The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

The student news site of Highlands High School

The Hilltopper

Girl Power: The Very First Girls’ Regional Wrestling Event.

The Academies of Bryan Station in Lexington, Kentucky held its very first ever Girls’ Regional Wrestling event on February 03, 2024. This was a very exciting moment for the girls who have given so much work and effort towards a sport that is considered perhaps a more male sport.  At Highlands High School, however,  there are five amazing girls wrestlers in competition: Freshman Abby Berling, Freshman Emma Hood, Sophomore Laila Pinkston, and Senior Kristen Heilman. 

Last year’s season of 2023 was not an option for the girls to compete at regionals, which makes this season all the sweeter for this group of girls. 

Coach Dakota Riley commented on the comparison of the 2023 and 2024 seasons: “Between girls wrestling becoming a sanctioned sport, and Highlands adding a head girls wrestling coach to staff, it’s been a lot of fun. We have sort of “flown under the radar” the previous two years, but even then we have treated it like the real deal – full schedules, practices, etc. It’s very cool to see it get the recognition it deserves”. 

The announcement of the Girl’s Wrestling teams being included in Regionals was on February 22, 2023. The announcement stated that the 2023- 2024 season would include the boys’ and girls’ wrestling tournaments consecutively. 

“This is the first year girls had to qualify for state. I think there was a bit of nerves around that, but generally very optimistic.” 

 The coach said they have done everything they needed to do to be ready, a lot of good momentum going into the tournament. “I genuinely believed the entire girl’s team could qualify for state, and that is what happened”, stated Riley. 

The results of this tournament were outstanding. Berling placed 4th and scored 14.0 team points, Hood placed 1st and scored 26.0 team points, Pinkston placed 2nd and scored 20.0 team points, and Heilman placed 1st and scored 26.0 team points. 

The girls did fantastic and proved they were very prepared. 

Hood stated: “Before regionals just like at practice just doing what I normally do like drilling, being focused, and during just like thinking back to my training knowing I’ve done enough to get results”. Berling stated: “I mostly thought about what I was gonna do better in a match, also practice beforehand. Just mostly just to get in the zone for wrestling and be ready for it”. Pinkston stated: “We usually do practices with guys, but we did practices with all girls and we just stuck to drilling out and working on things we needed to work on”.

Even though this sport is looked at often as built for exclusively boys, these 1st places girls wanted something new. 

Hood stated: “Wrestling has given me a lot of discipline and good work ethic. I started for something to do and just be a part of something”. 

Heilman stated: “I started by being at a dance practice and the original coach came in and asked people to wrestle. I thought you know why not. She’s up in Michigan and is the first NCAA women’s head coach which is pretty cool. So then I got started there, and I just fell in love with the sport. I love seeing what it does for new people coming into it. It gives a lot of confidence and peace of mind knowing they could go and beat people if they need to. Show respect”.

A special message from coach Riley: “We welcome all skill levels and are looking for more girls to join the team next year, everyone is welcome, we will teach you what you need to know. Come check it out!”

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