To be a girl on an all-boys team sounds like a self-memoir waiting in editorial purgatory. It’s a position many girls continue to face courageously by choice.
Ali Rogers dubs the title shamelessly as the sole female on the North Hall High School varsity wrestling team. Many women before her have embarked on changing similar stigmas in sports, and many have incurred pushback from the opposite sex. But as the 15-year-old Rogers believes, a movement is just beyond the horizon.
“Girls wrestling starts off small, but it starts with one person to step out of their comfort zone, and that one person can change it all for somebody,” she said.
Rogers is self-aware. She knows she belongs on the mat. She knows some boys exist to disagree. The tell-all?
“A lot of times you’ll get those boys that’ll stand next to you on the side of the mat and say, ‘Oh, this is a girl I’m wrestling?,’ and they’ll either forfeit or not wrestle you,” Rogers said. “Or when you do wrestle them, they think it’s funny and they cry.”
In those moments, Rogers contains any mal-words and humbles herself. If the boy desists from the match, she will accept the win and move on. But when she wrestles one who doesn’t discount her integrity, it’s no joyride. He’ll make her work for it. It’s then when all aspects of her game grow.
Combatting male strength is the most difficult test for Rogers. Based on the anatomical and physiological differences between the two sexes, one cannot genuinely compare their performances. It’s biologically unequal, but that does not mean losses for Rogers are inevitable. The 5-foot-2.5-inch rising sophomore has commanded the North Hall mat and fought her way to becoming the first girl in program history to qualify for state.
The Georgia High School Association (GHSA) created a lane for girls to compete against girls for the first time last season. The freshman navigated the girls all classification 116 bracket.
Georgia has taken notice of the sport’s growth, and with the help of advocates like Rogers, local communities are following closely behind.
North Hall is a prime example.
Coach David Nichols sees Rogers as the perfect fixture to build North Hall’s first girls varsity wrestling team around. Her commanding performances are one reason, but the zeal she has for building the sport is the ultimate motive.
“She’s really good with giving back to the sport with little kids and trying to support and motivate new girls to try this more,” Nichols said. “Overall, she’s a great asset to our program being the person that she is.”
Inspiration is rooted in Rogers’s actions, and fellow North Hall girls have taken note. Two fellow students from her class recently asked her about wrestling, and one specifically wants to try it out. Rogers plans to nurture the potential teammate by working with her more in between practices.
With three more years left until Roger’s graduation, Nichols hopes to begin an everflowing movement of young girl wrestlers at North Hall.
The reality is; however, people have differing perspectives of girls playing contact sports. To society, it’s just not normal.
But like Rogers said, all it takes is one person.