started with just two girls,” said head wrestling coach Benjamin Nathan, who is also a math teacher at BHS.
Nathan wrestled throughout high school, and became the wrestling coach at BHS ten years ago. He has seen the sport change a lot over time. “When I wrestled, in four years I saw three girls wrestling. Maybe. And now, most states have girls wrestling. The girls on (the) team are absolutely part of the sport now,” he said. He thinks some of the stigmas around wrestling are becoming less prevalent, which is helping more girls become interested in the sport. “It’s a contact sport, and we’re co-ed, and we’ve gotten to where that doesn’t seem like a weird thing anymore. And now people sort of understand that it’s perfectly normal,” said Nathan.
Wrestling has been a very positive thing for athletes who have decided to join, no matter their gender. Padma Liu, A BHS sophomore, is currently on the team for her second year of wrestling. “(Wrestling) lets me push myself because it’s either you get pinned or you fight, and it’s a really good feeling at the end of that.” said Liu. She also feels like girls are becoming more widely accepted in contact sports. “I think as time goes on, in martial arts and just athletics in general, the amount of women has gone up,” she said.
Shiella Paredes-Akimoto is the girls wrestling captain, and one of the two co-captains for the entire co-ed wrestling team. She began three years ago, and has been very dedicated ever since. Paredes-Akimoto thinks there has been growth in wrestling as a whole, which is why more women have been joining the sport. “Men’s wrestling is growing, so it makes sense that women’s wrestling would be growing,” she said. “I just think women’s wrestling is growing at such a high rate because it was so low before, like 20-30 years ago, women’s wrestling was barely even a thing.” She has also found community within womens wrestling. “There are just so many people who really want to grow women’s wrestling. So if you go out and look for it, you will find so much support and so many amazing people who want to see you succeed,” Paredes-Akimoto said.