TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As one filters into the wrestling room after another, the enthusiasm for the sport at Washburn Rural might only be matched by one thing: defiance.
"I started wrestling in 7th grade because I was told I couldn't do it," Junior Blue wrestler Ellise Romine said.
"There's something really fun about proving people wrong and doing something other people think can't be done," Washburn Rural head wrestling coach Damon Parker said.
This will be girls wrestling's first season as an official sport in the state of Kansas. And Washburn Rural has had a huge turnout. The program has 61 girls as of now, which is more than it has for the boys team.
"It's cool coming into this wrestling room now with the girls wrestling team, seeing so many girls from my grade who couldn't do it when we were younger because there wasn't an opportunity," Romine said. "And a lot of people are a little scared to get out there sometimes, especially in male-dominated sports. So I just think it's amazing."
A married head coaching couple leads Washburn Rural's program. Parker serves as the head coach for the boys and girls teams, while his wife Lindsay is an assistant.
"There was a need for it," Damon Parker said. "We've created a total standalone sport. Because the interest was so high, we can have a separate practice, we can have a separate coaching staff."
One that will obviously teach technique, but also encourage.
They have the inner strength and the grit that it takes to be wrestlers," Lindsay Parker said. "They just have to learn and that's something that's going to stick with them for the rest of their lives."
"I've found that it's made me a nicer person," Romine said. "It's made me a much more confident person. The things I cared about before I started wrestling just don't matter to me now because it's just about what makes me happy."
"I think it's wonderful that I can be a part of that," Junior Blue wrestler Jaliah Johnson said. "It's just great and very empowering."
Empowering to slam home a simple point.
"Regardless of size, shape, height, there's a place for everyone in wrestling," Lindsay Parker said.