Wrestling: Girl Power
By BRANDON HURLEY
Shattering barriers can create quite the burden for any high school athlete.
Emma Hoyle takes exception to that notion, even if her emotions don’t exactly jump off the page.
The matter-of-fact poise the freshman displayed at the Rams’ media day last week should come as a warning shot for the entire state of Iowa.
Hoyle is ready for primetime as the lone, active member of Greene County’s inaugural girls wrestling team, ushering in a watershed moment for the Jefferson high school.
Girls wrestling has enjoyed a bit of an uptick within the last year, with Waverly hosting the first-ever girls state tournament last winter. The historic competition played host to 87 wrestlers on Jan. 19.
That interest is what sparked creation of the first-ever Greene County girls program. Local enthusiasm slowly grew until the young females finally made a breakthrough.
The inception of girls’ wrestling is a win for progress, Greene County wrestling coach Zach Beekman said. Hoyle’s willingness to make the leap opens the door for even greater possibilities.
“It’s something that hasn’t (had) a ton of interest in and I think that’s because there’s not always the most positive view on women wrestling men or vice versa,” Beekman said. “A lot of times, you look at it as kind of a lose-lose situation for everybody. To start a girls division, where girls are able to wrestle other girls, I think it’s really good for our communities to get girls involved. I think it’s going to help them excel in other sports or in other areas of their life.”
Hoyle patiently waited for her opportunity, holding out of the boys division, mainly by the urging of her family. But when word trickled down that a girls team was in the works, and despite a lengthy break from the sport, she jumped at the chance.
“I really enjoyed it when I was younger,” Hoyle said. “This is the first year (here) and I joined, so that’s pretty cool.
Wrestling drips heavily through the Hoyle bloodline, which should help Emma adjust in her return to competitive action.
Emma’s older brother, Bryce Hoyle, qualified for the 2019 state tournament as a senior. Another brother, Brandon, will provide a strong back-bone as a senior on the boys’ squad this year. Obviously, Emma has a household of experience to lean on for advice. Which will surely help as she transitions into high school wrestling.
“It’s hard, but it’s not too hard,” Hoyle said about her interest in wrestling. “It’s a competitive sport and I like competition.”
That’s not to say Emma won’t have a learning curve to adjust to. She hasn’t wrestled much, if at all, over the last several years. The hype train will need to slow a bit before it gets too out of control. While Emma will carry the torch for a shiny new Greene County girls’ team, she has an uphill climb before she can make some significant noise.
It’s no easy task to come out and win after a lengthy hiatus.
Athleticism will give Hoyle a leg up on early competition as she gets her feet wet. Using her natural strength as a crutch could pay big dividends. Part of wrestling is merely muscling an opponent, which in turn paves the way for well-practiced technique.
“She moves really well. She’s got good hips, good movement,” Beekman said. “Like with any new wrestler, it takes some time to get the moves down. We do a lot of drilling. I think as the season goes on, she’ll get a lot better and with a few years under her belt, she’ll be real competitive.”
It’ll be rather difficult for Hoyle to sustain any momentum as well. Greene County won’t know when she’ll wrestle or who. Essentially, she’ll take a wait-and-see approach once the season gets into the thick of things. Hoyle’s matches – whether she wins or loses – won’t count for the boys team score. Experience is priority No. 1 for the freshman grappler.
“That’s probably the toughest part for the girls division. It’s basically meet by meet,” Beekman said. “We’ll just kind of see do other teams have somebody around the same way that she’s wrestling and if they do, we’ll wrestle them.”
Greene County is working on pulling together a girls division to coincide with the annual Rams JV tournament on Jan. 18 in Jefferson.
Hoyle won’t be the lone Ram girl for long, if all goes according to plan. Emma Halterman is battling some injuries, but hopes to be cleared for action at some point this winter. For now, Hoyle has her eyes on gaining experience. When the year first started she was wrestling other girls, but thanks to injuries and another athlete dropping out, Beekman and the Rams were forced to get creative. Thankfully, the boys have been receptive of Hoyle, stepping up to help teach her the intricacies of high school wrestling.
“She’s been working in with the guys and they are comfortable with it. She’s comfortable with it, which is good,” Beekman said. “I don’t know what we would do (if she wasn’t). We probably would have to stick her with a coach, one-on-one every day if they weren’t comfortable with it, which is kind of tough for everybody but they’re making it work.”
The silver lining in Hoyle’s venture is where she’ll be at the end of the season. The freshman is guaranteed a spot at the 2020 state tournament.
“They now have their own state tournament, so you can’t really go wrong there,” Beekman said, who’s in his second year as Greene County head coach. “Not only are you able to compete against other girls, but now you’ve got something to work towards in the end, that could be a state title.”
For now, over the next two months, Hoyle will focus on honing her skills and adapting to high school competition. Perhaps she’ll find herself on the podium come January.