Panther girls wrestle for love of the sport

Posted January 31, 2013 at 3:40 pm

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Junior Madison Petty and freshman Olivia Sunlin are not easily discouraged.

They have much in common, being the only two girls on the Monticello High School wrestling team. They both love the sport.

They both are transplants; Petty from a small town near Madison, Wis.; and Sunlin from Anamosa.

And they both have had their share of struggles during the season. Petty, 16, has one win on the mat this season, although she said she pinned two opponents while wrestling in Wisconsin last year.

Sunlin, 15, has three actual-match wins, including one in a junior varsity match. They also have received occasional forfeits.

“It does get tough, mentally tough,” Sunlin said. “The boys are so much stronger. But when you actually get a win, it’s awesome.”

Asked if she is planning to wrestle next year, Sunlin’s eyes lit up as she said, “Oh, yeah. I want to do weights, so I’m going to skip track and lift. I want to get bigger and stronger.”

Petty said she plans to come back as well, but only for half the season, as her plans are to graduate early. She also has hopes of playing football in the fall.

Having two girls on the team was a new experience for coach Ryan Luensman and the boys on the squad.

“It’s a different situation than I’m used to,” Luensman said. “We treat them like everyone else on the team. They wouldn’t expect anything different. The only difference is, the girls have to weigh in separately (from the boys) at meets.”

Sunlin has two siblings who also wrestle; her 11-year-old sister Alaina and 8-year-old brother Mark.

“I started working with Olivia and her little sister Alaina last year (with the Monticello Wrestling Club),” Luensman said. “That helped prepare me for the upcoming season and dealing with this change.”

The boys on the team seem to take the girls’ presence in stride.

“It took some time,” coach Luensman said. “Many of the boys didn’t want to hurt them, but they soon learned that the girls can handle their own.”

“It’s awkward at first, but you get used to it,” Sunlin said. “They pick on us a lot. They’re just joking around.”

“It does get awkward with the stuff they talk about, especially on the bus ride,” Petty said.

Sometimes, they are victims of an opposing school’s protest, which happened earlier this season.

“It was weird having a forfeit,” Petty said. “It kind of made me sad.”

“It made me mad,” Sunlin said.

Luensman said: “Everyone has the right to their opinion and beliefs. We are starting to see more girls involved with wrestling, and that is something people are going to have to get used to.”

TOP PHOTO: Olivia Sunlin (in black) tries to get an advantage over an East Buchanan opponent during the conference tournament Jan. 26. (Photos by Pete Temple)

LOWER PHOTO: Madison Petty of Monticello (right) faces an Alburnett opponent earlier this season.